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.
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 necessary 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.