Creep is a time-dependent deformation of a material while under an applied load that is below its yield strength. It most often occurs at elevated temperatures, but some materials creep at room temperature. Creep terminates in rupture if steps are not taken to bring it to a halt.
Creep data for general design use are usually obtained under conditions of constant uniaxial loading and constant temperature. Results of tests are usually plotted as strain versus time up to rupture. As indicated in the image, creep often takes place in three stages.
• In the initial stage, strain occurs at a relatively rapid rate but the rate gradually decreases until it becomes approximately constant.
• During the second stage, this constant creep rate is called the minimum creep rate or steady-state creep rate since it is the slowest creep rate during the test.
• In the third stage, the strain rate increases until failure occurs.
Creep in service is usually affected by changing conditions of loading and temperature and the number of possible stress-temperature-time combinations is infinite. While most materials are subject to creep, the creep mechanisms are often different between metals, plastics, rubber and concrete.