The introduction of cracks into loaded versus unloaded components has a significant effect on the apparent fracture toughness within finite element modelling. The history effects of crack introduction can be beneficial to defect assessment procedures that do not consider prior plasticity specifically from crack introduction. It is assumed that as strain energy is released due to plastic deformation during crack formation a reduction in the energy available for crack propagation under fracture conditions is experienced. This can be characterized by the formation of a plastic wake behind the crack tip and leads to significant increases in load at critical J and other crack growth parameters for modelling situations. However experimental evidence validating this apparent fracture toughness increase are needed. A beneficial increase in apparent fracture toughness can prolong the life of components that might be taken out of service prematurely if history effects are not considered.
This paper discusses a series of experimental and modelling approaches that have been taken to assess the magnitude of the benefit in increase of apparent fracture toughness by the manipulation of crack introduction history effects. An initial parametric study of material properties on the effect of introducing cracks into loaded and unloaded components indicates that most benefit be derived from high hardness, high yield materials such as Aluminum 7000 series alloys. Further work has been carried out with experimental C(T) specimens of Aluminum Alloy 7475 T7351. Cracks were introduced by fatigue into the samples. One set of specimens was fatigued with a low mean load and the other with a high mean load, this was achieved by keeping a consistent ΔKI between specimens and changing the load ratio one set of specimens. Fracture test results indicate that the influence of prior plasticity on fracture initiation is much subtler in experimental trials than in the finite element model. Crack growth resistance curves and neutron diffraction results measuring the residual stress created ahead of the crack tip by this method are be discussed and contrasted with the parametric study and finite element modelling of the two different crack introduction scenarios.