Failure of a Polycarbonate Switch Housing
A housing used in conjunction with an electrical switch failed shortly after being placed into service. A relatively high failure rate had been encountered, corresponding to a recent production lot of the housings, and the failed part was representative of the problem. The housing had been injection molded from a commercially available, medium-viscosity grade of PC, formulated with an ultraviolet stabilizer. In addition to the PC housing, the design of the switch included an external protective zinc component installed with a snap-fit and two retained copper press-fit contact inserts. Investigation supported the conclusion that the switch housings failed via brittle fracture, likely through a creep mechanism. The failure was caused by severe embrittlement of the housing resin associated with massive molecular degradation produced during the molding process. A potential contributing factor was the design of the part, which produced significant interference stresses between the contact and a mating retaining tab.