Numerical modeling of rolling contact fatigue cracks in the railhead

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Engineering Failure Analysis


Rolling contact fatigue (RCF) crack is one of dominating damages on the rail surface due to repeated wheel and rail contact. RCF defects, including squats and head checks, can potentially cause rail fracture failure if not treated in time. It is critical to accurately predict the pertinent damage for different operational conditions. A two-stage simulation strategy was proposed to investigate the mechanisms of RCF-induced cracks on the rail, consisting of a dynamic FEM for wheel and rail interaction and a coupled static FEM/BEM for crack growth. It was found that there are two critical wheel positions for crack propagation during wheel approaching to and departing from the pre-existed crack. The different cracking mechanisms at these two critical wheel positions are correlated with the local physical phenomena, i.e., the traction at the wheel/rail interface, the relative distance between the contact patch and crack, and the sliding at crack faces. The twisting of the cracks from the transverse plane to the longitudinal plane at the railhead significantly reduces crack growth in mode I, enhances crack propagation in modes II and III, and shifts the dominant crack growth from the crack front center to the crack corners. The increased incline of the crack in the rolling direction promotes the crack to grow downward in opening mode I.

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