The hardness of a material shows its ability to resist to microplastic deformation caused by indentation or penetration and is closely related to the plastic slip capacity of the material. Therefore, it could be significant to study the resistance to microplastic deformations based on microhardness changes on the surface, and the associated accumulation of fatigue damage. The present work is part of a research study being carried out with the aim of proposing a new method based on microstructural changes, represented by a fatigue damage indicator, to predict fatigue life of steel structures submitted to cyclic loads, before macroscopic cracking. Here, Berkovich indentation tests were carried out in the samples previously submitted to high cycle fatigue (HCF) tests. It was observed that the major changes in the microhardness values occurred at the surface of the material below 3 μm of indentation depth, and around 20% of the fatigue life of the material, proving that microcracking is a surface phenomenon. So, the results obtained for the surface of the specimen and at the beginning of the fatigue life of the material will be considered in the proposal of a new method to estimate the fatigue life of metal structures.

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