The failure cause of the 18CrNi3Mo steel for drilling bit, including inclusions, prior austenite grain size, carburized layers, and morphology of the fatigue fracture, was investigated by optical microscope, quantitative metallography, and scanning electron microscope. Results show that the failure of the drill bit is not related to interior inclusions or the inhomogeneity of the prior austenite grain size distribution. The failure is related to geometrical discontinuities causing stress concentration along the tooth profiles while under effect of continuous twisting and axial impact. Thus, the crack initiates in these areas, and the microstructures of the carburized layer, the transitive layer, and the matrix are all tempered martensite such that the crack propagation cannot be effectively restrained and the crack propagates quickly, causing premature failure of the drilling bit.
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