In the present paper, the theory of critical distances (TCD) is reformulated in order to make it suitable for predicting fatigue lifetime of notched components in the medium-cycle fatigue regime. This extension of the TCD takes as its starting point the idea that the material characteristic length, L, changes as the number of cycles to failure, Nf, changes. In order to define the L versus Nf relationship two different strategies were investigated. Initially, we attempted to determine it by using the L values calculated considering material properties defined at the two extremes, namely static failure and the fatigue limit. This strategy, though correct from a philosophical point of view, contained some problems in its practical application. We subsequently attempted to determine the L versus Nf relationship by means of two calibration fatigue curves; (one generated by testing plain specimens and the second one generated by testing notched specimens). This second strategy was found to be much more simple to apply to practical problems, resulting in estimations characterized by a higher accuracy. The reliability of the devised method was systematically checked by using experimental results generated by testing notched specimens of low-carbon steel containing different geometrical features and tested using various loading types, stress ratios and specimen thicknesses. The accuracy of the method was further verified by using several data sets taken from the literature. Our method was seen to be successful giving predictions falling always within the scatter band of the data from the parent material. These results are very interesting, especially considering that the TCD is very easy to use because it requires only a linear-elastic stress analysis.
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