Strain accumulation ahead of the fatigue crack tip in the martensite lath of a medium-carbon steel was examined using a three-dimensional electron backscatter diffraction (3D-EBSD) technique. The objective of this study is to explain the crack propagation mechanism due to the activation of out-of-plane slips with their Burgers vectors having no component of the crack growth direction, which exhibits high resistance to fatigue crack growth. The 3D-EBSD analysis revealed little misorientation in the crystal, concurrent with the fatigue crack propagation in the coarse laths oriented favourably for dislocation glide in their longitudinal directions. This suggests that these laths contributed to strain accommodation. In contrast, strain preferentially accumulated in the coarse laths oriented unfavorably for the longitudinal slip, promoting crack propagation. These indicate that the geometrical anisotropy and distribution of martensite laths dominate the fatigue crack propagation resistance in martensitic carbon steel.
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