Bending Fatigue Performance of Gas- and Plasma-Carburized Steels
This study evaluated the bending fatigue performance of a modified SAE 4320 steel as a function of carburizing technique. S-N curves and endurance limits were established by fatigue testing modified Brugger-type specimens that are designed to simulate a single gear tooth. Fractured specimens were examined by light and electron microscopy to determine crack initiation sites, establish the extent of stable crack propagation, and analyze surface oxide types and distributions. Test results show that plasma-carburizing boosted the endurance limit of an oxidation-susceptible gear steel from 1100 MPa to 1375 MPa. Fatigue endurance limits in excess of 1400 MPa had previously been achieved in gas-carburized SAE 4320 steels by reheat treatments and reductions in high-oxidation potential elements. The level of improvement observed in this study suggests that any of these advanced processing techniques can allow significant size reductions and weight savings in automotive transmission gears.