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Wear 308 (2013) 199205

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Characterization of the wear of nodular cast iron rollers in contact

with wire ropes
V. Oksanen a,n, P. Andersson b, K. Valtonen a, K. Holmberg b, V.-T. Kuokkala a
Tampere University of Technology, Department of Materials Science, Tampere Wear Center, P.O. Box 589, FI-33101 Tampere, Finland
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, P.O. Box 1000, MK6, FI-02044 VTT (Espoo), Finland

art ic l e i nf o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The present work describes the major ndings of a wear mechanism analysis based on optical and
Received 5 December 2012 scanning electron microscopy on rollers made from nodular cast iron that had rolled under partial slip
Received in revised form against steel wire ropes in eld service and in wear tests using rollers and wire ropes. Various wear
17 May 2013
modes were identied on the wire rope groove surfaces. The ndings will be utilized in the modeling and
Accepted 17 June 2013
testing work to support product development activities. In the roller surfaces and sub-surface zones,
Available online 24 June 2013
evidence of several wear mechanisms occurred. The microscopy of the worn rope groove surfaces
Keywords: revealed deformation tongues caused by plastic deformation and crack growth in sub-surface zones that
Wear mechanism had been subjected to contact pressure under rolling and micro-slip in tangential direction of the roller
Nodular cast iron
and sliding motion in the radial direction of the roller. To large extent, the cracks originated from
Wire rope
graphite nodules that had been elongated by the surface material ow. The deformation tongues were
oriented in the direction of the net sliding motion between the contact pair. High contact pressure levels
activated crack growth opposite to the sliding direction.
& 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction The most critical component in the wire rope drives is the wire
rope, as a breakage usually would cause severe consequences to
Wire rope drives are present in many areas of our daily life, in people or machines. If the maintenance is inadequate, cable
domestic and industrial lifting and pulling equipment and hoists, breakages may occur due to fretting wear and fatigue at poorly
cable cars and ski lifts, cable railways, harbor cranes, and similar lubricated wires of a cable, or due to abrasive wear [1]. For this
applications. The key components in a wire rope drive are the wire reason, the tribological research in support of wire rope drives has
rope and the rollers, over which the wire rope is repeatedly bent focused on the wire rope [24], while the corresponding rollers
when the rope drive is in operation. usually have gained rather limited attention in the literature.
In spite of the wide use of rope drives, the literature on their Recent studies on the wear of rollers of wire rope drives are
friction and wear properties is rather limited. The fatigue and wear mainly limited to steel and polymer roller materials [57], while
of wire ropes in contact with rollers is quite well documented in the literature available on the wear of nodular cast iron in contact
the scientic literature. Nevertheless, in terms of the wear of with steel mainly covers other applications than wire rope drives
nodular cast iron, which is a commonly applied group of materials [816]. From the non-wire applications of nodular cast iron in
for rollers in rope drives, the scientic literature published in the sliding contact with steel, certain observations are of relevance for
last 15 years contains quite little information in general, and the wear of cast iron rollers in rope drives.
practically nothing regarding contacts with wire ropes. Due to its lubricating properties, the graphite phase in nodular
A wire rope comprises a large number of steel wires wound cast iron decreases the friction force in sliding contacts against
together into strands, which are further wound together around a other solids, which may suppress wear in certain conditions. The
core into a complex rope structure. A wire rope is able to carry presence of the relatively soft graphite nodules in the cast iron
loads in the longitudinal direction while being exible in the matrix, however, also has some drawbacks. Using nodular cast iron
lateral direction. Steel wires that have been drawn from steel with pins against steel discs in a pin-on-disc tribometer under lubri-
0.86% carbon and a ne pearlitic microstructure are preferred for cated and unlubricated conditions, Prasad [8] has demonstrated
wire ropes [1]. Lubricants are added inside the wire rope structure. that the ferritic-pearlitic matrix of a nodular cast iron can undergo
plastic deformation by material ow in the direction of the motion
of the counter surface, on the condition that the normal force and
Corresponding author. Tel.: +358 50 512 1687; fax: +358 3 3115 2330. the friction force are sufciently high. The plastic deformation of
E-mail address: ville.t.oksanen@tut. (V. Oksanen). the surface and the subsurface region resulted in the elongation of

