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THE FIRST EDITION of Don Wulpi’s Understanding How Components Fail was handed to me at my first job, right after it was published. I was told to read it cover to cover because it had so much that I would need to know. It was easy to understand and provided a great deal of insight into failures. The book, and the subsequent second edition, became indispensable to my expanding technical bookshelves. Early in my career I often recommended it to colleagues. Now the book is one of the first reference books I hand to new engineers and technicians. Although it is written primarily for the novice, all technically interested people can learn a great deal from it.

Because I am a proponent of Understanding How Components Fail, preparing a new edition was a difficult task. However, as in most things, materials science and failure analysis are constantly changing. This new edition has attempted to add recent technical knowledge and analysis tools to bring the content up-to-date.

Engineering design, materials, and analysis techniques have all advanced significantly since the first edition. A substantial enhancement to this volume is the update to Chapter 10, “Fatigue Fracture.” Fatigue striation counting, modeling, and crack rate prediction are now routinely performed for critical components, and this is reflected in this new edition. Corrosion failure analysis (Chapter 13) is updated to reflect the current greater understanding of the processes involved. DNA testing can now be performed to identify organisms responsible for microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC), a technology that was not widely available in 1985. Chapter 14, “Elevated-Temperature Failures,” also reflects our greater understanding of these failures, as engineering materials are used in progressively harsher conditions. Chapter 15, “Fracture Mechanics,” was added to the second edition as the field became more prominent. In this edition, the chapter is updated to parallel modern thought and terminology. For younger readers this may sound odd, but most of us did not have computers on our desks in the mid-1980s. The advent of affordable, user-friendly (mostly) computers has been a boon to engineering designers and failure analysts. Complex calculations and computational modeling of huge volumes of data could not be approached before computers.

Don Wulpi obviously filled an unfilled niche with this book. Although many years have passed since the original publication, the book remains one of ASM International’s best-selling technical books. I think that, beyond the comprehensive information the book provides, its informal manner and conversational tone are what keeps it in demand. Photographs and drawings illustrate concepts that are explained with copious real-world examples. I have spoken to numerous college professors, domestic and foreign, that use Understanding How Components Fail as an undergraduate course text. I think the practical, no-nonsense presentation of this book makes it a very good text for all materials and mechanical engineering students.

First, all thanks to Donald Wulpi for creating this book. It contains decades of practical failure analysis knowledge that has helped me throughout my career. In this third edition I believe we have remained faithful to his original intent for the book.

Many thanks to all of the chapter reviewers, who updated the material and tried to make the additions as seamless as possible. The reviewers consisted of engineering professors, industrial failure analysts, commercial failure analysts, and consultants. For many of us there is a compulsion to write in a more formal manner, so most were outside of their comfort zones. I think they were able to maintain the general tone of the book while making the necessary additions. It is a testament to the enduring legacy of this book that I was able to find so many willing and enthusiastic reviewers.

Thanks also to Karen Marken and the other professional staff at ASM International. Karen was able to keep everything moving forward and was a pleasure to work with.

Brett A. Miller, P.E.
Louisville, Kentucky

2013. "Preface to Third Edition", Understanding How Components Fail, Donald J. Wulpi, Brett Miller

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