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Steel vs. Iron - Material properties

The side effects of friction on a brake wheel during normal use can result in extreme stress. Wear, thermal fatigue and cracking may cause the wheel to fail catastrophically if not manufactured to withstand such stresses.

The successful performance of a brake wheel is strongly influenced by the material quality and hardening. Fatigue properties are adversely affected by material defects such as porosity, slag, inclusions, and a non-uniform microstructure. These are common defects found in castings and can lead to faster crack propagation and catastrophic failure.

An example of a container crane cast iron brake wheel failure:

cast iron brake wheel failure
Cast iron brake wheel failure.
reconstruction of brake wheel
Reconstruction of recovered portions of the fractured iron brake wheel.
brake wheel hub
Remaining hub portion of the iron brake wheel.
  • Rim failed catastrophically
  • 26 pieces scattered with great force
  • Consultant retained
  • Other cranes inspected and cracking found

Xtek's forged "Steel Safe" brake wheels have a more dense, more defect free wear surface as compared to cast iron brake wheels. Features that contribute to this superior quality and resistance to cracking include:

  • Fracture toughness of a forged steel brake wheel is inherently superior to that of a cast iron brake wheel.
  • Xtek forged steel brake wheels are made from vacuum degassed steel, which is cleaner, porosity-free, and has a more uniform microstructure than cast iron.
  • The Xtek forged brake wheel can be carburized to provide a high carbon wear surface that will result in a substantial increase in the wear resistance of the wheel or heat treated to provide excellent wear and cracking resistance.

Contact us today to discuss your specific application and problem solving needs.


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Steel vs. Iron - Material properties
Microphotograph showing the open, crack prone structure of ordinary cast iron brake wheels.

Steel vs. Iron - Material properties
The microstructure of Xtek forged steel brake wheels exhibits a highly tempered martenistic structure, which substantially inhibits cracking.