0043-1648/$ - see front matter & 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
200 V. Oksanen et al. / Wear 308 (2013) 199205

the graphite nodules into shapes that resembled graphite akes characterized. The emphasis was on the effect of the contact
and furthermore produced cast iron tongues in the direction of pressure and the slip rate on the wear behavior. Typical examples
sliding of the counter surface. of worn roller surfaces are presented and discussed. The results of
Similar observations of plastic ow of the matrix material and the characterization will be utilized for establishing the correlation
the formation of loose wear debris at graphite nodules have been between the quantitative results of the accelerated wear tests and
reported by Abedi et al. [9], who concluded that at high loads the the actual wear behavior in eld service, and for vericating the
wear increases with the graphite nodule count. At low loads, results of the modeling.
under which no plastic deformation of the sub-surface layers was
observed, the wear resistance increased with the graphite
nodule count. 2. Materials and methods
Yldzl et al. [10] have reported observations of plastic ow of
the pearlitic matrix material and the graphite nodules in a cast 2.1. Materials
iron under erosion by angular steel particles. Similarly, Quanshun
Luo et al. [11] have observed plastic deformation of the matrix and The rollers with wire-rope grooves that were characterized in
the graphite nodules at the sub-surface zone of a nodular cast iron the present study were produced by Componenta Inc. from
under abrasive wear conditions. nodular cast iron EN-GJS-700-2 with an almost fully pearlitic
The formation of elongated tongues over graphite nodules in matrix with a low content of bull's eye ferrite. The minimum
the nodular cast iron matrix takes place when a signicant amount tensile strength was 700 MPa, the minimum elongation 2%, and
of so called bull's eye ferrite around the graphite nodules is present the hardness approximately 250 HV5. The wire-rope grooves had
[12]. The tongues or caps elongate and become thinner and been produced by turning using form cutting tools to a surface
harder by work hardening, and at some stage they break off and roughness of Ra 6.3 m. The roller samples had operated against
turn into wear particles. Provided the toughness of the nodular multi-strand wire ropes that were produced by drawing pearlitic,
cast iron is sufcient to suppress cracking during the plastic non-alloyed steel. The tensile strength grade of the wire ropes was
deformation and the work hardening associated to this, the 1570 MPa. The lubrication of the rope/roller tribosystems had been
smearing of the graphite during the surface ow may suppress carried out with additive-free parafnic vaseline (petrolatum)
the wear of the cast iron. Moreover, the mechanism of ferrite incorporated in the wire rope structures.
tongues being smeared over graphite nodules has been reported
by Ben Tkaya et al. [13], who had performed sliding tests using a 2.2. Methods
scratch tester.
An experimental study reported by Liu et al. [14] indicates Four roller groove samples, which represented different eld
tribochemical acceleration of the wear of nodular cast iron in air service conditions and test conditions, were characterized. Table 1
atmosphere of ambient temperature, in an unlubricated block-on- presents the service and the test conditions of the samples.
ring sliding test conguration with quenched grey cast iron as the Samples A and B had been retrieved from rope drives in eld
counter material. Moreover, the role of oxidational wear of service, after their operating lives had come to an end. Samples C
ferritic-pearlitic nodular cast iron has been demonstrated by Abedi and D had been tested in two different kinds of laboratory test
et al. [9]. equipment. In the present study, the focus was on the effect of the
Rebasa et al. [17] have studied the effect of the nodule count contact pressure and slip rate combinations on the wear mechan-
and size on the wear behavior of nodular cast irons. Increasing isms at the contact surfaces of the roller grooves.
nodule count impaired the wear resistance of ferritic nodular cast The calculated contact pressure ranges in Table 1 express the
iron in a ASTM G 65-94 rubber-wheel abrasion test. The authors initial contact pressures in unworn rollers with the assumption
concluded that each nodule at the wear surface acts as a dis- that the wire rope is substituted by a single, cylindrical wire.
continuity, which causes increased wear of the surrounding metal The contact pressure changes evenly over the contact area due to a
matrix. A at washer type rolling contact test for ausferritic difference in the rope force at different locations of the roller.
nodular cast irons gave the opposite result: increasing nodule An actual wire rope consists of numerous helices of wire strands,
count improved the rolling contact fatigue resistance of nodular as can be seen in Fig. 1. Thus the contact between the wire rope
cast iron. The increased nodule count had led to decreased nodule and the roller does not occur as a uniform contact area but instead
size, which consequently reduced the amplitude of the peaks in as numerous contact points. Fig. 2 presents a schematic example of
the contact pressure distribution caused by sub-surface graphite the contact situation. The contact takes place at the anges of the
nodules. wire-rope groove of the roller rather than at the bottom of the
In the present work, the wear mechanisms at wire rope groove groove. Due to the complex structure of the rope and the changing
surfaces of nodular cast iron rollers from rope drives were studied. rope force at different locations, each cross-section plane has a
Roller samples from eld service and laboratory wear tests were unique contact situation and stress state. The actual contact point

