The use of published fatigue data provides an expedient basis for fatigue-limited engineering design by alleviating the necessity of explicit testing. However, published fatigue data often exhibits incomplete documentation of the associated test conditions. Incomplete documentation introduces uncertainties in fatigue life prediction that may limit the applicability of the published fatigue data for design applications. Characterization of the applicability of published fatigue data is critical for robust fatigue-limited design. However, no quantitative methods have been identified which respond to this requirement. A novel method has been developed to provide a systematic characterization of the applicability of published fatigue data based on internationally recognized standards. This method provides a conceptual mechanism to:
identify the applicability of published fatigue test data for specific design scenarios—thereby informing engineers of potential limitations of published data and allowing prioritization of multiple data sources;
identify material domains of insufficient applicability—thereby providing a robust basis for identifying beneficial fatigue test programs;
compromise between design complexity and the uncertainties inherent in fatigue life prediction;
define a framework for the appropriate documentation of published fatigue data.
A sample of published fatigue data sources associated with a specific fatigue-limited safety–critical design scenario was assessed by the method presented in this paper. For the majority of the sampled references, the associated documentation was insufficient to allow the fatigue test data to be confidently applied to the subsequent design activity. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.