Numerous studies on fatigue damage and fatigue crack propagation in the past dealt with these problems, either by a cumulative damage approach, or using crack propagation equations based on linear elastic fracture mechanics. Although these two approaches are not compatible, each is useful for predicting fatigue behavior correctly, but only within defined limits. This study introduces the “fatigue phase diagram”, which classifies different combinations of stresses and crack lengths in a given specimen, as zones in which different fatigue evaluation criteria, and possibly different fatigue mechanisms govern. Furthermore, a definition of the “threshold crack length” is proposed for consideration as the end of the crack initiation stage. It is suggested that most stress-intensity-range-threshold studies in the literature, were performed with stress range under the fatigue limit of the material, and therefore no crack initiation or propagation could have been measured. Any additional study should specify the zone of the tests on the fatigue phase diagram, so that correlations between different tests could be done with the proper data only.

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