Metallurgical Observations on Fatigue Failure of a Bent Copper Tube
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Deoxidized high phosphorus copper (C12200, DHP-Cu) is the principal construction material in hydraulic and HVAC installations due to its superior thermal/electrical conductivity, formability, corrosion resistance, and antibacterial properties. However, design and installation deficiencies or aggressive environmental conditions lead very often to unexpected failures due to abnormal operation or improper handling of material during construction. Copper water tubes experiencing leakage at the bend area, after short-time period in service, were disconnected from a hydraulic installation and brought for failure investigation. Optical and scanning electron microscopy, employed for microstructural and fractographic evaluation, were used as the principal analytical techniques in the context of the present investigation. Failure analysis findings suggest strongly that the leakage was caused by low-cycle fatigue failure (<104 cycles), initiated from the tube outer surface and followed by brittle intergranular fracture. Final fracture occurred via the brittle intergranular failure process, when the remaining tube wall thickness reaches a critical size. The crack then becomes unable to sustain the operating load. Review of the design and installation conditions along with the special attention to material handling to avoid surface flaws (pits, scratches, gouges, etc.), which might be potential fatigue crack initiation sites due to increased stress concentration, are suggested as preventive actions to minimize the potential for further fatigue damage.
KeywordsDHP-Copper Fatigue failures Brittle intergranular cracking
The author expresses special thanks to Mr. A. Vazdirvanidis for the fruitful technical discussion and Mr. A. Rikos and Mr. A. Toulfatzis for their valuable contribution to the completion of the experimental work.