Failure Mode and Mechanism - Industrial Metallurgists

Failure Mode and Mechanism

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In a previous article I discussed the degradation of materials due to exposure to stressors (use conditions) and how to identify stressors. When too much degradation occurs, components and joints fail, leading to product failure. This article explains about failure mode and mechanism. Being able to identify both when performing a failure analysis is critical for being able to determine the root cause of failure related to the degradation of materials during product testing and use.

Things to consider during design

If you’re someone who likes to design reliable products, you must think about the stressors and their effects. When designing a product, we must identify the following things

This information guides decisions about the mechanical form and materials to use components and joints, the control measures to put in place to ensure that components and joints are fabricated properly, and testing to evaluate product reliability.

I already discussed stressors in a previous article. The other two important terms in this list are failure mode and failure mechanism. Understanding their difference and keeping them straight is important.

Failure mechanism

Failure mechanism is the physical process of materials degradation that leads to failure. Here are some examples of failure mechanisms:

Circuit board wear
Intergranular corrosion

These are just a few of the many different degradation and failure mechanisms. Notice that for corrosion and wear there is more than one degradation mechanism. So, saying that a component will fail by corrosion or wear is not specific enough to understand the actual mechanism and make design decisions to prevent the degradation.

Failure mode

Failure mode is how a component or joint stops functioning. So, for the previous examples we have the following failure modes:

Identifying stressors, failure mode, and failure mechanism

A valuable engineering tool used to identify the information is Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). The tool helps focus engineering teams on the factors that influence their products’ reliability and how to address the factors through design decisions, specifications and other control measures, and testing to evaluate reliability.

Using FMEA requires discipline because the process can seem arduous, though it’s really just boring. However, the benefits are tremendous when the efforts result in products that pass reliability testing the first time and field failures don’t occur.

Interested in learning more?

Check out these resources to learn more about stressors, failure modes, and failure mechanisms:

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