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Understanding How Components Fail

Stages of Fatigue Fracture
Fatigue fracture: initiation, propagation, and final rupture

Collection of background data selection of samples

Preliminary examination of failed part (visual examination and record keeping)

Nondestructive testing

Mechanical testing (including hardness and toughness testing)

Selection, identification, preservation and cleaning of all specimens

Macroscopic examination and analysis (fracture surfaces, secondary crack, and other
surface phenomenon)

Microscopic examination and analysis

Selection and preparation of metallographic sections

Examination and analysis of metallographic sections

Determination of failure mechanism

Chemical analyses (bulk, local, surface corrosion products, deposits or coating, and
electron microprobe analysis)

Analysis of fracture mechanics

Testing under simulated service conditions (special tests)

Analysis of all the evidence, formulations of conclusions, and writing the report
(including recommendations)

Collection of background data and selection of samples
Photographic records: A failure that appears almost inconsequential in a preliminary
investigation may later be found to have serirous consequence; thus a complete photographic
record of the investigation can be important.
It is advisable to look for additional evidence of damage beyond that which is
immediately apparent
It is often necessary to compare failed components with similar components that did
not fail to determine whether the failure was brought about by service conditions or was the
result of an error in manufacturing.
In routine examination of brittle fracture, it is important to know if at that time of the

particularly magnetic-particle inspection of ferrous metals. Hardness can be used to provide an approximation of the tensile strength of steel. should be subjected to a thorough visual examination before any cleaning is undertaken. Soils and debris found on the part often provide useful evidence in establishing the cause of failure or in determining a sequence of events leading to the failure. References: Failure analysis and prevention – ASM Volume 11 . The failure analyst should exercise care in interpreting mechanical test results. Mechanical Testing Hardness testing is the simplest of the mechanical tests and is ofter the most versatile tool available to the failure analyst. Some of these advantages are lost when any optical or electron-optical device is used. the fact that a material has tensile strength 5 ~ 10% below the minimum specified value does not mean that this is the prime cause of its failure in service. ultrasonic inspection and eddy-current inspection of material that conduct electricity. decarburization or carbon pick up. including all of its fragments. For example. Nondestructive Testing Several nondestructive tests are extremely useful in failure investigation and analysis.accident or failure the prevailing temperature was low and if some measure of shock loading was involved Preliminary examination of the failed part The failed part. and detect work hardening or to detect softening or hardening caused by overheating. Visual inspection: The unaided eye has exceptional depth of focus and has the ability to examine large area rapidly and to detect subtle changes of color and texture. liquid-penetrant inspection.