Table 1
Sample specications, eld service parameters and test parameters for the roller samples.

Sample A B C D

Origin Field service Field service Rope drive wear test Rolling-sliding wear test
Nominal diameter of roller (mm) 600 600 400 392
Diameter of wire rope (mm) 13 13 8 8
Hardness of roller (HV5) 251 256 238 247
Nominal velocity (m/s) 2.0 2.0 3.2 4.0
Rolling distance (106 m) 14 44 17 2
Lubrication failure No Yes No No
Slip rate of wire rope (%) 0.02 0.8 0.03 2.0
Calculated contact pressure range (MPa) 3.66.6 2.23.7 6.39.7 7.516.5
V. Oksanen et al. / Wear 308 (2013) 199205 201

Fig. 1. Example of a steel wire rope.

Fig. 4. Schematic of the rope drive arrangement used in the high-slip wear test
with sample D.

driven by a motor at velocity v, transmits power to the wire rope,

which has different loads F1 and F2 at different sides of the roller.
The apparatus is driven with repeatedly changing rolling
Sample A was a wire rope groove that was chosen as a
representative sample from a set of investigated wire rope grooves
on rollers under similar eld conditions of intermittent, bi-
Fig. 2. A cross-section of the contact between the wire rope and the roller. The
outer wires of a strand of the wire rope are pressed against the roller, towards the directional rolling motion. The sample represented wear behavior
groove bottom, which lies on the right-hand side. under normal eld service conditions.
The conditions of operation for sample B were slightly different
from those of sample A, and due to the long rolling distance
(44  106 m), the wire rope and sample B had run out of lubricant,
which had led to an increased wear rate and, as a consequence of
this, to a highly increased slip rate.
The roller groove sample C was a wire rope groove that was
chosen as a representative sample from a set of investigated wire-
rope grooves on rollers originating from rope drive wear tests.
Sample C had operated under similar conditions of intermittent,
bi-directional motion as sample A, designed to simulate typical
operational conditions in eld service equipment, however, with
increased contact pressure for the acceleration of the wear test.
Sample C had been only slightly worn during the wear test, and
represented the initial stage of the wear process.
Sample D was tested in a different kind of test equipment than
the one used for sample C. Fig. 4 presents the principle of the
Fig. 3. Schematic of the rope drive arrangement used in the case of samples A
and B from eld service rollers and sample C from the rope drive wear test roller.
rolling-sliding wear tester. The wire rope had been running at a
The dashed lines illustrate the directions of the characterized cross-sectional velocity v1 over the roller, which was driven by an electric motor
samples of the rollers. for having a groove velocity v2, which was slightly lower than the
rope velocity v1. The velocity difference induced a slip rate for
pressures are higher than the calculated values, and change during the acceleration of the wear process. In addition to the slip rate, the
the lifetime of the contact pair, as the roller and the wire rope contact pressure was increased in order to accelerate the test. The
conform to each other due to proceeding wear of both velocity difference between the rope and the roller also caused a
components. difference in the tension in the wire rope on the different sides of the
The relative motion between the wire rope and the wire rope roller (F1 4F2). The motion was bi-directional with equally long
had consisted of rolling and partial slip in the tangential direction periods of motion in both directions. Due to the high wear rate of the
of the roller. In addition to this, the system also had a component wire rope, it had to be replaced twice during the test.
of sliding in the radial direction of the roller, i.e., perpendicularly Worn roller surfaces and cross-section surfaces of samples
to the rolling direction, as the wire rope had been pressed into the were characterized using an optical microscope and a Philips
groove and drawn out of it repeatedly. The contacts between the XL30 scanning electron microscope (SEM). The cross-sectional
wire ropes and rope grooves covered about one-half of the roller sample surfaces were prepared using a metallographical sample
groove perimeter, as shown in Fig. 3. preparation technique and etched with 2% Nital solution. In order
The slip rates of samples A, C and D in Table 1 refer to the slip in to highlight both the microstructure and the cracks, the cross-
relation to the rolling distance, with respect to a new wire rope sectional SEM images were produced by mixing secondary elec-
and a new roller. When the rope drives had been in operation for a tron images and back-scattered electron images.
certain time and the roller grooves had become worn, the slip
rates had become slightly higher. In the case of sample B, the slip
rate refers to an approximation of the actual slip rate at the end 3. Results
stage of the service life.
Fig. 3 demonstrates the operation conditions of the eld service All the surface images presented below have been oriented so
samples A and B and rope drive wear test sample C. The roller, that the wire rope axis is horizontal and the roller axis is vertical.
202 V. Oksanen et al. / Wear 308 (2013) 199205

