Metallurgical Analysis of Crack Initiation of Wire-Cut Electrical Discharge-Machined Spline Actuators Made of 17-4 PH Stainless Steel

  • Ahmad-Reza Etemadi
  • Bahram Fazel
  • Armin Emami
Case History---Peer-Reviewed


Spline actuators made of investment cast 17-4 PH (precipitation hardening) stainless steel were found to contain micro-cracks. The cracked actuators were subjected to optical and scanning electron microscopy and hardness testing, which revealed that the failure occurred due to fatigue crack initiation and growth after electrical discharge machining (EDM). The rehardened layer produced by the EDM remained after machining, and the cracks and surface irregularities associated with this layer provided sites for crack initiation and growth, which ultimately caused rejection of parts. Close dimensional tolerances on actuators require post-heat treatment EDM. Thickness of the recast layer was measured to be about 38–55 μm, and precipitation in vicinity of the machined surface is a potential source for corrosion. Post-machining polishing by means of fluidized bed granules was employed to remove recast layer and associated precipitates. Test results proved that removal of surface layers improved the microstructure and the resistance to crack formation. The post-EDM polishing and subsequent annual inspections proved that problem was solved.


Electrical machining Failure analysis Microstructure 17-4 PH stainless steel 



Authors would like to thanks Eng. Ghasri and Eng. Parishani in Isfahan University of Technology and Eng. Nazemi in Rangin-Zob Sepahan Co. for valuable comments and directions.


  1. 1.
    Fuller, J.E.: Technological aspects of spark erosion. EDM Dig. 6(4), 16–36 (1984)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Fuller, J.E.: Machining Data Handbook, 3rd edn., pp. 12–22. Machinability Data Center, Metcut Research Associates, Inc. (1980)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Peters, J., et al.: Assessment of surface topology Analysis Techniques. Annu. CIRP 28(2) 1–9 (1978)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Rhoades, L.J.: Removing the EDM Recast, MR-87-643. Society of Manufacturing Engineers (1987)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    McGeough, J.A.: EDM–ECM finishing hybrid technology. EDM Dig. 10(1), 8–12 (1988)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Carpenter Custom 630 (17Cr–4Ni) Precipitation Hardening Stainless Steel. Carpenter Technology Corporation (1969)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    AMS 5355E. Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Inc., November 1994Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    AMS 5343D. Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Inc., November 1994Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lamb, S.R., Clark, G.: Handbook of Case Histories in Failure Analysis, pp. 17–19. ASM International (1992)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Meyn, D.A.: Handbook of Case Histories in Failure Analysis, pp. 30–35. ASM International (1992)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Goodrich, G., Divinski, L.: Handbook of Case Histories in Failure Analysis, pp. 410–412. ASM International (1992)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© ASM International 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Materials Engineering DepartmentIslamic Azad University-Majlesi BranchIsfahanIran
  2. 2.Mechanical Engineering DepartmentUniversity of TabrizTabrizIran
  3. 3.Materials Engineering DepartmentIslamic Azad University-Najaf-Abad BranchIsfahanIran

Personalised recommendations