Fatigue Analysis

It is observed that repeated loading and unloading weakens objects over time even when the induced stresses are considerably less than the allowable stress limits. This phenomenon is known as fatigue. Each cycle of stress fluctuation weakens the object to some extent. After a number of cycles, the object becomes so weak that it fails. Fatigue is the prime cause of the failure of many objects, especially those made of metals. Examples of failure due to fatigue include, rotating machinery, bolts, airplane wings, consumer products, offshore platforms, ships, vehicle axles, bridges, and bones.

Linear and nonlinear structural studies do not predict failure due to fatigue. They calculate the response of a design subjected to a specified environment of restraints and loads. If the analysis assumptions are observed and the calculated stresses are within the allowable limits, they conclude that the design is safe in this environment regardless of how many times the load is applied.

Results of static, nonlinear, or time history linear dynamic studies can be used as the basis for defining a fatigue study. The number of cycles required for fatigue failure to occur at a location depends on the material and the stress fluctuations. This information, for a certain material, is provided by a curve called the SN curve.

Stages of Failure Due to Fatigue

Failure due to fatigue occurs in three stages:

Stage 1 One or more cracks develop in the material. Cracks can develop anywhere in the material but usually occur on the boundary faces due to higher stress fluctuations. Cracks can occur due to many reasons. Imperfections in the microscopic structure of the materials and surface scratches caused by tooling or handling are some of them.
Stage 2 Some or all the cracks grow as a result of continued loading.
Stage 3 The ability of the design to withstand the applied loads continue to deteriorate until failure occurs.

Fatigue cracks start on the surface of a material. Strengthening the surfaces of the model increases the life of the model under fatigue events.