The cross-sectional images in the radial direction of the roller are

oriented similarly, so that the groove bottom and the roller axis lie
downwards. In addition, selected cross-sections in the tangential
direction of the roller were studied. The orientations of the cross-
sectional samples are represented in Fig. 3.
Fig. 5 presents a typical example of the machined groove
surface. The groove surface has been machined by turning, and
in the image the machining direction is horizontal from left to
right. The pearlitic matrix has been peeled off from the top of the
graphite nodules and behind them in the machining direction.
Examination of the machined cross-sections of the roller grooves
revealed deformation of a shallow subsurface region in the
tangential direction of the roller. Fig. 7. SEM image of a cross-section of roller sample A in the radial direction.
Fig. 6 presents the wear surface of eld service sample A, which
represents normal eld service conditions with a contact pressure
range of 3.66.6 MPa and a slip rate of only 0.02%. The wear
surface was rough and covered by minute scale-like deformation
tongues mainly extending in the radial direction of the roller,
towards the groove bottom. Small fragments of the deformation
tongues had spalled-off from the wear surface resulting in the
formation of pits. Scratches were not observed.
Fig. 7 shows a cross-sectional image of roller sample A,
perpendicularly to the rope axis, revealing a deformed and cracked
sub-surface zone under the worn wire-groove surface. The cast
iron material had been deformed in a direction perpendicular to
the running direction of the wire rope, towards the groove bottom.
The deformation occurred as attening and re-orientation of all
phases in the sub-surface material. In addition to this, cracks had Fig. 8. Optical image of a cross-section of roller sample A in the tangential
initiated from the sub-surface tips of the attened graphite
precipitations and propagated towards the wear surface. The
depth of the deformed sub-surface zone of the contact surface of
sample A was 1020 mm.
Fig. 8 shows a detail of the worn cross-section of sample A in
the tangential direction of the roller. The cracks were observed on
the plane perpendicular to their main propagation direction. Some
cracks extending from different graphite nodules have merged and

Fig. 9. SEM image of the worn contact surface of roller sample B.

formed broad, internodular cracks, which are not visible in the

radial direction of the roller. Deformation had also occurred in the
rope axis direction, but the orientation of the deformation shows
local variations instead of being uniform.
Fig. 9 presents the wear surface of eld service sample B, which
Fig. 5. A wire-rope groove surface of a roller as machined. had suffered from a lubrication failure. The shortage of lubrication
has resulted in corrosion, and consequently in the formation of
rust particles that has increased the wear rate and the wire-rope
slip rate. The surface revealed plastic deformation tongues and
microscopic scratches, at a 381 angle from the tangential direc-
tion of the roller. Material had been removed by spalling of the
deformation tongues and due to abrasion caused by rust particles.
Fig. 10 represents a cross-section of the wear surface in one
of the two tangential rolling directions of roller sample B.
By comparing Figs. 7 and 10, it can be observed that the deformation
and cracking behavior of sample A in the radial direction of the roller
and that of sample B in the tangential direction are similar.
Correspondingly, the same similarity was observed for the cross-
sections of sample A in the tangential direction of the roller (Fig. 8)
and for sample B in the radial direction. The depth of the deformed
Fig. 6. SEM image of the worn contact surface of roller sample A. sub-surface zone in sample B was approximately 2030 mm.
V. Oksanen et al. / Wear 308 (2013) 199205 203

