Crack Tip Flipping under Mode I Tearing: Investigated by X-Ray Tomography

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The fracture surface morphology that results from mode I tearing of ductile plate metals depends heavily on both the elastic-plastic material properties and the microstructure. Severe tunneling of the advancing crack tip (resulting in cup-cup, or bath-tub like fracture surfaces) can take place in a range of materials, often of low strength, while tearing of high strength metals typically progress by the shear band failure mechanism (slanting). In reality, however, most fracture surfaces display a mixture of morphologies. For example, slant crack propagation can be accompanied by large shear lips near the outer free plate surface or a complete shear band switch - seemingly distributed randomly on the fracture surface. The occasionally observed shear band switch of mode I slant cracks, related to ductile plate tearing, is far from random as the crack can flip systematically from one side to the other in roughly 45-degree shear bands. This "flipping" action of a slanted crack remains to be fully understood, and the present study serves to share details on the phenomenon by exploiting X-ray tomography scanning to access the plate interior and the very crack tip. Throughout, the focus is on a crack tip where the flip is underway. Extensive growth of single edge cracks under mode I loading is achieved in a purpose build test set-up. Here, considering a 4 mm plate of normal strength / high strain hardening steel which has been found to display successive flipping of the slant crack face. While undergoing a shear band switch, such that the flipping mechanism is active, the plate tearing test is interrupted and the crack tip extracted for further investigation. The conducted X-ray tomography scans reveal the failure process ahead of the advancing crack tip to resemble the ductile slant crack growth governed by local thinning and moderate crack tip tunneling. However, small shear lips form at the outer free plate surface, well behind the 45-degree slant (tunneling) crack tip, as the flipping action engages. Upon further loading, the shear lips subsequently grow to form a set of secondary crack fronts at an angle to the primary tunneling slant crack. Eventually, these secondary crack fronts catch up on the primary slant crack front and overtake the growth to complete the shear band switch. Once the crack slants, an out-of-plane action occurs due to the loss of symmetry in the system. It is this out-of-plane action which is believed to set-off the flipping mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Solids and Structures
Pages (from-to)119-127
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Plate tearing
  • Shear band switch
  • Crack tip shape
  • Ductile failure


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