This paper reviews the experimental work on the influence of variable amplitude or random loads on the mechanics and micromechanisms of fatigue crack growth. Implications are discussed in terms of the crack driving force, local plasticity, crack closure, crack blunting, and microstructure. Due to heterogeneity in the material’s microstructure, the crack growth rate varies with crack tip position. Using the weakest link theory, an expression for crack growth rate is obtained as the expectation of a random variable. This expression is used to predict the crack growth rates for aluminum alloys, a titanium alloy, and a nickel steel in the midrange region. It is observed using the present theory that the crack growth rate obeys the power law for small ΔK and that the power is a function of a material constant.

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