A probabilistic fatigue crack growth life approach to the definition of inspection intervals for railway axles
Different options that rely on fracture mechanics are currently used in engineering during the design and assessment of components. One of the most important aspects is the time taken for a crack to extend to its critical size. If this time is long enough, a design concept based on inspection intervals can be applied, as is it the case of a railway axle component. To define inspection intervals that ensure the continuous and safe operation of a damage-tolerant railway axle, a reliable estimation of its fatigue crack growth life is required. Due to the uncertainties involved in the fatigue process, inspections must be devised not only considering the uncertainties in the performance of the inspection technique, but also based on a probabilistic lifespan prediction. From this premise, this paper presents a procedure for determination of inspection intervals that uses a conservative fatigue crack growth life estimation based on the lifespan probability distribution. A practical example to illustrate the reliability-based inspection planning methodology in a railway axle under random bending loading is given. The inspection intervals are further assessed in terms of overall probability of detecting cracks in successive inspections and in terms of probability of failure, considering the probability of detection curve of the non-destructive testing technique. The procedure developed provides recommendation for the definition of inspection intervals and associated inspection techniques.
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