## ASTM E647 – **Standard Test Method for Measurement of Fatigue Crack Growth Rates**

**Description**:

Significance and Use

5.1 Fatigue crack growth rate expressed as a function of crack-tip stress-intensity factor range, d*a*/d*N* versus Δ*K*, characterizes a material’s resistance to stable crack extension under cyclic loading. Background information on the ration-ale for employing linear elastic fracture mechanics to analyze fatigue crack growth rate data is given in Refs **(3)** and **(4)**.

5.1.1 In innocuous (inert) environments fatigue crack growth rates are primarily a function of Δ*K* and force ratio, *R*, or *K*_{max} and *R* (Note 1). Temperature and aggressive environments can significantly affect d*a/*d*N* versus Δ*K*, and in many cases accentuate *R*-effects and introduce effects of other loading variables such as cycle frequency and waveform. Attention needs to be given to the proper selection and control of these variables in research studies and in the generation of design data.

NOTE 1: Δ*K*, *K*_{max}, and *R* are not independent of each other. Specification of any two of these variables is sufficient to define the loading condition. It is customary to specify one of the stress-intensity parameters (Δ*K* or *K*_{max}) along with the force ratio, *R*.

5.1.2 Expressing d*a*/d*N* as a function of Δ*K* provides results that are independent of planar geometry, thus enabling exchange and comparison of data obtained from a variety of specimen configurations and loading conditions. Moreover, this feature enables d*a*/d*N* versus Δ*K* data to be utilized in the design and evaluation of engineering structures. The concept of similitude is assumed, which implies that cracks of differing lengths subjected to the same nominal Δ*K* will advance by equal increments of crack extension per cycle.

5.1.3 Fatigue crack growth rate data are not always geometry-independent in the strict sense since thickness effects sometimes occur. However, data on the influence of thickness on fatigue crack growth rate are mixed. Fatigue crack growth rates over a wide range of Δ*K* have been reported to either increase, decrease, or remain unaffected as specimen thickness is increased. Thickness effects can also interact with other variables such as environment and heat treatment. For example, materials may exhibit thickness effects over the terminal range of d*a/*d*N *versus Δ*K*, which are associated with either nominal yielding (Note 2) or as *K*_{max} approaches the material fracture toughness. The potential influence of specimen thickness should be considered when generating data for research or design.

NOTE 2: This condition should be avoided in tests that conform to the specimen size requirements listed in the appropriate specimen annex.

5.1.4 Residual stresses can influence fatigue crack growth rates, the measurement of such growth rates and the predictability of fatigue crack growth performance. The effect can be significant when test specimens are removed from materials that embody residual stress fields; for example weldments or complex shape forged, extruded, cast or machined thick sections, where full stress relief is not possible, or worked parts having complex shape forged, extruded, cast or machined thick sections where full stress relief is not possible or worked parts having intentionally-induced residual stresses. Specimens taken from such products that contain residual stresses will likewise themselves contain residual stress. While extraction of the specimen and introduction of the crack starting slot in itself partially relieves and redistributes the pattern of residual stress, the remaining magnitude can still cause significant error in the ensuing test result. Residual stress is superimposed on the applied cyclic stress and results in actual crack-tip maximum and minimum stress-intensities that are different from those based solely on externally applied cyclic forces or displacements. For example, crack-clamping resulting from far-field 3D residual stresses may lead to partly compressive stress cycles, and exacerbate the crack closure effect, even when the specimen nominal applied stress range is wholly tensile. Machining distortion during specimen preparation, specimen location and configuration dependence, irregular crack growth during fatigue precracking (for example, unexpected slow or fast crack growth rate, excessive crack-front curvature or crack path deviation), and dramatic relaxation in crack closing forces (associated with specimen stress relief as the crack extends) will often indicate influential residual stress impact on the measured da/dN versus Δ*K* result. **(5, 6)** Noticeable crack-mouth-opening displacement at zero applied force is indicative of residual stresses that can affect the subsequent fatigue crack growth property measurement.