Fig. 13 shows the worn contact surface of sample D, which had

been tested in rolling-sliding wear test equipment at the highest
contact pressure range (7.516.5 MPa) applied in the present study
and a wire rope slip rate as high as 2.0%. Large and deep pits were
observed on the wear surface in a similar manner as in the case of
sample C. In addition to this, randomly oriented deformation
tongues and microscopic scratches, oriented close to the tangential
direction of the roller, were observed. With the exception of the
pits, the general appearance of the contact surface was smoother
than those of samples AC.
Fig. 14 presents a cross-sectional image of sample D perpendi-
cular to the rope axis. The thickly packed pearlite in the vicinity of
Fig. 10. Optical image of a cross-section of roller sample B in the tangential the cast iron surface shows that strong deformation had taken
place in the sub-surface zone. The cracks had grown in several
directions, like in the case of sample C. In addition to this, strong
deformation had occurred after the growth of the cracks between
the nodules and the surface, which can be seen as a stepped
displacement of the interface between the matrix and the graphite
nodule in Fig. 14.
Fig. 15 presents the cross-section of sample D in the tangential
direction of the roller. Internodular cracks were observed at depths
of as high as 60 m from the wear surface. In addition to this,
strong deformation of the sub-surface region was observed in the

Fig. 11. SEM image of the worn contact surface of roller sample C.

Fig. 13. SEM image of the worn contact surface of sample D.

Fig. 12. Optical image of a cross-section of roller sample C in the radial direction.

Sample C was tested in the rope drive wear test equipment at a

contact pressure range of 6.39.7 MPa, which was higher than that
applied on the eld service samples A and B. The wear test had
been terminated when the wear process of the roller groove was
at the initial stage, and the contact geometries of the wire rope
and the groove had yet not conformed to each other. Thus, the
actual contact pressure was very high. As shown in Fig. 11, the Fig. 14. SEM image of a cross-section of sample D in the radial direction.
wear surface of sample C had a notably different appearance
compared to samples A and B. The wear surface showed some
deformation tongues oriented towards the groove bottom, but also
large, deep pits that had been formed on the surface. The material
removal had mainly taken place by the formation of pits. More-
over, some marks of the original machining were still visible on
the surface.
Fig. 12 illustrates that strong cracking had occurred under the
wear surface in the radial direction of the roller. In contrast to
sample A, cracks had grown between the graphite nodules and the
wear surface in a direction upwards from the nodules. In the case
of sample A, the cracking was oriented towards the groove bottom.
A similar behavior was observed in the cross-sections in the
tangential direction of the roller. The deformation depth of sample Fig. 15. Optical image of a cross-section of roller sample D in the tangential
C was 515 mm. direction.
204 V. Oksanen et al. / Wear 308 (2013) 199205

tangential rolling direction. This behavior was similar to that of

sample B, which had also operated under a high slip rate of 0.8%.
Most of the cracks that had grown diagonally towards the surface
had oriented towards the direction of the deformation. However,
crack growth had also occurred in the opposite direction.

