Mechanical Engineering Faculty Research


Modeling the Effect of Carburization and Quenching on the Development of Residual Stresses and Bending Fatigue Resistance of Steel Gears

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-2013


Most steel gears are carburized and quenched prior to service to obtain the desired specific strength (σ/ρ) and hardness requirements. Use of carburization and quenching of steel gears creates a compressive residual stress on the carburized surface, which is beneficial for improving both bending and contact fatigue performance. Also, higher carbon content in the carburized surface decreases the starting temperature for formation of the martensitic phase and delaying the martensitic transformation at the part surface during the quenching hardening process. During the martensite phase formation, the material volume expands. The delayed martensitic transformation, coupled with the associated delayed volume expansion, induces residual compressive stress on the surface of the quenched part. The carburized case depth and distribution of carbon affect both the magnitude and the depth of the resulting residual compressive stress. In this article, the effect of carbon distribution on the residual stress in a spur gear is presented and discussed using finite element modeling to understand the intrinsic material mechanics contributing to the presence of internal stress. Influence of the joint on thermal gradient and the influence of phase transformation on the development of internal stresses are discussed using results obtained from modeling. The residual stress arising due to heat treatment is imported into single-tooth bending and dynamic contact stress analysis models to investigate the intrinsic interplay among carbon case depth, residual stress, bending load, and torsional load on potential fatigue life. Three carburization processes, followed by oil quenching, are examined. A method for designing minimum case depth so as to achieve beneficial residual stresses in gears subjected to bending and contact stresses is suggested.

Publication Title

Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance





First Page


Last Page