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This article introduces procedures an engineer or materials scientist can use to investigate failures. It provides a brief survey of polymer systems and key properties that need to be measured during failure analysis. The article begins with an overview of the problem-solving approach pertinent to structure analysis. This is followed by a review of the characterization of plastics by infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The article then provides information on the distribution of molecular weight of an engineering plastic. It further discusses the methods used in thermal analysis, namely differential thermal analysis, thermogravimetric analysis, thermal-mechanical analysis, and dynamic mechanical analysis. The following sections provide details on X-ray diffraction for analyzing crystalline phases and on a minimal scheme for polymer analysis and characterization to assist the design engineer. The article ends with a discussion on the thermal-analytical scheme for analyzing the milligram quantities of polymer samples.

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