5.1.5 The growth rate of small fatigue cracks can differ noticeably from that of long cracks at given Δ*K *values. Use of long crack data to analyze small crack growth often results in non-conservative life estimates. The small crack effect may be accentuated by environmental factors. Cracks are defined as being small when 1) their length is small compared to relevant microstructural dimension (a continuum mechanics limitation), 2) their length is small compared to the scale of local plasticity (a linear elastic fracture mechanics limitation), and 3) they are merely physically small (<1 mm). Near-threshold data established according to this method should be considered as representing the materials’ steady-state fatigue crack growth rate response emanating from a long crack, one that is of sufficient length such that transition from the initiation to propagation stage of fatigue is complete. Steady-state near-threshold data, when applied to service loading histories, may result in non-conservative lifetime estimates, particularly for small cracks **(7-9)**.

5.1.6 Crack closure can have a dominant influence on fatigue crack growth rate behavior, particularly in the near-threshold regime at low stress ratios. This implies that the conditions in the wake of the crack and prior loading history can have a bearing on the current propagation rates. The understanding of the role of the closure process is essential to such phenomena as the behavior of small cracks and the transient crack growth rate behavior during variable amplitude loading. Closure provides a mechanism whereby the cyclic stress intensity near the crack tip, Δ*K*_{eff}, differs from the nominally applied values, Δ*K*. This concept is of importance to the fracture mechanics interpretation of fatigue crack growth rate data since it implies a non-unique growth rate dependence in terms of Δ*K*, and *R ***(1)**.5

NOTE 3: The characterization of small crack behavior may be more closely approximated in the near-threshold regime by testing at a high stress ratio where the anomalies due to crack closure are minimized.

5.1.7 Along with crack closure, other forms of crack tip shielding such as branching, wedging, bridging and sliding (among other extrinsic effects) can also reduce the crack tip driving force in comparison to the applied Δ*K*, with some of these sensitive to crack orientation relative to the material grain structure (E1823, Annex A2). The shielding concept is of importance to the fracture mechanics interpretation of fatigue crack growth rate data since it also implies a non-unique growth-rate dependence in terms of applied Δ*K* and *R* and may invalidate typical assumptions about LEFM similitude, because the shielding dissipates energy not accounted for in the standard stress-intensity factor calculation. Material grain structure can have a substantial influence on rate behavior, especially for materials with significant deformation during rolling or other forming processes such as those that occur in the manufacture of aluminum alloy sheet, plate, forged, and extruded product forms. For some materials, the common L-T and T-L orientations can lead to interactions between crack-tip stress-strain fields and the surrounding grain structure, leading to such effects as delamination toughening. Applications of some aluminum thick plate and forging products to unitized structure introduce possibilities of growth in less common orientations such as L-S and T-S, leading to out-of-plane crack branching and unexpected crack turning to the weakest microstructural plane during through-thickness crack growth. Such complex shielding mechanisms may prevent successful transfer of data from coupons to structural application, where grain structure and crack tip stress state may not be similar to those of the test coupon **(2)**.

5.1.8 Care should be taken to: identify and understand unexpected shielding mechanisms during characterization; assess similitude and transferability of the FCGR data for other uses such as material ranking or structural analysis; and prevent unconservative data and applications.

5.2 This test method can serve the following purposes:

5.2.1 To establish the influence of fatigue crack growth on the life of components subjected to cyclic loading, provided data are generated under representative conditions and combined with appropriate fracture toughness data (for example, see Test Method E399), defect characterization data, and stress analysis information **(10, 11) **.

NOTE 4: Fatigue crack growth can be significantly influenced by load history. During variable amplitude loading, crack growth rates can be either enhanced or retarded (relative to steady-state, constant-amplitude growth rates at a given Δ*K*) depending on the specific loading sequence. This complicating factor needs to be considered in using constant-amplitude growth rate data to analyze variable amplitude fatigue problems **(12)**.

5.2.2 To establish material selection criteria and inspection requirements for damage tolerant applications.

5.2.3 To establish, in quantitative terms, the individual and combined effects of metallurgical, fabrication, environmental, and loading variables on fatigue crack growth.

Scope

1.1 This test method2 covers the determination of fatigue crack growth rates from near-threshold (see region I in Fig. 1) to *K*_{max }controlled instability (see region III in Fig. 1.) Results are expressed in terms of the crack-tip stress-intensity factor range (Δ*K*), defined by the theory of linear elasticity.

1.9 Special requirements for the various specimen configurations appear in the following order:

The Compact Specimen | Annex A1 |

The Middle Tension Specimen | Annex A2 |

The Eccentrically-Loaded Single Edge Crack Tension Specimen | Annex A3 |