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Crankshaft

The crankshaft, a car parts, sometimes casually abbreviated to crank, is the part of an engine which translates reciprocating linear piston motion into rotation. To convert the reciprocating motion into rotation, the crankshaft has "crank throws" or "crankpins", additional bearing surfaces whose axis are offset from that of the crank, to which the "big ends" of the connecting rods from each cylinder attach.

It typically connects to a flywheel which is car parts, to reduce the pulsation characteristic of the four-stroke cycle, and sometimes a tensional or vibration damper at the opposite end, to reduce the torsion vibrations often caused along the length of the crankshaft by the cylinders farthest from the output end acting on the tensional elasticity of the metal.

Crankshafts can be monolithic (made in a single piece) or assembled from several pieces. Monolithic crankshafts are most common, but some smaller and larger car parts use assembled crankshafts.

Forging and casting

Crankshafts can be forged from a steel bar or cast in ductile iron. Now a day more and more manufacturers tend to favor the use of forged crankshafts due to their lighter weight, more compact dimensions and better inherent dampening. With forged crankshafts, vanadium microalloyed steels are mostly used as these steels can be air cooled after forging reaching high strengths without additional heat treatment, with exception to the surface hardening of the bearing surfaces. Carbon steels are also used, but these require additional heat treatment to reach the desired properties. Cast iron crankshafts are today mostly found in cheaper production engines where the loads are lower. Some engines also use cast iron crankshafts for low output versions while the more expensive high output version use forged steel.

Machining

Crankshafts can also be machined out of a billet. Even though the fiber flow (local inhomogeneities of the material's chemical composition generated during casting) doesn’t follow the shape of the crankshaft (which is undesirable), this is usually not a problem since higher quality steels which normally are difficult to forge can be used. These crankshafts tend to be very expensive due to the large amount of material removal which needs to be done by using lathes and milling machines, the high material cost and the additional heat treatment required. However, since no expensive tooling is required, this production method allows small production runs of crankshafts to be made without high costs.

Fatigue strength

The fatigue strength of crankshafts is usually increased by using a radius at the ends of each main and crankpin bearing. The radius itself reduces the stress in these critical areas, although since the radiuses in most cases are rolled, this also leaves some compressive residual stress in the surface which prevents cracks from forming.

Hardening

Most production crankshafts use induction hardened bearing surfaces since that method gives good results with low costs. It allows the crankshaft to be reground without having to redo the hardening. But high performance crankshafts, billet crankshafts in particular, tend to use nitrification instead. Nitridization is slower and thereby more costly, and in addition it puts certain demands on the alloying metals in the steel, in order to be able to create stable nitrides. The advantage is that it can be done at low temperatures, it produces a very hard surface and the process will leave some compressive residual stress in the surface which is good for the fatigue properties of the crankshaft. The low temperature during treatment is advantageous in that it doesn’t have any negative effects on the steel, such as annealing. With crankshafts that operate on roller bearings, the use of carburization tends to be favored due to the high Hertzian contact stresses in such an application. Like nitriding, carburization also leaves some compressive residual stresses in the surface.

Counterweights

Some expensive, high performance crankshafts also use heavy-metal counterweights to make the crankshaft more compact. A heavy-metal used is most often a tungsten alloy but depleted uranium has also been used. A cheaper option is to use lead, but compared with tungsten its density is much lower.

Stress analysis of crankshaft

The shaft is subjected to various forces but it needs to be checked in two positions. First, failure may occur at the position of maximum bending. The crank may fail due to twisting, so the crankpin needs to be checked for shear at the position of maximal twisting. The pressure at this position is not the maximal pressure, but a fraction of maximal pressure.

 

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