4. Discussion

The studied samples represent different types of worn roller

contact surfaces that have been formed in eld service and wear Fig. 17. Example of worn wire rope surface showing the slight angle difference
tests. The contact pressure range values given in Table 1 were between the axes of the wire rope and a wear lens.
calculated without considering the changes in the contact geo-
metry of the wire rope and roller contact pairs as the wear orientation close to one of the tangential directions of the roller.
processes advance. During the lifetime of a rope drive, the wear The slip, however, took place in both rolling directions. This
process involves several consecutive stages of contact geometry selective orientation of the deformation tongues was probably
and thus also different wear behavior. In the initial stage, the wire caused by the contact geometry. Fig. 17 presents an example of a
rope and the groove do not conform well, and the area and worn wire rope. Due to the construction of the wire ropes, the
amount of the actual contact points is low. As the wear process longitudinal axis of the wear lens diverts slightly from the axis of
proceeds, the wire rope and the groove adapt to each other, mainly the wire rope. Thus, the contact conditions were different for the
by wear of the latter, and the contact area grows. The wear process opposite rolling directions.
advances to a steady stage, in which the change in the conditions The contact pressure and the friction force eld acting along
is slow. Considering the calculated contact pressure range and the the cast iron surface in the direction of the sliding exceeded locally
stage of the wear process, qualitative contact pressure levels the yield strength of the nodular cast iron and caused plastic
normal and high at the end of the service life of each sample deformation in the sub-surface zone. The ferrite phase of the
were estimated. Fig. 16 presents the combinations of qualitative pearlitic cast iron matrix is quite soft, and together with the soft
contact pressures and wire rope slip rates at the end of the service graphite nodules in the microstructure, the nodular cast iron is
life of the four samples. able to ow under the action of stresses that exceed the yield limit.
The sliding motion of the contact consisted of slip in the The present observations of sub-surface material ow are in good
tangential direction of the roller and sliding in the radial direction. agreement with similar ndings by previous authors [9,10,13].
The orientation of the net sliding motion depended mainly on the In all the present samples, the cracks were initiated from sub-
amount of slip. In the case of samples A and C, the slip rate was surface graphite nodules. Crack growth in the direction of the
very low, and the net sliding was oriented almost in the radial sliding motion was oriented diagonally towards the wear surface.
direction of the roller. On the other hand, samples B and D The crack progress perpendicular to the main crack growth
experienced high slip in the tangential direction of the roller, direction resulted in the formation of long, internodular cracks.
and the orientation of the net sliding was close to the tangential The very high contact pressures in samples C and D caused
direction. crack initiation and promoted crack growth in a direction opposite
The wear surfaces of all samples were plastically deformed and to the net sliding direction. These cracks had grown diagonally
cracked in the net sliding direction. In the case of samples A and C, towards the wear surface, similarly to those that had grown
which had operated at low slip rates, the deformation and towards the main sliding direction.
cracking, caused by the contact pressure between the wire rope In the case of normal contact pressures of samples A and B, the
and the roller groove, were oriented towards the groove bottom. combination of deformation and crack growth towards the net
Correspondingly, samples B and D, which had operated at high slip sliding direction resulted in the formation of a scale-like wear
rates, were subjected to deformation and cracking in an surface. When the cracks had propagated through the sub-surface
zone to the worn contact surface, further deformation and
elongation of the material above the cracks had resulted in the
formation of cast iron tongues at the contact surface. The thin
edges of these tongues had cracked-off from the surface, in the
shape of small fragments, which eventually had resulted in
material removal. Similar crack formation has been reported
previously for nodular cast iron in sliding contact with steel,
under abrasion, and under erosion [9,10,13].
The high contact pressures at samples C and D activated crack
growth opposite to the net sliding direction, which had enabled
spalling-off of large, deep particles from the wear surface. Also
deformation tongues were observed on these samples, but the
material removal occurred mainly through the repeated spalling-
off of larger particles.
The relation between the crack growth and plastic deformation
in the studied cases is rather complicated. On the one hand, high
local plastic deformation typically precedes the crack initiation,
but cracks extending to the wear surface also promote the growth
of deformation tongues and displacement steps at interfaces
between the graphite nodules and the cast iron matrix. The wear
Fig. 16. Diagram locating the roller samples as a function of slip rate and contact processes described in this paper contain elements of surface
pressure. fatigue through deformation and fracturing in the direction of net
V. Oksanen et al. / Wear 308 (2013) 199205 205

sliding under low contact pressures,, as well as additional cracking within the program on Breakthrough Materials called DEMAPP, in
opposite to the net sliding direction under high contact pressures. the Friction and Energy Project. The authors gratefully acknowledge
In addition to the shear stresses arising from the contact pressures, the nancial support of Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for
the friction forces between the roller and the wire rope also Technology and Innovation, the participating companies, and VTT
produce shear stress in the contact region. Moreover, surface Technical Research Centre of Finland.
irregularities or hard particles in the wiregroove interfaces
caused local contact pressure peaks and often higher coefcients
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The study was carried out as part of the Finnish joint industrial
consortium strategic research action coordinated by FIMECC Ltd,