This paper describes research efforts by a North American railroad wheel and axle manufacturer to improve steel chemistry, cleanliness, and properties for improved component service performance. The authors describe extensive work to improve steel cleanliness in the melting process. Also they review attempts to correlate ultrasonic testing data with microcleanliness test results, and detail subsequent work to determine steel cleanliness using the Advanced Steel Cleanliness Assessment Technique (ASCAT), which is being developed by a university and a supplier. Emphasis is placed on determining the type, number and size of discontinuities within the steel. Additionally, efforts to improve mechanical properties of microalloyed axles are reviewed along with microstructural details relevant to the work. The role of vanadium, molybdenum, aluminum, and other elements, on axle structure and properties is discussed. A new axle design, with significantly larger body diameter, is described and finite element analysis (FEA) results for the design are presented.

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