A study of fatigue crack initiation and growth in 316L austenitic stainless steel is reported. Fatigue experiments were performed at room temperature on full cylindrical specimens cycled axially (tension-compression) and on hollow cylindrical specimens tested in reversed torsion. Microstructure and damage evolution (crack initiation and growth) on the surface of mechanically and electrolytically polished specimens were observed using light and electron microscopy. An analysis of the orientation of microcracks and macrocracks which led to failure was made. Axially loaded specimens exhibited presence of several microcracks which resulted in macrocrack propagating perpendicularly to specimen axis. In the case of torsional loading, orientation of macrocrack propagation was dependent on applied load and presence of notches. High amount of short cracks initiated parallel to specimen axis. Long cracks exhibited a tendency to bifurcate with crack branches oriented at approximately 45° to the specimen axis.Keywords: 316L austenitic steel; surface relief; fatigue; crack orientation; axial and torsional loading;
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