As the famous detective Sherlock Holmes said: “The more outre and grotesque an incident is, the more carefully it deserves to be examined.” This thought is the basis of any analysis. In today’s post, we explain what the failure analysis of products and processes consist of, in which situations can they be applied and what its main benefits are.

What is Failure Analysis?

Every failure has an origin and knowing it is the first step to solve the problem. At ATRIA, failure analysis focuses on the detailed study of any failure that has occurred in a material, product, or industrial process. The objective of this analysis is to determine the origin of this failure, so the appropriate solution to the problem can be proposed.

Steps to do a Failure Analysis

As a general rule, each failure is different and, therefore, must be studied or analyzed in a particular way. However, to facilitate the work, at ATRIA we use the following work methodology, which is adapted to each of the cases we study:

First of all, all available information about the failure is studied: failure history, when it occurs, how it occurs, characterizations carried out, etc. This stage is essential, since it allows to correctly define the next steps of the project, not to repeat tests or even to propose a solution based on all the available information. Furthermore, whenever possible, we explore the on-site process to better analyze the situation.

In many occasions, thanks to our previous experience, during the first stage of the project it is possible to determine the causes that are giving rise to a failure. In this case, an early solution can be proposed, without the need for laboratory tests. In this case that all the necessary information isn’t available, during the first stage of the project the tests necessary to characterize the failure or simulate it in the laboratory are defined.

During the laboratory stage, the tests necessary to characterize chemically and physically the failure. In the next section of the post we show you some of the characterization techniques that most help us in the failure analysis process.

If necessary, laboratory tests are also carried out to reproduce the failure and determine the specific phenomenon that produces it: heat, humidity, ultraviolet light, etc. For this, accelerated aging equipment is used and custom tests are developed to simulate each type of failure.

After the laboratory stage, the results obtained are studied to determine the causes of the failure and, therefore, its origin. Thanks to this characterization, it will be possible to propose a solution adapted to each failure. Depending on whether the failure occurs in the production process or in the product, different solutions will be proposed: redesign, change of raw material or modification of the production process, among other options.

Types of failures

Failures can come in many different forms. We have classified them as product failures and process failures. Depending on where, how and when they occur, we can differentiate the following types:

Product failures

  • Premature aging. On many occasions, products wear out earlier than expected. This problem may be related to the low quality of some of the raw materials. In this case, it is crucial to detect where the problem is and replace or improve such material. An example is use of polymer cheaters or the reduction of additives.
  • Mechanical wear, loss of performance. In structural elements it is essential to make a correct selection of materials. The loss of mechanical properties or premature wear can affect the final quality of the product, so identifying the reason for the failure is very important in order to solve it. An example is the wear of materials that are subject to abrasion.
  • Appearance of aesthetic defects and loss of quality. In many products the aesthetic appearance is the most important, therefore, the appearance of any defect greatly reduces its value. In this case, determining the cause of the defects is the key to solving the failure. A clear example is the premature wear of a painting.

Failures in process

  • Cross contamination. In many production processes there is the possibility of contamination from one stage to another. This contamination can generate quality problems in the manufactured pieces. To identify the source of the contamination, it is usually necessary to characterize the pieces that have caused problems. This problem is very typical in painting or coating stages.
  • Adhesion and surface painting problems. One of the most typical problems in poor adhesion of paints and coatings during a production process. Detecting the origin of the failure is essential to find the correct solution.
  • Bad selection of production parameters. Many times the failure isn’t due to the materials used or cross contamination. The failure may be caused by a bad selection of production parameters. This failure is very typical of injection processes, where it is necessary that certain working temperatures are reached in all areas of the piece.

Of course, there are many different types of failures. Therefore, at ATRIA we treat each case individually to find the best possible solution.

Characterization tests

Chemical and physical characterization is one of the most important stages when conducting a failure analysis. At ATRIA we select the most suitable characterization teams for each case. Here are some of them:

FE-SEM

XRF

FTIR

TGA + DSC

CONTACT ANGLE

PROFILOMETER

Simulation tests

Sometimes simulation or accelerated aging tests are necessary to determine the source of a specific failure. For this, we have various laboratory equipment that allows us to simulate living conditions to result in failure.

Climatic chamber

Abrasimeter

Robot test development

Benefits of Failure Analysis

The main benefits of failure analysis are:

  • Solve a real problem quickly and effectively, basing the solution on a technical study with expert staff.
  • Quality ensure of a product or process and avoid future similar problems.
  • Improve quality final and performance of a product.
  • Cost reduction associated with the lack of product quality: returns, spare pieces, repairs, claims etc.
  • Acquiere knowledge about critical pieces of the process. To be able to make better adjustments and redesigns of the process.

Do you want to apply failure analysis to any of your Projects? Contact us!

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