that remain after the original cause of the stresses (external forces, heat gradient) has been removed. They remain along a cross section of the component, even without the external cause. Residual stresses occur for a variety of reasons, including inelastic deformations and heat treatment. Heat from welding
may cause localized expansion, which is taken up during welding by either the molten metal or the placement of parts being welded. When the finished weldment cools, some areas cool and contract more than others, leaving residual stresses.
Castings may also have large residual stresses due to uneven cooling. Residual stress is often a cause of premature failure of critical components, and was one factor in the collapse of the suspension bridge at Silver Bridge in West Virginia in December 1967. The eyebar links were castings which showed high levels of residual stress, which in one eyebar, encouraged crack growth. When the crack reached a critical size, it grew catastrophically, and from that moment, the whole structure started to fail in a chain reaction. Because the structure failed in less than a minute, 46 drivers and passengers in cars on the bridge at the time were killed as the suspended roadway fell into the river below.
Controlled residual stress
While uncontrolled residual stresses are undesirable, some designs rely on them. For example, toughened glass
and pre-stressed concrete
depend on residual stress to prevent brittle
failure. A demonstration of the effect is shown by Prince Rupert's Drop
, where a molten glass globule is quenched to produce a toughened outer layer.
Bolted joints use residual stress to avoid subjecting bolts to fatigue. A gradient in martensite formation leaves residual stress in some swords with particularly hard edges (notably the katana), which can prevent the opening of edge cracks.
In certain types of gun barrels made with two tubes forced together, the inner tube is compressed while the outer tube stretches, preventing cracks from opening in the rifling when the gun is fired. Parts are often heated or dropped into liquid nitrogen to aid assembly.
Press fits are the most common intentional use of residual stress. Automotive wheel studs, for example are pressed into holes on the wheel hub. The holes are smaller than the studs, requiring force to drive the studs into place. The residual stresses fasten the parts together. Nails
are another example where the stress created by penetration of wood then helps to keep the nail in place.
- Cary, Howard B. and Scott C. Helzer (2005). Modern Welding Technology. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education. ISBN 0-13-113029-3.