Fatigue crack growth behavior of through-the-thickness cracks emanating from the notch root in an aluminum alloy was investigated with particular emphasis on the evaluation of crack closure and its effects on fatigue crack growth rate. The tests were performed on SE(T) specimens both under constant amplitude (CA) and spectrum (modified FALSTAFF) loads. The near-tip strain measurement method was used for crack closure estimation in the short and long crack ranges. An attempt was also made to determine the crack closure value corresponding to the crack-tip shielding through fractographic analysis.
In CA fatigue loading, short cracks grew faster than long cracks under the same nominal applied SIF range, ΔK, and also grew below the threshold SIF range, ΔKth, for long cracks. The crack closure level gradually increased in the short crack range and was observed to stabilize at a crack length of about 0.5 mm. The discrepancy in the observed crack growth rates between long and short cracks was attributed partly to the difference in crack closure levels. The fatigue crack growth rates of short cracks under modified FALSTAFF loading were observed to be rather scattered, and the crack closure level was found to gradually increase and stabilize within a larger scatter band. These observations are explained on the basis of likely effects of several high-peak overloads present in the applied spectrum load. In the long crack range, the crack closure value obtained by the near-tip strain measurement method appears to provide an upper-bound value, whereas that obtained through fractographic analysis provides a slightly lower estimate, which may be considered as a lower-bound fatigue crack closure value.
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