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International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121

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Analysis of crack propagation resistance of AlAl2O3 particulate-reinforced

composite friction stir welded butt joints
A. Pirondi *, L. Collini
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Parma, Viale G.P. Usberti 181/A, 43100 Parma, Italy

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 26 November 2007
Received in revised form 8 April 2008
Accepted 12 May 2008
Available online 17 May 2008
Particulate metalmatrix composite
Friction stir welding
Fatigue crack growth
Crack closure

a b s t r a c t
This work is devoted to the analysis of fatigue crack propagation resistance of particulate metal-matrix
composites butt joints obtained by friction stir welding. Two different aluminum alloy matrices reinforced with alumina particles were examined. Tests were conducted on both parent material and welded
joint for comparison. Fatigue crack propagation was carried out both within the weld nugget and in the
thermo-mechanically altered zone at the side of the weld. The comparison between parent material and
joint showed that the welding process affects fracture toughness and fatigue crack growth rate differently
depending on the material. The analysis of crack path roughness helped to understand those differences
in the fatigue crack growth rate. Therefore, roughness-induced crack closure arguments have been introduced to discuss data obtained under different testing conditions (parent material/joint, R-ratio, crack
location, crack growth regime). Both the classical Elbers approach and more recent approaches based
on partial crack closure concept (adjusted compliance ratio, ACR, and 2/p methods) were considered.
The results showed that, using partial crack closure, all of the data collapse within a reasonable
2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
The interest of automotive, railway, sporting goods, shipbuilding, aerospace and electronics, industries on metal matrix composites produced an expected increase of the market from its
estimated 2005 level of 3.6 million kg to 4.9 million kg by 2010,
with an average annual growth rate of 6.3% [1].
Particulate metalmatrix composites (PMMCs) are an attractive,
alternative solution to short or long ber-reinforced MMCs especially regarding their lower cost and quasi-isotropic mechanical response [2]. Commonly, Al-, Ti- or Mg-alloys are the matrix
materials while high modulus ceramics, such as Al2O3 and SiC,
are the reinforcement materials in form of particles. The main
improvements given by PMMCs with respect to the matrix alone
are higher stiffness, mechanical and wear resistance [2,3].
The very specic and high-tech usage of PMMC requires in principle the knowledge of standard mechanical properties such as
tensile or fatigue strength, as well as fracture toughness and fatigue crack growth (FCG) properties to guarantee a reliable in-service durability. Unfortunately, due to their dual-phase nature, the
strength of PMMCs is the result of several factors, such as type, size
distribution and shape of particles and processing technique. The
fracture toughness of a PMMC is generally lower than the respec* Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 0521 905885; fax. +39 0521 905705.
E-mail address: (A. Pirondi).
0142-1123/$ - see front matter 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

tive matrix alloy due to the constraint on plastic deformation

caused by particles. On the other hand, at low FCG rates, the PMMC
shows a better performance than the unreinforced alloy due to particle-activated shielding mechanisms such as crack deection or
trapping [49]. Furthermore, in cast PMMCs the particles are often
located at the grain boundary, leading to a crack tip shielding
mechanism known as egg-shell [10]. A great inuence on FCG properties of PMMCs comes from the R-ratio R = Kmin/Kmax, where Kmin
and Kmax are the minimum and maximum values of the applied
stress intensity factor during the fatigue cycle. As in unreinforced
alloys, the higher the R-ratio the higher FCG rates. The crack closure concept introduced in the 1970s is conventionally adopted
to assess the inuence of R on FCG rate, also in the case of PMMCs
[6], where crack surface roughness or crack bridging induced by
particles typically play a prominent role. More recently, several
questions have been posed about capabilities of the crack closure
concept alone. Maximum stress intensity factor Kmax, residual
stresses, cyclic plastic properties, environmental embrittlement
of material ahead of crack tip, were found to have also a key role
in explaining differences in FCG rates under varying loading sequence, microstructure and environmental conditions [1117].
A major concern for the industrial application of PMMCs is the
joining technology and the resulting strength of the bond. The
underlying issue is that reactions between matrix and reinforcement may be promoted by the heating of the pieces typically used
to fabricate the joint. Possible outcomes of this reaction are (i)


