Whether it's the Aerospace Industry or Pulp & Paper and Power Generation or the Nuclear and the Automotive or the Pharmaceutical Industry each industry has been highly automated with the implementation of state of the art in transducers, instrumentation and controls so as to ensure that the industry hums along efficiently with the least possible human intervention. However, failures will take place and failure analysis has to be carried out immediately. Only a thorough analysis of the cause of failure will determine the reason why the failure was not anticipated and how a repetition could be avoided. Failures are caused due to either the faulty material, a faulty design, bad workmanship or production standards, lack of adequate inspection and maintenance, shoddy maintenance work, poor handling and other causes due to human error.
Advanced techniques of failure analysis involve the use of computer modeling and simulation more like in forensic science. However, in the majority of cases it maybe adequate to rely on results from a good materials laboratory to tell you as to what could have caused the failure. A fractured turbine blade could be tested to confirm whether the failure has been due to creep. At this stage materials analysis would tell you whether the material used meets the standards defined or not. Further analysis may actually lead to faulty design of the turbine blade being responsible for the failure of the blade due to creep.
As is evident an industrial failure will need to be investigated. A detailed failure analysis may need corroboration by a good laboratory capable of carrying out materials analysis. Such analysis could be analytical in order to define the constituents of the failed material. This may be carried out in an analytical laboratory or by using sophisticated equipment such as the electron microscope or spectroscopy. Simple destructive tests may suffice such as those for hardness, impact strength or UTS. Non-destructive tests may also be adequate such as radiography or ultrasonic testing methods. Complex cases such as intercrystalline corrosion or the resistance to hydrogen embrittlement may need a higher degree of sophistication in the tool for materials analysis.