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01.09.2018 | Original Paper | Ausgabe 3/2018 Open Access

Tribology Letters 3/2018

Threshold Maps for Inclusion-Initiated Micro-Cracks and White Etching Areas in Bearing Steel: The Role of Impact Loading and Surface Sliding

Tribology Letters > Ausgabe 3/2018
T. Bruce, H. Long, R. S. Dwyer-Joyce


Wind turbine gearbox (WTG) bearings can fail prematurely, significantly affecting wind turbine operational availability and the cost of energy production. The current most commonly accepted theory of failure mechanism is that the bearing subsurface is weakened by white etching crack (WEC) networks that eventually lead to the flaking away of material from the bearing surface. Subsurface damage due to rolling contact fatigue (RCF) is thought to be the main cause of premature failure, resulting from the initiation of micro-cracks, often at non-metallic inclusions or other material defects, which then propagate to the bearing surface. This study proposes a hypothesis that impact loading together with high levels of surface traction and contact pressure are important factors contributing to the initiation of micro-cracks and white etching areas (WEAs) at non-metallic inclusions which may lead to the formation of WEC networks. Both repeated impact and twin-disc RCF tests were designed to investigate inclusion-initiated micro-cracks and WEAs at subsurface in order to test this hypothesis. This led to the recreation of inclusion-initiated micro-cracks and WEAs in tested specimens, similar to the subsurface damage observed at inclusions in failed WTG bearing raceways. Tests were carried out to determine threshold levels of contact pressure, surface traction, and impact loading required for the formation of inclusion-initiated micro-cracks and WEAs.

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