It is well-known that the geometrical characteristics of the indents on prestressing wire used in the manufacture of prestressed concrete railroad ties affect the magnitude of the transfer length. In particular, it has been shown that such parameters as indent depth, indent volume and indent sidewall angle all affect transfer length, with indent volume being a major influence. Previous research has shown that the larger the indent volume, the shorter the transfer length.

For full load bearing capacity, it is important that the transfer length not exceed the distance to the rail seat. Consequently, transfer length has been identified as a key diagnostic parameter for evaluating the load bearing capability of prestressed concrete railroad crossties. Furthermore, it has been proposed for use as a valuable quality control parameter.

Ongoing research, as well as previously published research results, also indicates that the geometry of the prestressing wire indents plays a major role in the formation of cracking. This is particularly important in the manufacture of concrete ties intended for high speed rail applications. Cracking and debonding of prestressing wires associated with ties in service can result in severe splitting and complete tie failure. It is therefore not sufficient to guarantee a safe transfer length alone, without consideration of the cracking propensity. The wire specifications in standard ASTM A881 are intended to promote quality prestressed railroad tie behavior; however, the detailed causes of cracking and splitting, and the specific indent features that are responsible, are not well-known from a quantitative perspective.

Until recently, inspection of prestressing wire indent properties consisted of sampling a few indents from a small segment of wire, providing very limited statistical information on wire indent properties. To address this deficiency, a high-resolution automated non-contact optical wire indent scanning system has been developed for completely and rapidly characterizing all relevant indent geometrical parameters. The system is capable of measuring large segments of wire to yield statistically significant samples of all relevant indent parameters including indent depth, indent width, indent sidewall angle, indent pitch, and indent volume. The current state-of-the-art in this system development, along with some new insights based on recent indent scanning results, will be presented. This system represents a valuable tool to aid in identifying the key indent geometrical features related to cracking. The overall goal is to quickly assess critical indent parameters, so as to ensure high-quality bond and eliminate in-track tie splitting failures.

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