Need help with a metal failure analysis?

We help clients with metallurgical failure analysis of metal components and joints to help determine the root cause of:

  • Component and product failures during testing or use
  • Supplier quality problems
  • Manufacturing quality problems

A robust, optimized process

With every product design and manufacturing effort, you need robust engineering systems and processes to assure maximum results. My failure analysis work follows a process I developed over many years of work as a metallurgist and metals engineer. This process allows me to complete a detailed analysis in less time, find root causes faster, and help my clients determine the proper solution.

This process can be used for analysis of products and metal components and joints that fail during testing, use, shipping, and storage. The process is also used for analysis of components and products that don’t meet quality requirements during manufacturing.

Failures during testing, use, shipping, and storage occur when exposure to the test, use, shipping, or storage conditions cause materials to degrade to the point of component or joint failure. Exposure conditions include mechanical stresses, corrosive environment, elevated temperatures, and others.

Failures and root cause analysis

When a failure occurs, a root cause analysis must be performed to identify the primary event or decision that enabled the failure to occur. For product design and manufacturing, the results of a root cause analysis are used to implement corrective actions to prevent the failure from reoccurring. For insurance and legal situations, the information is used to make a claim for compensation or defend against a claim.

Root cause analysis begins with failure analysis

Metallurgical failure analysis is the first step of the root cause analysis process. For failures during testing and use, a failure analysis is performed to determine the failure mode and failure mechanism of the failed item, whether any metallurgical characteristics of the failed item contributed to the failure, and the metallurgical reason for the failure. For quality problems, a failure analysis is performed to assess metallurgical characteristics of the problem item, whether they meet the item’s specifications, and the metallurgical reason for the problem.

The information obtained from a failure analysis is then used to identify the general root cause category. Common root causes categories include poor design, problems with product test methods, problems with manufacturing or assembly processes, poor supplier quality control, improper installation or repair, misuse/abuse, poor maintenance, and wear out (past expected life). Once the general area associated with the root cause is identified it’s possible to look deeper into that area to identify the specific root cause.

No failure analysis, no direction

It’s highly unlikely that a root cause will be accurately identified without the information from a failure analysis. Instead, expect to live with a lingering problem. Amazingly, this is exactly what happens in many organizations.

Our failure analysis process

Regardless of the type of failure or quality problem, our process is the same:

1.      Review the problem with you and collect background information about the failure. We do this during an initial meeting – usually 15–30 minutes. There’s no charge for this step.

2.      Determine the metallurgical analyses required.

3.      Provide a project quote.

4.      Perform the analyses.

5.      Review the findings with you and discuss possible root causes of the failure or problem. We’ll also help you identify corrective actions. This part is key – we won’t just give you a report and leave it to you to figure out how to use the information to fix your problem. We use the information obtained from the analysis to help clients understand how the failure or problem occurred, its root cause, and how to prevent it from reoccurring.

6.      Provide a written report.

The most important action to take for a failure or quality problem

The best step to take when a metal problem occurs is to call a metallurgist. In every case I have ever worked for a client, the benefits of involving a metallurgist quickly outweighed the cost, time, or effort used with any other approach. Just like any problem in life, when done properly, formal failure analysis saves money, effort, and time.

What distinguishes us from other metallurgical organizations is metals engineering expertise combined with lots of experience with every aspect of product design and manufacturing. With this broad experience, we bring multiple perspectives to help clients quickly get the information they need to solve problems and help them use the information to solve the problem.

Call to discuss your problem or project – 847.528.3467. Or send a message


    For over 25 years, we’ve been providing metals engineering expertise for failure analysis and forensic investigations of metal components and products. We’ve worked on hundreds of projects, and “tell it like it is”, so you can count on getting the support and advice needed to make well-informed decisions.

    Industry experience includes automotive, aerospace, hardware, tools, medical and dental devices, plumbing, industrial equipment, machinery, electronics, and many more.

    Alloy experience includes carbon steel, low-alloy steel, tool steel, stainless steel, aluminum alloys, copper alloys,  brass and bronze, and super alloys.

    Coating experience includes electroplated, PVD, galvanized, powder coated, and thermal sprayed.

    We also have experience with welded, soldered, and brazed joints

    Further down the page is a list of past projects.

    Be in the know when it comes to metal failure analysis and quality. Work with me and we will get you the information and answers you need to make well-informed decisions.

    Metal failure analysis is a science that enables you to identify the root cause of metal problems.

    Understanding what causes your metal failures is key to preventing them from happening again. We will get you the information you need to help you identify the root cause and the corrective action to prevent the problem from reoccurring.

    Hire us to find out what’s wrong with your product, equipment, or manufacturing process so that it doesn’t fail again! 

    Your on-call metallurgy and metals engineering experts

    Imagine having a team of professionals dedicated to providing solutions for metal failures, regardless of where or when they occur. They can help you pinpoint the root cause and provide you with recommendations on how best to prevent the failures from occurring again.

    For people involved with product design and manufacturing, learning more about failure analysis will help you productively deal with component failures and quality problems. Want to learn more? Take my failure analysis course or webinar.

    Industrial Metallurgists LLC is an expert consulting firm that specializes in metal failure analysis across all industries worldwide. Their services include technical assessments, design reviews, root cause analyses, product liability investigations and litigation support.

    Past projects

    • 304 stainless steel mixing blades – fatigue fracture
      Fractured forged 1045 steel
      Fractured forged 1045 steel
    • Nitronic stainless steel wire component – inconsistent springback during forming
    • Copper tube – identify surface residue and origin
    • Crimped high-power component – determine whether crack was in braze joint
    • Washing machine brass hose connector – Identify root cause of corrosion and fracture
    • Hastelloy C-22 equipment – cracking near weld joints
    • Grade 5 hex head steel screw – fracture
    • Welds between cast 1045 steel parts – weak weld joints
      Coated steel corrosion
      Coated steel corrosion
    • Coated steel container – corrosion during product testing
    • 430 stainless steel sheet metal cracking during component fabrication
    • Motor electrical steel too strong and hard
    • Battery connector – corrosion
    • Integrated circuit solder joint – fractured
    • 440C stainless steel heat treatment – component too soft
    • PH stainless steel component – cracking during manufacturing
    • A2 tool steel fixturing component – wear during use
    • 6061 aluminum shaft – fractured
    • Steel shaft – fractured
      Sensitized 316 stainless steel
      Sensitized 316 stainless steel
    • 4140 steel swedge – fractured
    • Brass plumbing component – fractured
    • 3003 aluminum power supply housing – electrical damage
    • Stainless steel sheet – corrosion from muriatic acid fumes
    • Brass faucet – leak
    • Clogged pumps – Identify origin of particles causing clogs
    • Flexible printed circuit board (PCB) interconnection – cracked metal
    • 3003 aluminum sheet – Identify source of surface contamination
    • 316 stainless steel gas hose – identify cause of sensitization
    • Forged 1045 steel component – fractured

    Michael Pfeifer, Ph.D., P.E.
    Principal Engineer and Trainer or 847.528.3467