The primary goal of failure analysis is to prevent the recurrence of product failures. This article discusses the sequence of activities in failure analysis and offers insight on how to gather background information, examine and assess damage, and identify the cause of the problem. It also explains where to look for evidence and how to collect samples for various types of testing. In addition, the article provides an introduction to fracture mechanics and explains how to predict and avoid fractures, including fatigue fracture, through testing and computational techniques.
Analysis of the failure of a metal structure or part usually requires identification of the type of failure. Failure can occur by one or more of several mechanisms, including surface damage (such as corrosion or wear), elastic or plastic distortion, and fracture. This leads to a wide range of failures, including fatigue failure, distortion failure, wear failure, corrosion failure, stress-corrosion cracking, liquid-metal embrittlement, hydrogen-damage failure, corrosion-fatigue failure, and elevated-temperature failure. This article describes the classification of fractures on a macroscopic scale as ductile fractures, brittle fractures, fatigue fractures, and fractures resulting from the combined effects of stress and environment.