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This article aims to identify and illustrate the types of overload failures, which are categorized as failures due to insufficient material strength and underdesign, failures due to stress concentration and material defects, and failures due to material alteration. It describes the general aspects of fracture modes and mechanisms. The article briefly reviews some mechanistic aspects of ductile and brittle crack propagation, including discussion on mixed-mode cracking. Factors associated with overload failures are discussed, and, where appropriate, preventive steps for reducing the likelihood of overload fractures are included. The article focuses primarily on the contribution of embrittlement to overload failure. The embrittling phenomena are described and differentiated by their causes, effects, and remedial methods, so that failure characteristics can be directly compared during practical failure investigation. The article describes the effects of mechanical loading on a part in service and provides information on laboratory fracture examination.

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