The fatigue behaviour of a nodular cast iron containing casting defects has been investigated in the high-cycle fatigue regime. In this paper, we propose a fatigue life assessment model for flawed materials based on a fracture mechanics approach which takes into account the position and size of the defect, short crack behaviour and the notch effect introduced by the defect. The fatigue behaviour of smooth samples, and long and short crack behaviour have been experimentally determined in order to identify the relevant mechanical parameters; these being introduced into the model. An experimental study has been made both in air and in vacuum in order to account for the position of the defect, noting that internal defects are supposed to be under vacuum conditions. Experimental results, which are based on a two-crack front-marking technique specially developed for this study, show that the propagation of natural cracks is controlled by the effective stress intensity factor in air as well as in vacuum. The K calculation for a short crack in the stress field of a notch is analysed using numerical elastic–plastic results. Comparison between experimental results and the computation of fatigue life for fatigue lives less than 106 cycles shows that the fatigue behaviour of nodular cast iron is controlled by a propagation process. The model proposed is thus relevant for fatigue lives less than 106 cycles so that the defect can be considered as a crack and the initiation stage neglected. Closer to the fatigue limit, this study shows that the initiation stage should be considered in the assessment of fatigue life of nodular cast iron, because a single macroscopic propagation assessment is not enough to describe the whole fatigue life. The defect cannot be considered as a pre-existent crack in the high-cycle fatigue range (>106 cycles), and the initiation stage that contains microcrack propagation around the defect should be evaluated when assessing the high-cycle fatigue life of nodular cast iron.
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