A. Pirondi, L. Collini / International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121

cracking at matrix-particle interface; (ii) partial dissolution of the

reinforcement and (iii) precipitation of third-phases due to matrix
reaction with the reinforcement material [18]. Joining PMMCs by
fusion welding techniques such as laser beam welding (LBW) or
MIG/TIG gives in general non-optimal microstructures, especially
in the case of Al alloys reinforced with SiC particles [1924]. Values
of SE not higher than 70% were attained in [22,24] only with a careful choice of the ller material. The static efciency of PMMC
brazed joints is instead strongly dependent on particle size and
content and may be even lower than 50%, as shown in [25].
For these motivations, solid-state processes like friction welding, friction stir welding (FSW) or diffusion bonding have in principle a lower detrimental impact on the strength of PMMC joints
than liquid-state processes such as Inert Gas arc welding (TIG or
MIG), laser beam and electron beam welding (LBW, EBW)
[1924]. Friction stir welding is a process recently developed and
patented by The Welding Institute (TWI) of Cambridge (UK). In
FSW, the parts to be joined are tied together while a rotating tool
is pressed on them and moved along the seam, as illustrated in
the scheme of Fig. 1 [26]. So far, this technique has been employed
especially in the naval and aerospace industries thanks to the capability of joining aluminum alloys with higher quality, strength and
comparatively low cost with respect to more traditional welding
techniques. Microstructure, mechanical strength and their correlation with FSW process parameters have been extensively studied
in the past few years in the case of light-weight (especially Albased) alloys [2736].
Nowadays, the extension of FSW to other materials has become
a research topic. As a solid-state joining process, FSW can be particularly effective in the case of materials sensitive to re-solidication after liquid-phase welding. This is indeed the case of
particulate metalmatrix composites (PMMC), which suffer from
poor weldability with traditional processes due to the presence
of ceramic particles. So far only few attempts have been made to
produce and characterize PMMC FSW joints [3742], therefore
leaving this eld virtually unexplored.
This study is devoted to the evaluation of fatigue crack propagation resistance of PMMC butt joints obtained by FSW. The materials
considered are two aluminum alloy matrix/alumina particle:
AA6061/Al2O3/20p and AA7005/Al2O3/10p.
An extensive characterization of microstructure, tensile and fatigue properties of these two PMMCs was carried out in [39,40],
comparing their properties with the base material. Static tensile
tests have pointed out the high efciency of the joint: ultimate
and yield strength are 80% of the base material in the case of
AA7005/Al2O3/10p, while FSW AA6061/Al2O3/20p butt joint exhibited an efciency of 72%; at the same time the elongation to fracture and the hardening of the joints are higher than the base

Fig. 1. Outline of the FSW process [26].

material. The low-cycle fatigue life is instead slightly reduced with

respect to the parent material for both PMMCs.
The objective of this work is to present and analyse FCG experiments carried out both on PMMC parent material and on FSW butt
joint, with two different values of R = Kmin/Kmax load ratio, where
Kmin and Kmax are the minimum and the maximum Stress Intensity
Factors at the crack tip, respectively, and two possible crack locations, i.e. within the weld nugget and in the thermo-mechanical affected zone (TMAZ) at the side of the weld. A crack path roughness
analysis has been conducted at the SEM to assess the crack-particles interaction during propagation and the role of the load level
on crack propagation mechanism. The discussion of different conditions (parent material/joint, R-ratio, crack location, crack growth
regime) was done invoking simple crack closure arguments. Both
the classical Elbers approach and more recent approaches based
on partial crack closure concept (adjusted compliance ratio, ACR,
and 2/p methods) were considered.

2. Crack closure models

In 1968 Elber discussed some of his observations indicating that
crack closure due to interference of opposing surfaces may occur
even during the tensile part of load cycles. This observation led
to the denition of a new driving force for crack growth that would
account for an opening load higher than the minimum load of the

