Failure Analysis Engineering Services – Buying Guide
When accidents happen or other things go wrong, it is often appropriate to conduct a failure analysis. Failure analysis is the process of studying an accident to determine its causes and develop preventative procedures for future accidents. There are a number of reasons to conduct a failure analysis, such as collecting evidence for litigation, insurance claims, company restructuring, and financial needs. Basically, any company that could be liable for failure of a product, structure or vehicle should conduct failure analysis both before releasing a product to the public and after the product has been involved in an accident or failure. Because the cause of an accident can be related to different factors, such as materials, cause, location, source, and manifestation, there are different methods to approach the problem, from theoretical computer number crunching to forensic laboratory experiments. Failure engineers are qualified experts who can perform a number of tests to analyze a given problem or accident.
Failure Analysis Basics
Typically, when an accident occurs, failure engineers are on the scene as soon as possible. If there are dangers at the accident site, such as open flames or structural damage, failure engineers will wait until first responders have cleared the area and approved analysis. The failure engineers take pictures of the site and collect chemical and other material samples. Sometimes, the engineers must rely on accident results alone to approach the problem.
Failure engineers interview as many witnesses and survivors as possible in order to compose a consistent narrative of the event. If witnesses heard noises or noticed cracks, failure engineers can often pinpoint, or at least narrow down, the areas they should investigate, so as not to waste time.
Once initial observations and data collection are performed, failure engineers begin forensic analysis and experiments. Because of the wealth of information available to failure engineers, they can analyze the accident evidence through use of previous examples. For instance, in the case of building or structure failure, evidence of certain types of fatigue cracks can direct the failure engineers to investigate if proper corrosion and environmental precautionary methods were in place.
Tools Used in Failure Analysis Engineering
Failure analysts look at various pieces of evidence from the scene of an accident, or, in the case of product failure, they look at the failed product and other examples of that product. A variety of scientific tools and instruments are used to examine this evidence, including many kinds of microscopes, chemicals and spectrometers. Of course, the nature of the failure determines the nature of the investigation and tools used.
Failure analysis can require computer simulation. Often in the case of collapsed structures of vehicle failure, such as aircraft crashes. Analysts attempt to recreate all the conditions affecting the product, structure or vehicle and all of the environmental conditions involved. This process requires failure analysts to work with computer engineer simulators in order to produce the best possible reconstruction of events.
Kinds of Failure Analysis
The different kinds of products, structures and vehicles released to the public that can fail or be involved with accidents are numerous, and are matched by different kinds of failure analysis. Some companies provide a panoply of failure analysis services and engineers for contract testing services, while others specialize in a narrower range of analysis. These types of services can include:
Contamination Anaylsis Chemical Analysis Metallurgical Analysis Polymer Analysis Fuel Analysis
Additionally, some failure analysis contractors provide materials testing and nondestructive testing (NDT). These types of testing are usually performed before product release, in order to anticipate possible failures before liabilities are at stake. Nondestructive testing is a type of failure analysis that doesn’t push materials to failure, (ie, products are left in working condition and tests cause no permanent damage).
No Fault Found
In instances where tests are performed and the result is called No Fault Found (NFF). In these cases, the conditions of a failure cannot be duplicated in a lab, and thus the cause of the fault is undetermined. In these cases, there is a problem of environmental uncertainty or human error that can’t be detected in the original failure scenario. Suggestions for analyzing these types of failures involve applying more tests, contracting additional and different failure analysis contracting services or increasing the available data set for analysis.