Heavy duty gas turbine blades and vanes are operated at high temperatures and high stresses, condition where several damage mechanisms can simultaneously be present. For example creep, fatigue and oxidation play an important role in the propagation of existing cracks. Crack growth models are employed for assessment criteria, interpretation of the field feedback and non-conformities management and they are required to be as accurate as possible when predicting crack propagation under the combined effect of all the three phenomena.
In this work, a Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM) model based on isothermal experimental tests and validated by Thermo-Mechanical-Fatigue Crack Growth tests (TMFCG), is employed to predict crack propagation of a cast Ni-base superalloy used in gas turbine blades and vanes. When calculating the individual propagation fractions of creep and fatigue crack growth, the model accounts for the instantaneous stress state and temperature in transient regime (i.e. a complete cycle of start-up, base-load and shut-down). The loss of γ’- precipitates at the crack tip due to surface oxidation is interpreted as environmental damage fraction.
A complete workflow for the systematic use of the approach, comprising an in-house software, has been defined and developed. Stress intensity factors used for LEFM calculations are determined either using tabulated weight functions or with the aid of Finite Element Analysis (FEA). This flexible approach is consistent with the industrial need of a given fracture mechanics calculation, which might require different levels of accuracy and resources/time consumption case by case. The software identifies the fraction of propagation caused by oxidation, creep crack growth or fatigue crack growth. This allows checking the physical realism of the results by comparing to metallographic analysis of fracture surfaces from broken TMFCG test specimen and/or real component damage information from field. Besides, this feature can be helpful to support the engineer in residual life evaluation under damage tolerant approach because it allows the identification of the type of operational regime that minimizes crack propagation. The software also allows the execution of sensitivity analyses via Monte-Carlo calculations, identifying for a given component and operational condition the more relevant calculation inputs. This feature also quantitatively supports the engineers in the identification of the most appropriate safety margins.