Experimental and numerical investigations into the behaviour of a 7175-T7351 aluminium alloy for aerospace gearbox housing applications at elevated temperatures

Lam Wing Cheong, Marc F. (2018) Experimental and numerical investigations into the behaviour of a 7175-T7351 aluminium alloy for aerospace gearbox housing applications at elevated temperatures. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (158MB) | Preview


The 7175-T7351 aluminium alloy was studied to determine its suitability for the step-aside gearbox housing on the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine. The industrial motivation of this work was to reduce the weight of the gearbox housing using this lightweight material to ultimately improve the specific fuel consumption of the aircraft. This involved obtaining the mechanical properties of the aluminium alloy via a series of uniaxial mechanical tests with parameters based on the operating conditions of the gearbox housing during a typical flight cycle. Furthermore, a constitutive viscoplasticity model, with the inclusion of material ageing parameters, was developed to predict the material’s cyclic response under strain-controlled isothermal fatigue conditions at the gearbox housing’s operating temperatures. With this capability, a prediction for when the strength of the gearbox housing falls below the required design strength for safe use could be made.

The room temperature hardness tests demonstrated the effect of time spent at elevated temperatures on the material’s hardness. It was found that the higher the soak temperature, the greater the initial rate of decrease in room temperature hardness and the lower the asymptotic value of hardness that was reached. For example, up to 24 hours of soaking at 200◦ C, the hardness decreased by 33%, and up to 1000 hours the hardness had decreased by 55%. For the same durations at 180◦ C, the hardness decrease was 17% and 47% respectively. Soaking at 120◦ C had an insignificant effect on the hardness of the material, indicating that the microstructure was thermally stable. Hardness testing could be used as a method to assess the strength of the gearbox housing for service monitoring during certifcation.

Similar to the hardness tests, the elevated temperature tensile test results also revealed degradation in the mechanical strength of the alloy after prior soaking at elevated temperatures. The tests at 200◦ C on the as-received material decreased the yield stress by 31% and after soaking at test temperature for 20 hours prior to testing, the yield strength dropped by 52%. After a 2 hour temperature, the yield stress decreased from 220MPa to 165MPa which is alarming since the gearbox housing spends about 18 minutes at 200◦ C and 190MPa during climb. This suggests that in less than 6 flight cycles, the material’s strength will fall below the maximum operating stress of the gearbox housing and will be unsafe for continued use.

Samples were soaked for up to 400 hours at 200◦ C and prepared for microstructural analysis. EBSD images showed that the grains were no significantly affected by the temperature exposure and showed no signs of coarsening. TEM and EDX analysis revealed that the majority of the particles within the grains were zinc-magnesium rich particles and were assumed to be MgZn 2 precipitates based on the TEM particle identification. The precipitate size and inter-particle spacing were found to increase with soak time. The change in monotonic yield strength was therefore attributed to the coarsening of these precipitates. The material characterisation suggested that, although the 7175-T7351 aluminium alloy initially appeared to have desirable mechanical properties, it is unsuitable for this or similar applications due to the rapid decrease in strength and thermally unstable microstructure. Furthermore, if an aluminium alloy is considered for this application, then it may be vital to account for material ageing behaviour.

The unified, uniaxial viscoplasticity Chaboche model was implemented to predict the material response strain-controlled isothermal fatigue tests at 160◦ C and 200 ◦ C. A material ageing term was added to the model to account for the material ageing that decreased the yield strength with time. With this addition, two assumptions were made: 1) material ageing only affects isotropic hardening and 2) isotropic hardening can be de-coupled into material ageing (as a function of time at elevated temperature) and mechanical softening (a function of accumulated plastic strain). The tests at 160◦ C and 200◦ C showed that numerical and experimental results were in good agreement, providing accurate isothermal cyclic stress behaviour of the 7175-T7351 aluminium alloy. Furthermore, it was shown that the mechanical softening and material ageing components could be de-coupled. However, when the model was used to predict stress-controlled isothermal fatigue data and a cyclic stress relaxation tests, a number of deficiencies arose. The predicted ratcheting and ageing rate was greater than expected. The material ageing term may require an additional function to change the ageing rate depending on whether the material is elastically or plastically loaded. Norton’s creep power law could not predict term long stress relaxation behaviour but it was sufficient enough to describe to short- term viscous effects under the strain-controlled fatigue conditions. Despite these deficiencies, the model provided an initial point for a unified, viscoplasticity model for the 7175-T7351 alloy. Due to the rapid ageing of the material, the model could be used to predict if or when a material’s strength is unsuitable for safe operating use.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Hyde, C.J.
Kennedy, A.R.
Rouse, J.P.
Keywords: Aluminum alloys, Heat treatment, Aerospace engineering
Subjects: T Technology > TN Mining engineering. Metallurgy
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering
Item ID: 49366
Depositing User: Lam Wing Cheong, Marc
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2018 04:40
Last Modified: 08 May 2020 08:31
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/49366

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View