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An irrigation pipe made of medium-density PE failed during service. This pipe was subjected to severe cyclic-bending strain of the order of 6% while under tensile stress of approximately 6.9 MPa (1000 psi) and a hoop stress of approximately 6.2 MPa (900 psi), far more stringent conditions than those encountered in most applications of PE pipes. Visual inspection and reflected-light optical micrographs were used to plot bandwidth as a function of crack length. The conclusion was that, contrary to the dominant belief that pipe failure initiates from surface defects, a critical size flaw within the pipe wall can also initiate failure as it did in this case. Recommendations included that similarity criteria should be established between the fracture behavior of a component in service and that observed in the laboratory.

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