Component Failure Analysis in Engineering and Manufacturing

Article by: Cameron Gallacher

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Component failure in engineering or manufacturing equipment not only hampers the speed and efficiency of large-scale operations. If left unaddressed promptly, it may have long-term consequences on your brand’s production capacity.

Necessary steps to remediate and prevent such instances from occurring in the future must be taken. And just as important as detecting these component failures in investigating how they happen in the first place.

Component failure analysis is an essential part of engineering and manufacturing. It is the process of determining what caused a component to fail or why it was unable to perform as designed.

Understanding how components interact with other parts in the system can help you make better decisions about design and changes that need to be made before production starts. This blog post will discuss common causes for component failures and steps that designers should take when they occur.

What causes component failures?

Determining the root cause of a component failure is a tedious process. In many cases, multiple factors can cause a sudden collapse. Undoing them requires a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach that targets each factor involved.

Environmental factors

When analyzing a failed component, engineers will first examine the environment exposed to it during use to see if any environmental factors might have contributed to its demise.

Thermal stress

This is the amount of heat subjected to the component and how well it dissipated that heat. Thermal stress can cause materials to fail, overheating electrical components, and seals to leak.

Improper assembly or design

This includes problems with how a component was manufactured or how it was designed. This can consist of incorrect tolerances, lack of quality control during the manufacturing, and design flaws that do not consider the environment in which a product will be used.

Other possible causes

In general, component failures can also be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Design flaws. A component may not be designed to meet its requirements for size, strength, compatibility, durability, serviceability, and other operational characteristics;
  • Manufacturing defects. There is something wrong with the component during the fabrication process;
  • Service difficulties. A component has performed well in the past but is now experiencing difficulty due to wear and tear from repetitive use or abuse from a user;
  • Poor workmanship. Component installation was not done according to design specifications or not completed at all;

What is component failure analysis?

Component failure analysis is the process of determining what caused a component to fail or why it was unable to perform as designed. Sometimes this can lead you to design changes before production has even started.

The goal of every failure analysis is to:

  1. identify the cause of failure and then correct it
  2. Find ways to prevent future failures.

Some manufacturers also request a failure analysis service in the middle of product development to troubleshoot any potential issues. This can help avoid costly recalls and redesigns after a product has already hit the market.

What are the benefits of component failure analysis?

Performing a failure mode analysis will significantly impact your engineering and manufacturing operations. Effective and corrective action will yield positive outcomes for your brand by addressing safety concerns to legal issues.

Find ways to prevent future failures.

When you understand the root causes of component failures, you can take steps to prevent them from happening in the future. This may include redesigning electronic components, improving the manufacturing process, or instituting better quality control measures. These proactive steps can help ensure that your products meet the required standards and perform as expected when they reach the end-user.

Avoid costly recalls and redesigns.

Manufacturers can also avoid costly recalls and redesigns by instituting a failure analysis service during product development. This can help identify any potential issues before they become a more significant liability and financial burden later on.

Assess current standards and protocols

Performing failure analysis also helps you assess the current standards and protocols that are in place within the system. An analytical review will help you identify any areas that may need improvement to boost the efficiency of operations.

Design more fool-proof products

When designing new products, engineers should always build fool-proof features that prevent them from falling. This may include adding more redundancy, instituting better quality control measures, or using more durable materials. Failure mode analysis can help catalyze better product production in the future.

Determine liability for legal purposes

When a component failure occurs, it is essential to determine who is liable for the damages. This can be a complex process, and it is often necessary to enlist the help of a legal professional. Determining liability can help you recover the costs associated with the failed component, as well as any other damages that may have been caused.

How is failure analysis performed?

The failure analysis process determines the cause of the failure through data collection, looking at previous failures for similar problems, and testing to rule out other possibilities that may have caused the equipment malfunction. After a component failure is determined to be a manufacturing defect or a design flaw, a team will meet to determine how best to prevent it from recurring in future production runs.

A comprehensive component failure analysis will include:

  • The failed component or system;
  • All related components that were in use at the time of failure (sub-assemblies, parts, etc.);
  • Operation history of the failed component;
  • Any relevant documentation (design specifications, drawings, manuals, and blueprints);
  • All materials used in the failed component;
  • Environmental conditions during failure analysis.

A comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach is employed to establish the cause of more complex failure. This usually involves a team of experts across various disciplines, ranging from metallurgical to electrical.

What strategies are used in component failure analysis?

Quality engineers use a variety of techniques to determine the cause of failure. Some of these techniques involve destructive testing, meaning that the component is broken down to find its faults. Others are nondestructive and allow for a more detailed analysis.

Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA)

One technique is FMEA, an acronym for Failure Mode Effects Analysis. This helps the project team identify potential failures or design problems before they happen. The team identifies issues that may occur to the component and estimates the probability of them happening again.

Failure Mode, Effects, and Criticality Analysis (FMECA)

Another technique is FMECA, which stands for Failure Mode, Effects, and Criticality Analysis. This is a more detailed model that can estimate the consequences of a failure on an operation or a business as a whole. It also calculates the severity of those consequences concerning time, cost, and other factors.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Another common technique used in failure analysis is root cause analysis or RCA. This helps you find and correct the underlying problem that caused the component or system. It can be used to determine how best to prevent future failures.

What techniques are commonly employed in the analysis?

Quality engineers employ a wide range of investigative techniques for engineering and manufacturing systems that evaluate the materials involved. Components such as piping, metalwork, consumer products, and more go through rigorous examination.

