Failure Analysis

Failure analysis may be best described as 'forensic engineering' - the investigation of failed components with a view to ascertaining the cause of failure in order to prevent further failure, injury or loss of life, and thus reduce any associated financial loss.

Forensic engineering is the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not operate or function as intended, causing personal injury or damage to property. The consequences of failure are dealt with by the law of product liability. The field also deals with retracing processes and procedures leading to accidents in operation of vehicles or machinery. The subject is applied most commonly in civil law cases, although it may be of use in criminal law cases. Generally, the purpose of a forensic engineering investigation is to locate cause or causes of failure with a view to improve performance or life of a component, or to assist a court in determining the facts of an accident. It can also involve investigation of intellectual property claims, especially patents.
Forensic engineering - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Why Undertake a Failure Analysis?

By ascertaining the cause of a failure, future appropriate action may be taken to prevent repetition of the failure. In addition the direct and indirect costs associated with further failure and any possible injury or loss of life may be prevented. Often a failure analysis that accurately defines the cause of failure may allow the costs associated with a premature failure to be recovered from the responsible parties.

How is a Failure Analysis Undertaken?

Failure analysis is a specialised field of engineering and requires a professional approach. In general terms the site of failure is inspected and documented as soon as neccessary safety precautions have been taken; fracture debris is then collected, carefully labelled and protected for later macro and microscopic investigation and material testing; where possible, witnesses and operational personnel are interviewed, and logs and drawings scrutinised; the results of these examinations, tests and interviews are then synthesised to establish the most probable cause/s of failure. These conclusions, together with the detailed results of the investigation, are presented in a comprehensive report.

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