Austempered ductile iron (ADI) is a candidate material for camshafts, where however, the early stages of fatigue damage are of major concern during service. A fundamental microstructurally based assessment of the mechanisms of fatigue failure is important. An ADI microstructure austenitised at 900°C and austempered at 390°C has been investigated in detail. Crack initiation and growth behaviour was assessed under three-point bend testing conditions. Primary initiation events occurred exclusively at pores with further micro-crack initiation occurring at decohered graphite nodules in the monotonic plastic zone ahead of the advancing dominant macro-crack tip. Lifetime was however determined by propagation behaviour rather than coalescence events. The changes in the as-cast microstructure generated by this heat treatment have resulted in improved fatigue crack propagation performance due to the reduction in eutectic carbides and the relatively high quantity of retained austenite compared with previous studies, giving rise to greater crack path tortuousity and shielding
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