White etching cracks (WECs) have been identified as the dominant mechanism of premature failure for bearings within wind turbine gearboxes. Though WECs have been observed in the field for over a decade, the exact mechanisms which lead to this failure are still debated, and benchtop replication has proven difficult. In previously published work, WECs have been replicated only through the use of component level test rigs, where complete bearings are tested. In these tests, the factors that are thought to drive the formation of WECs, such as slide-to-roll ratio (SRR) and lubricant film thickness, cannot not be easily altered or controlled. In this paper, WECs have been replicated on a three ring on roller, benchtop test rig, which allowed for a direct investigation into the influence that SRR magnitude, sliding direction, and the lubricant film thickness have on surface failures and WEC generation. It was determined that WECs were formed in samples that experienced −30 % SRR at various lubrication conditions; however, at lower levels of negative SRR and positive SRR up to 30 %, no white etching cracks were observed.
Keywords: White etching cracks, Wind turbine gearbox bearings, Bearing failures, Microstructural alterations