Due to their lower production costs, powder metallurgy (PM) steels are increasingly being considered for replacing wrought counterparts. Nevertheless, the presence of a non-negligible volume fraction of porosity in typical PM steels makes their use difficult, especially in applications where cyclic loading is
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Due to their lower production costs, powder metallurgy (PM) steels are increasingly being considered for replacing wrought counterparts. Nevertheless, the presence of a non-negligible volume fraction of porosity in typical PM steels makes their use difficult, especially in applications where cyclic loading is involved. On the other hand, PM offers the possibility of obtaining steel microstructures that cannot be found in wrought. Indeed, by adequately using alloying strategies based on admixing, pre-alloying, diffusion bonding or combinations of those, it is possible to tailor the final microstructure to obtain a distribution of phases that could possibly increase the fatigue resistance of PM steel components. Therefore, a detailed study of the effect of different microstructural phases on fatigue crack propagation in PM steels was performed using admixed nickel PM steels (FN0208) as well as pre-alloyed PM steels (FL5208). Specimens were pressed and sintered to a density of 7.3 g/cm3
in order to specifically investigate the effect of matrix microstructure on fatigue properties. Fatigue crack growth rates were measured at four different R
-ratios, 0.1, 0.3, 0.5 and 0.7 for both PM steels. The negative effect of increasing the R
-ratio on fatigue properties was observed for both alloys. The crack propagation path was characterized using quantitative image analysis of fracture surfaces. Measurements of roughness profile and volume fractions of each phase along the crack path were made to determine the preferred crack path. Weak Ni-rich ferritic rings in the FN0208 series (heterogeneous microstructure) caused a larger crack deflection compared to the more homogeneous microstructure of the FL5208 series. It was determined that, contrary to results reported in literature, crack propagation does not pass through retained austenite areas even though fatigue cracks propagated predominantly along prior particle boundaries, i.e., intergranular fracture.