DK eff K max  K open

The underlying assumption is a rigid contact between crack surfaces and, therefore, for K < Kopen the crack tip is fully shielded. From
the experimental point of view, Kopen is determined from the deviation in the linearity of a load vs. opening curve (see for example
The anticipated contact of the crack surfaces is mainly related to
the residual plastic deformation (plasticity-induced crack closure,
PICC) in the steady-state (Paris) FCG regime, while at threshold closure is related mainly to microstructural asperities of the fracture
surfaces (roughness-induced crack closure, RICC) or by oxide layers
(oxide-induced crack closure, OICC) that may develop on the fracture surfaces. Anyway, the occurrence of closure due to such mechanisms leads to some criticism about the assumption of a rigid,
complete contact of crack surfaces [44]:
 the fatigue crack surface may not interfere at the very tip, but
only at some distance behind that;
 PICC can be hardly invoked under plane strain condition,
because plasticity is more limited than under plane stress and
therefore there is little material sticking off of the crack surface;
 crack closure due to crack face interference can occur by asperities, oxide layers, etc. but such contributions to crack tip stresses are normally small and are important only in threshold
If one considers instead a compliant crack wake [44] the load
transfer between crack faces is progressive and therefore there is
a local strain contribution even below Kopen. This means that the
value of Kopen and, in turn, of DKeff cannot be simply determined
at point of deviation from linearity of the loaddisplacementcurve.
Alternative methods to evaluate DKeff were proposed in [44,45].
The adjusted compliance ratio (ACR) model [44] is based on the
hypothesis of a crack driving force proportional to the strain magnitude. A correction is applied to the applied DK is made on the basis of the ratio of the measured strain range to ideally closure-free
one, see Fig. 2. DKeff is then obtained as


A. Pirondi, L. Collini / International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121

3. Materials and experimental methodology

Fig. 2. Method for ACR closure correction evaluation [44].

DK eff DK  ACR

Cs  Ci
C0  Ci


where Ci is the specimen compliance before crack initiation, and Cs

and C0 are obtained from the load vs. displacement plot for a
cracked specimen, see Fig. 2. The ACR parameter is independent
from the measurement location. Kopen is then obtained as

K open K max  DK eff

At very low FCG rates, it is known that the most important closure mechanisms are RICC and OICC, which may cause contact not
immediately at the crack tip but someway behind that, Fig. 3a.
According to this, a model was proposed in [45] that corresponds
to the presence of a layer of thickness 2h inserted between crack
faces at a given distance, d, from the crack tip. The evaluation of
the crack driving force for this situation leads to

K max 

K min < DK eff < K max  K open
K open  1 

It can be noticed that DKeff is independent from h and for low Rratios D Keff Kmax  (2/p). Kopen. The two models, even though
quite different in the formulation, rely on the same physical
assumption, that is the crack does not always close completely.

Fig. 3. (a) Model of the partial crack closure mechanism; (b) parameter denition

The materials under examination are a 6061 aluminum alloy

reinforced with 20 vol.% of Al2O3 particles (W6A20A) and a 7005
aluminum alloy reinforced with 10 vol.% Al2O3 particles (W7A10A)
produced by Duralcan (USA). They were supplied as extruded rectangular plates (100  7 mm2 cross-section) in the T6 condition.
Table 1 shows the properties of unreinforced and reinforced metal
matrices given by the supplier (Metalba, Italy).
FSW butt joints were manufactured at the GKSS Research Centre, Geesthacht (D), using a Neos Tricept 805, CN controlled, veaxis robot. The FSW tool with a 20 mm diameter shoulder and
8 mm pin, was made of Ferro-Titanit, a highly wear resistant steel
(an age-hardenable nickel martensite) reinforced with 30 vol.% TiC,
having a service hardness of about 63 HRC. The parameters of the
welding process were vertical force 12 kN; rotation speed
600 rpm; welding speed 300 mm/min.
The microstructure was characterized by means of optical
microscopy (OM) of polished samples, etched with a solution of
85 ml distilled water, 5 ml of HF and 10 ml of H2SO4.
Compact tension specimens (CT) for parent material and extended compact tension specimens (ECT) for FSW joint were extracted from plates according to the scheme of Fig. 4. Positions
W1 and W2 of Fig. 4 correspond to the weld-line and weld-side
crack propagation tests, respectively. Residual stresses were evaluated along top and bottom sides of the ECT specimen by means of
an X-ray diffractometer. The scheme of Fig. 5 shows the results of
the measures. In the drawings of the ECT specimen, the distribution of longitudinal Fig. 5a and Fig. 5b and transverse Fig.
5c and d residual stresses on the top and on the bottom surface
of the weld are illustrated, where the terms longitudinal
and transverse are referred to direction parallel and perpenditively. Distribution of residual stresses signicantly changes from

Table 1
Strength of the composites under test compared with the metalmatrices alone

E (MPa)

ry (MPa)

ru (MPa)

Elongation at failure (%)






Fig. 4. Sketch of specimens extraction from welded plates (not in scale). Measures
are given in mm.


