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The principal task of a failure analyst during a physical-cause investigation is to identify the sequence of events involved in the failure. Technical skills and tools are required for such identification, but the analyst also needs a mental organizational framework that helps evaluate the significance of observations. This article discusses the processes involved in the characterization and identification of damage and damage mechanisms. It describes the relationships between damage causes, mechanisms, and modes with examples. In addition, some of the more prevalent and encompassing characterization approaches and categorization methods of damage mechanism are also covered.

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