F is for… failure analysis: how did this break?

One-off or systemic failures: solving the puzzle.

Senior Consultant, Chris Mallinson, considers an approach to solve the failure analysis puzzle

Did that part fail as a one-off or is it systemic? It’s a puzzle that is hugely important for many businesses to solve. No one likes it when something breaks, but the consequences of failure are clearly quite different depending upon the part. A broken phone screen is quite annoying, but a broken brake line can potentially be fatal.

We regularly undertake investigations on failed parts, with the aim of helping our clients determined why they failed, and what can be done to prevent any reoccurrence. Our experts review the information provided by customers about the nature of the part, including its composition and the operating conditions. These early pieces of evidence, combined with our materials knowledge, help us to start to bring together the initial elements of a solution.

The review enables us to form initial opinions, and to identify avenues for further exploration. We can then work to develop a laboratory testing programme to interrogate the failure, and to provide experimental results for further analysis. Our teams’ proficiency in advanced materials’ characterisation techniques means they can apply cutting-edge analysis tools to derive evidence from parts. This data often needs to be combined with information about the local environment, to pinpoint the exact reason or reasons for failure.

By determining the degradation mechanisms leading to failure, as well as offering potential mitigation strategies to prevent reoccurrence, we can help complete the failure puzzle, enabling organisations to enact the material or process changes needed to prevent unplanned failures and downtime.

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