A. Pirondi, L. Collini / International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121

Fig. 5. Outline of residual stress measurement locations by X-ray diffraction on W6A20 FSW joint; (a) longitudinal stress on weld top side, measured on the specimen axis;
(b) longitudinal stress on weld bottom side, measured on the specimen axis; (c) transverse stress on weld top side, measured on the weld axis and at its lateral sides L and R;
(d) transverse stress on weld bottom side, measured on the weld axis.

the top to the bottom side of the weld, i.e. through the specimen
thickness. However, the value of stress goes from
64.7 6.2 MPa (transverse residual stress rT on the weld axis,
close to the specimen side) to 51.3 3.0 MPa (longitudinal residual
stress rL on the weld axis, close to the HAZ). These values are signicantly lower than other results reported in the literature, such
as in [33]. Such low residual stresses are probably the result of
specimen extraction from the plates with consequent stress relaxation, further promoted by the small specimen size. For this reason,
they have not been accounted for in the analysis at this stage.
Fracture and FCG tests were then carried out on a MTS servohydraulic machine. FCG tests were performed at R = Kmin/Kmax
equal to 0.1 and 0.5, respectively. The crack was placed along the
weld line (WL), that is across the weld nugget, or at the weld side
(WS) in the TMAZ (see Fig. 4). FCG tests were run in lab air at a frequency of 10 Hz, under constant load amplitude (DK-increasing) or
with continuous load-shedding (DK-decreasing). The experiments
were conducted in agreement with ASTM E647standard [43]. The
experimental setup is outlined in Fig. 6.
The crack propagation was monitored from the specimen compliance using a strain gage placed on the back face of the specimen.
In this technique, a strain gage is glued to the back face of the specimen and a compliance C is evaluated by linear least squares tting
of (eW) vs. load (P) (e back-face strain). The crack length ratio a/W
is calculated then by a polynomial relationship:

a0 a1 u a2 u2 a3 u3 a4 u4 a5 u5

Metallographic and fractographic image analysis was made

with a commercial image analysis software in order to study
metalmatrix grain and particle size, distribution and crack path
roughness. This latter is evaluated conventionally by superimpos;ing a grid on the image of the prole and counting the

as a function of


The coefcients a0, . . . , a5 were calibrated by nite element analysis

and are in good agreement with the literature regarding CT geometry [46].

Fig. 6. Experimental setup.

A. Pirondi, L. Collini / International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121

prole-grid intersections, Pi, along a given length, L. The method is more deeply described in [47]. The roughness Rv can then be
expressed as



This simple technique can obviously give only a mono-dimensional

estimate of roughness.
The analysis of crack opening data was carried out automatically by the test control software (790.40 FCG by MTS Systems
Corp.) according to the compliance offset method described in


4. Metallographic and fractographic investigation

A cross-section of the W6A20A FSW joint is reported in Fig. 7a
and in the detail of Fig. 7b. Looking at Fig. 7a, three different areas
can be clearly identied: (i) a weld nugget with a typical onion
rings structures generated by the spiral ow on the trailing side
of the tool; (ii) a TMAZ, were the stirring of the base material begins; (iii) a zone not involved in the ow caused by the tool action
but generally affected by heating (heat affected zone, HAZ). In
unreinforced alloys, zone (i) is characterized by dynamic recrystallization of the metal-matrix grains, with reduction of the grain size,
grain shape smoothing and fragmentation of precipitates [48,49].
On the other hand zone (ii) shows deformation of grains but they
preserve the elongated shape of the extruded or laminated base
material. In the (iii) zone it is possible to nd a grain size increase
due to heating, which corresponds generally to a minimum of
hardness and tensile strength. In the case of W6A20A, FSW joints
do not clearly show the same minimum of hardness in correspondence of the HAZ as in monolithic alloys [37,40] rather a generalized decrease all along the weld seam. In the case of W7A10A
the situation is opposite, with a maximum in the TMAZ and similar
values in HAZ and nugget [39].
The stirring of a PMMC causes also a redistribution and reshaping of the particles. Figs. 7b and 8 highlight the particles dispersion
and fragmentation in the case of the W6A20A composite within:
(a) parent PMMC and (b) FSW nugget. Two aspects can be highlighted, that are in agreement with the observations made in
 the parent PMMC shows a homogenous dispersion of particles
ranging from 10 to 20 lm; smooth (non-elongated) metal
matrix grains with sizes up to about 50 lm are detected;
 particles are fragmented and clustered in the nugget, while
metalmatrix grain size is much lower.
A quantitative study of those modications has been conducted
by a commercial software of digital image analysis. The following
microstructural parameter are considered: (i) area, perimeter, major axis and shape factor of the reinforcement particles, and (ii)
grain size of the aluminum matrix. The major axis of a particle is
dened as the maximum distance between two points inside its
perimeter, while the shape factor, SF, has the following denition:

Fig. 7. (a) Micrograph of the W6A20A FSW joint cross section; (b) detail of the
microstructure at the nugget border.

4p  A

where perimeter P and area A of each single alumina particle were

used. The shape factor varies between 0 in the case of a straight line

Fig. 8. Microstructure of W6A20A: (a) parent PMMC and (b) FSW nugget. Etched with 85 ml distilled water + 5%HF + 10%H2SO4 solution.


A. Pirondi, L. Collini / International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121

Table 2
Summary of microstructural parameters of PMMCs
particle area

Average particle
major axis (lm)

particle shape

grain size

FSW Nugget





FSW Nugget





W7A10A composites. Especially in the case of W7A10A composite

that contains at 10 vol.% of reinforcement an increase of the frequency in the lower classes, i.e. a reduction of particle area, is
clearly visible, Fig. 9c. A higher uniformity in the particle dimension after the FSW process is found, because FSW in PMMC is an
invasive process for the reinforcement particles, that crush or
crumble, and change in shape and distribution.
5. Results and discussion
5.1. Fracture toughness

and 1 for a perfect circle, therefore it indicates the roundness of a

particle, independently from its size.
To start the measure of these parameters, the microstructural
image obtained at the optical microscope is digitalized and the
contrast in the gray scale emphasized. Each microstructural
parameter is then automatically evaluated by the software, by
the count of each pixel darker than a color threshold value imposed
by the user. A set of measures for each image is obtained; the number of counted particle typically varies from 1400 to 2500 per
The statistical average values of these parameters are summarized in Table 2. It is evident that the FSW process renes both
grain and particle size (e.g. from 25 to 13 lm and from 11 to
8 lm respectively in the case of W6A20A), while the shape factor
of the particles, is increased a little (from 0.60 to 0.64 always in
the case of W6A20A). At the same time, the statistical analysis of
particle size distribution shows a lower standard deviation of the
values, as illustrated in the histograms of Fig. 9 for W6A20A and

The average value of two repetitions is shown in Fig. 10. In the

case of W6A20A, fracture toughness tests were carried out only for
the parent PMMC due to the limited amount of material, therefore
KIC values were extrapolated from FCG tests. It is evident that in the
case of W7A10A the fracture toughness of the FSW joint, is comparable or even higher than the corresponding PMMC. This is also the
case of W6A20A if side-grooved PMMC specimens are compared
with non-side-grooved FSW joints data from FCG tests. On the
other hand, when comparing data extracted only from FCG tests,
the FSW joint has only about 25% lower fracture toughness. The
position of the crack within the joint has a sensible effect only in
the case of W7A10A, where a lower value is found at the WS.
A higher fracture toughness for the W7A10A FSW joints can be
explained in terms of microstructure renement (both grain size
and particles) caused by the stirring action of the tool. Regarding
W6A20A instead, the apparently lower fracture toughness nds a
motivation comparing Fig. 8a and b: the FSW joint Fig. 8b
shows ner metalmatrix grains, but also a ner particle dispersion, that means a shorter particle-to-particle path trough the

Fig. 9. Frequency distribution of (a, c) particle area and (b, d) particle shape factor in parent material and FSW nugget of W6A20A and W7A10A.