Some of the more common techniques in failure analysis methods for engineering and manufacturing include:

  • Visual examination – looking at the physical characteristics of the failed components;
  • Metallurgical examination – examining the microstructure of the metal to look for clues about the cause of product failure;
  • Optical microscopy – using a microscope to look at the surface of materials to see if there are any defects;
  • Electron microscopy – a more detailed form of optical microscopy that uses an electron beam to image the surface of materials;
  • X-ray analysis – used to identify failure modes in a component that may not be visible to the naked eye;
  • Chemical analysis – used to determine the elemental composition and how it has changed over time.

When should you perform component failure analysis?

Ideally, you would want to perform a manufacturing or engineering failure analysis as soon as possible after an incident occurs. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to reconstruct what happened. In some cases, the root cause is not found.

With that being said, it should be noted that component failure analysis may also uncover other problems which need to be addressed before production can resume at total capacity. For example, you might find the damage sustained by the product due to a defect makes further use impossible; or there are issues with other components in your system due to the failure of one part.

What happens after a failure analysis?

After performing engineering and manufacturing failure analysis on your failed component or system, you should:

  1. Determine if there is an underlying problem with the design or the manufacturing process.
  2. Find out if substandard materials are used in your product(s).
  3. Determine which factors have led to such failure mechanisms. This will help you prioritize corrective actions and identify replacement parts that can be put into production as soon as possible.
  4. Know what went wrong, how to fix it, and prevent it from happening again.

What is the difference between a failure analysis and an investigation?

A component investigation is focused on determining whether or not there was any negligence, defective materials, lack of maintenance, etc., which caused an incident with your product. The goal here would be to identify who may have been at fault and determine how to fix the problem.

Failure analysis is more technical in scope. It involves studying all of your product’s systems to identify what caused a component failure and then make recommendations on how to proceed with production or design changes. This requires an experienced team that knows where to look for problems, which tools are needed, and effectively use them.

How much do failure analysis services cost?

The short answer is that the price will vary depending on what you need, but it can be anywhere from $20,000 and up for an in-depth analysis of complex component failures. More basic incidents could start at just over $1000 per day plus expenses.

One of the most important things to keep in mind for component failure analysis is that you need an experienced and qualified team who can accurately determine what went wrong. If you’re not sure where to start, contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll help you get back on track quickly and efficiently.

How to prevent product failures in the future?

The harsh truth is that every component can fail. However, there are several steps that you can take to minimize the chances that it does effectively:

  1. Perform a design review. Please review the requirements for each component and make sure they are listed in the design documents.
  2. Ensure all components come from a trusted supply chain. When it comes to designing, choosing an experienced supplier is key for success;
  3. Make sure there is redundancy built into your system so that if one component fails, another takes over its functions;
  4. Design with user safety and efficiency issues in mind.
  5. Enforce good manufacturing practices so that each part meets specifications, durability requirements, and other guidelines set out in the design documents. This will help catch any flaws before they become problems down the line.
  6. Use appropriate failure analysis testing methods to ensure the component functions as intended in various conditions.

How to choose a component failure analysis service?

Many people are unsure about what to look for when it comes to hiring a failure analysis service. Here are some things you should keep in mind before signing a deal with your partner:

  • Accreditation: Accredited organizations carry more weight when building trust with customers and stakeholders, which can translate into faster turn-around times and an easier time recovering from an incident.
  • Experience: You want someone who knows what they’re doing, not someone new to the industry or working on an unpaid volunteer basis. Experience ensures that your component failure analysis will be done right the first time. It also means that your turn-around time will be shorter, thereby minimizing the adverse effects of the failure on your business.
  • Technology: Some companies are stuck in the past with older tools. Make sure your provider uses the latest technology to make their jobs easier and increase productivity.
  • Pricing: Beware of scammers who charge too little for services that should be far more expensive. If it sounds too good to be true, then you need someone else!

As long as you keep these things in mind, you’re on your way to finding the best component failure analysis service for your needs.

Roar Engineering: Serious analysis for severe legal challenges

If you’re looking for a forensic engineering firm that will stand up to the scrutiny of a serious legal challenge, then Roar Engineering is the right choice.

We have a solid reputation for delivering thorough and impartial forensic engineering evaluations that endure the test of time. Our team is composed of seasoned industry experts who employ current scientific theories and technology to guide each step taken.

You can rest easy knowing our opinions are based on science and factual evidence rather than personal bias or conjecture. We have proven court experience and can confidently litigate, knowing our views are based on science and factual evidence.

Failure analysis by Canada’s leading quality experts

Armed with expert knowledge, we specialize in providing our clients with component failure analysis in the following areas: Metallurgical Engineering, Electrical, Mechanical & Biomechanical, and more.

We have extensive knowledge of material properties and behaviour, which allows us to determine the root cause of any issue accurately. Our lab uses advanced equipment and software to test samples from your product to provide accurate results with minimal guesswork involved.

Final Word

The most important thing to remember when performing component failure analysis is no one-size-fits-all answer. Every failure is unique, and the cause of a component’s failure must be determined on a case-by-case basis. However, by using the proper techniques and employing a multidisciplinary team approach, you can develop an effective solution.

If you need help with Metallurgical Engineering failure analysis, our seasoned quality engineers are ready to assist you every step of the way. We provide expert testimony to help our clients identify root causes and win their cases. Contact us today to learn more about who we are and how we can help your case!