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The University of Southampton
Rifi An Enterprise Consultancy Unit

Case Study: Tribological failure investigation of a production tool

Objective: Determine the failure mechanism of a stainless steel production tool that was causing the rejection of polymer products.


  • The stainless steel alloy, Jethete M152 (12 wt% Cr), was used as part of the mould tooling for the production of polypropylene products.
  • During the final inspection of the polymer parts, 30% were rejected as they had cracked as a result of the damaged edges of the moulds.
  • RIfI was asked to determine the cause of the damaged production mould edges.
  • What we did

  • Performed an initial optical and scanning electron microscope (SEM) investigation of the damaged mould edges.
  • A microhardness survey was also performed on the damaged mould edges.
  • Further detailed SEM and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was performed, including chemical analysis of the phases present.
  • Impact

  • The initial work showed that the damage was due to corrosion rather than stress, fatigue or wear.
  • The detailed work showed that embrittlement occurred during manufacture of the raw material used to make the mould.
  • The advice received from RIfI enabled the client to select another mould material and consider a future redesign of the mould to remove the knife-edge at the rim.
  • Subsequently the client was able to reduce part rejection to acceptable levels.
  • Production Tool
    Production Tool
    Close Up Image of Production Tool
    SEM of Production Tool Showing the Crack

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