A. Pirondi, L. Collini / International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121


Fig. 10. Fracture toughness of the FSW joints compared with the base material.

metal matrix and a larger number of stress raisers. Therefore plastic deformation within the matrix is more constrained than in the
parent material, see Fig. 8a, limiting the fracture toughness. This
does not occur in the case of W7A10A, where the volume fraction
of particle is half the one of W6A20A.
5.2. Fatigue crack growth
Two typical crack paths recorded during FCG tests are illustrated in Fig. 11, for (a) W6A20A and (b) W7A10A (parent material). The rst image depicts a typical branching mechanism, due
to crack deviance caused by some big reinforce particle or cluster
of particles; the second image is a clear example of RICC in which
a premature contact of the crack surfaces is due to a alumina particle. These aspects allow a deeper analysis and elaboration of data
points under the light of crack closure arguments, see Section 6.
The results of W6A20A are reported in Fig. 12. The two crack
positions, WL and WS, show a very similar FCG rate. Furthermore,
they both fall within the 95% condence limits of the base PMMC
mean behavior. The FSW joint exhibit even a higher FCG strength
at low crack growth rates (near-threshold regime), that can be
attributed to a higher crack shielding effect related to the ner
microstructure of the joint with respect to the parent material.
The substantiation of the relationship between microstructural
changes due to FSW and FCG rate has been given by the examina-

Fig. 12. FCG rate of W6A20A parent material and FSW joint.

tion of crack path roughness. The results summarized in Table 3 are

elaborated from pictures of crack path taken at a given crack
growth rate. The crack growth rate is similar for all of the conditions considered in Table 3 (parent or FSW PMMC), and belonging
to near-threshold or Paris regime, respectively. The Rv found under
Paris regime is higher with respect to the near-threshold value
probably due to higher crack tip plastic deformation. Nevertheless,
it does not produce proportionally higher crack closure effects
since under Paris regime crack closure is less effective than at
The difference in Rv between parent PMMC and FSW joint at low
crack growth rates is attributed to the competition between two
effects: (i) the grain renement due to dynamic recrystallization
and (ii) the particle fragmentation due to stirring. With small
grains, Stage II (duplex slip) type of crack propagation in the metalmatrix is more likely to occur even at low crack growth rates.
The planar with ripple aspect of Stage II FCG surfaces [50] would
give a lower Rv with respect to the base PMMC but this is compensated by the higher number of crack deections caused by fragmented particles, that increases Rv.

Fig. 11. Roughness induced crack closure in PMMC: (a) crack branching in W6A20A; (b) particle interaction in W7A10A.


A. Pirondi, L. Collini / International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121

Table 3
Crack surface roughness (Rv) at different regimes of fatigue crack propagation


Rv (lm) (near-threshold

Rv (lm) (Paris











However, the overall behavior is quite different from the case of

W6A20A, since WL crack position gives the higher rates. The mechanism can be again attributed to the change in microstructure at
WL. In this case, the metalmatrix grain size renement effect described before prevails on particle fragmentation inuence because
of the low particle volume fraction. Therefore FSW joint exhibit
lower Rv than base PMMC, as shown in Table 3.
It is also worth to underline, that the results presented above
show that fracture and FCG strength of the two composites is little
affected by FSW. This is in perfect agreement with the results of
[37,40] on the same materials (indeed, the same batch), where static
joint efciency SE = ru,FSW/ru,base  100 is in average 77% for W6A20A
and 83% for W7A10A. Similar values of SE are shown also in [20,49].
6. Crack closure analysis
The objective of this analysis is to discuss experimental data at
different R-ratios, material and crack location with the help of
crack closure models. The trend of DKeff recorded according to
the method of [43] is shown for the parent materials in Fig. 14 as
a function of the Kmax applied during the test. The points in Fig.
14 include DK-increasing as well as DK-decreasing tests. The lines
of equation DKeff = Kmax  (1  R) represent a closure-free propagation, i.e. where DKeff = DK. It is easy to draw the conclusion that
DKeff is always less than DK, that is closure has developed. Besides,
the difference between DK and DKeff:
 is higher at low Kmax hence at a low crack growth rate;
 is higher at R = 0.1 than at R = 0.5;
 is higher in the case of W6A20A than in the case of W7A10A.

