This paper presents a new technique for studying the growth and morphology of fatigue cracks. The technique allows short fatigue crack growth, crack depth, aspect ratio (crack depth/half crack length), and crack front configuration to be measured using a Confocal Scanning Laser Microscope (CSLM). CSLM measurements of the initial stage of crack growth in Al 2024-T351 revealed that microstructurally short fatigue cracks grew initially along a plane inclined to the applied stress. The angle of the inclined plane (Stage I crack growth) was found to be about 45 degrees to the axis of the applied tensile load. Aspect ratio and the angle of maximum shear plane (Mode II), obtained using the CSLM technique, showed a good agreement with those obtained using a Surface Removal (SR) technique. The aspect ratios obtained using the CSLM technique were found to remain constant with increasing crack length in Al 2024-T351 and SAE 1045 Steel at 0.83 and 0.80, respectively.
Optical sectioning along the length of a crack revealed that the crack front in the interior of the materials has a semi-elliptical shape. These results are in good agreement with results obtained using the SR technique.
The CSLM technique was employed to characterize the fracture surface of fatigue cracks in an SAE 1045 Steel. CSLM image processing of the fracture surface near the crack tip constructed a three dimensional profile of fracture surface asperities. The heights of asperities were obtained from this profile.
Optical sectioning from a post-image-processed crack provided crack depth and crack mouth width at every point along the crack length for each load level. The crack opening stress was taken as the stress level at which the crack depth stopped increasing with increases in applied stress.