Failure Analysis

Written by Patricia Skinner
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Keeping Industry Safe

Failure analysis is the most important aspect of failure prevention, which is arguably the most important goal of engineering. Various engineering industries place slightly different emphasis on the science of failure analysis, although it is unquestionably of importance to all. The type of engineering for which failure analysis is the very foundation, however, is the aerospace industry.

In the old days, the most vital part of aircraft development was the test rig, as this was the most accurate way of predicting how aircraft materials would behave under in-flight conditions. Now, most of this prediction of failure analysis is done virtually with the aid of failure analysis software. So although a whole aircraft test rig is still used, the computer is the place where most failure analysis is carried out nowadays, with the use of specially designed software.

Fatigue and Failure Analysis

Fatigue is a common cause of material failure, and especially metal fatigue. Indeed, metal fatigue is the main reason for building, craft and machine failures of all descriptions. There is very little excuse for the development of material fatigue these days, as it can be so accurately predicted with thorough failure analysis processing and the right software. The failure analysis process is still not complete, however without an appropriate test rig.

Failure analysis is always carried out as part of forensic engineering enquiries into crashes and failures of all kinds. Train and plane crashes are so often attributable to metal fatigue of some sort. It is interesting to note that no matter how exhaustive virtual failure analysis research may be, the naked human eye is still relied upon for the final word for examination of material failures of any description, to pinpoint where the deterioration began and what may have triggered it.

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