Fig. 13. FCG rate of W7A10A parent material and FSW joint.

Also in the case of W7A10A the two crack positions, WL and WS,
show a very similar FCG rate (Fig. 13) and fall almost completely
within the 95% condence limits of the parent PMMC mean value.

The higher value of crack closure in a material with higher particle content with respect to a material with a lower particle content enforces the idea that roughness-induced crack closure is a
prominent mechanism in this case.
The result of the application of crack closure models to selected
experiments is shown in Figs. 15 and 16 in the case of the parent
materials. Concerning W6A20A (Fig. 15), all of the three models
work quite efciently; the best approximation is obtained globally
with the 2/p method while the Elbers method at low FCG rates
probably overestimates the closure (data at R = 0.1 lying above

Fig. 14. Graphs of DKeff vs. Kmax (recorded according to the method of [43]): (a) W6A20A and (b) W7A10A FSW joint. The lines of equation DKeff = Kmax  (1  R) represent a
closure-free propagation.

A. Pirondi, L. Collini / International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121

Fig. 15. FCG rate of W6A20A corrected for crack closure (parent material).

Fig. 16. FCG rate of W7A10A corrected for crack closure (parent material).

Fig. 17. FCG rate of parent materials and FSW joints corrected for crack closure.



A. Pirondi, L. Collini / International Journal of Fatigue 31 (2009) 111121

R = 0.5). In the case of W7A10A (Fig. 16), the models differ more
markedly and it is evident that the quantitatively and qualitatively
better correction comes again from the 2/p method.
The same analysis conducted on FSW joint led to the same qualitative result, that is the best agreement between data at different
R-ratios is obtained, for both PMMCs, using 2/p partial crack closure evaluation method.
The comparison of parent material and FSW joint in terms of
DKeff has been therefore carried out using only 2/p partial crack
closure evaluation method, as shown in Fig. 17. In the case of
W7A10A, graph on the right, the data in the intermediate to low
crack growth rate fall together irrespective of R-ratio and starter
crack position. Also in the case of W6A20A the FCG data at the
two different R-ratios and crack position come close to each other
when plotted in terms of DKeff, although slightly different trends
may be identied between R = 0.5 and R = 0.1.
7. Conclusions
This work was devoted to the experimental evaluation and
analysis of fracture toughness and FCG behavior of FSW butt joints
of two PMMCs, namely 6061 aluminum alloy with 20 vol.% of Al2O3
(W6A20A) and 7005 aluminum alloy with 10 vol.% of Al2O3
(W7A10A). These properties were compared with the ones of the
base PMMCs. Differences can be related to the interaction between
the joining process and the microstructure. In particular:
 the fracture toughness of the FSW joint is about 25% lower than
the parent material in the case of W6A20A, while it is 1020%
higher in the case of W7A10A: this is because of the embrittlement effect due to the particle reinforcement;
 the inuence of FSW joining on FCG strength, in particular at
near-threshold rates, is the opposite as for the fracture toughness, i.e. crack propagation rate is lower than in the parent
material in the case of W6A20A, while it is higher in the case
of W7A10A.
The explanation of this behavior rate has been given by examining crack path roughness, Rv. The difference in Rvs between base
PMMC and FSW joint at low crack growth rates is attributed to the
competition between two effects: (i) the grain renement due to
dynamic re-crystallization and (ii) the particle fragmentation due
to stirring. With ner grains, Stage II (duplex slip) type of crack
propagation in the metal-matrix is more likely to occur even at
low growth rates leading to a lower Rv. Only in the case of a high
particle content, as in the case of W6A20A, this is compensated
by the higher number of crack deections caused by fragmented
particles, that increases Rv.
The discussion of experimental data with the help of different
closure evaluation methods sorted the 2/p method as the one
which gave the most efcient description of the differences among
parent material and joint, loading conditions and crack location.
The authors wish to acknowledge Dr. L.M. Volpone, formerly at
Fincantieri, Genoa (I), and Dr. J. Dos Santos, GKSS Research Centre,
Geesthacht (D), for supplying the joints, Prof. R. Konecna, University of Zilina (SK), for the metallographic images, and Prof. M. Guagliano, Polytechnic of Milan, Milan (I), for residual stresses
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