SOUTHWEST RESEARCH INSTITUTE

 

Failure Analysis Services

searchbar
 

Search SwRI

   

               SwRI Home | Print Version







  Image: For life assessment studies, staff members perform fractography on critical aircraft structures, such as this wing spar, to identify crack initiation sites and growth rates.
 

For life assessment studies, staff members perform fractography on critical aircraft structures, such as this wing spar, to identify crack initiation sites and growth rates.

Failure analysis involving the investigation of mechanical, structural, electrical, and electronic component failures has been an area of research at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) for more than 50 years. Because SwRI is an independent, nonprofit research and development organization that neither manufactures nor endorses industrial products, its investigations are impartial and unbiased, and client confidentiality is maintained.

 

Purpose of Failure Analysis

A multidisciplinary approach to failure analysis helps isolate the causes of catastrophic failures and identify a root to cause or causes; as a result, recommendations to prevent future problems can be made. This multidisciplinary approach can include:

  Image: Drawing on experience from past projects, multidisciplinary resources, and client input, SwRI staff members collaborate to determine failure mechanisms and root causes, such as on the fracture surface of this failed drive shaft.  Image: Using a scanning electron microscope equipped with a servo-hydraulic loading stage, SwRI can perform controlled crack growth studies at high magnifications, as well as determine fracture morphologies and microstructural anomalies of failed components.
 

Drawing on experience from past projects, multidisciplinary resources, and client input, SwRI staff members collaborate to determine failure mechanisms and root causes, such as on the fracture surface of this failed drive shaft.

 

Using a scanning electron microscope equipped with a servo-hydraulic loading stage, SwRI can perform controlled crack growth studies at high magnifications, as well as determine fracture morphologies and microstructural anomalies of failed components.

  • Traditional forensic methods

  • Vibrational analysis

  • Dynamic analysis

  • Finite element modeling

  • Corrosion testing

  • Other techniques as required

The SwRI Materials Engineering Department specializes in failure analysis for several industries, including:

  • Power generation

  • Aerospace

  • Oil, gas, and petrochemical

  • Manufacturing and transportation

  • Medical devices

Power Generation Failure Analysis

Fossil fuel, nuclear, and combined-cycle power companies use materials and structures under demanding environmental conditions for long periods of time. As the years of service increase, the possibility of failure grows.

 

SwRI has extensive experience conducting power plant investigations. Programs range from identifying the cause of boiler tube, complex compressor, and turbine component failures, to investigating radioactive components such as vent lines, pipes, and valves. This experience and an in-house radioactive materials laboratory make SwRI a leader in power industry failure analysis.

image of branched intergranular cracking and selective phase attack in a nickel-aluminum-bronze flange fitting from an offshore platform firewater system

 

image of fatigue striations observed on a 7075 aluminum airframe component

SwRI engineers often identify corrosion mechanisms and fatigue when conducting metallurgical failure analysis. The photomicrograph above left shows branched intergranular cracking and selective phase attack in a nickel-aluminum-bronze flange fitting from an offshore platform firewater system. The SEM fractograph on the right shows fatigue striations observed on a 7075 aluminum airframe component.

 

Failure Analysis for the Oil, Gas, Chemical, and Nuclear Industries

Producing, refining, and processing oil, gas, and chemical products degrade equipment that must operate in highly corrosive environments. Failure mechanisms include:

  • Stress corrosion cracking

  • Hydrogen sulfide attack

  • Erosion-corrosion

  • Fatigue

  • Caustic attack

  • Acid pitting

  • Hydrogen embrittlement

  Image: SwRI characterized cracks in the storage tanks of this liquid natural gas tanker. After performing analyses, the Institute recommended repairs to extend the service life of the tanker.
 

SwRI characterized cracks in the storage tanks of this liquid natural gas tanker. After performing analyses, SwRI recommended repairs to extend the service life of the tanker.

In addition to a laboratory dedicated to corrosion tests, SwRI has proven expertise in identifying and solving problems in the field. Past investigations have identified failures in:

  • Rupture disks

  • Heat exchangers

  • Boiler tubes

  • Drill collars

  • Oil well tubing

  • Pressure vessels

  • Steel and polymer pipelines for gas and liquids

Manufacturing and Transportation Failure Analysis

The automobile, textile, and shipping industries fabricate products using both conventional and advanced manufacturing technologies. Failures can occur during manufacturing or while the product is in service. SwRI has conducted failure investigations for numerous product support and manufacturing operations, studying a wide variety of components and equipment, such as:

  • Springs

  • Pistons

  • Forged parts

  • Conveyor systems

  Image: SwRI conducts failure analyses of medical equipment, such as this catheter wire and needle used in a radiation therapy device.
 

SwRI conducts failure analyses of medical equipment, such as this catheter wire and needle used in a radiation therapy device.

SwRI failure analysts investigate ways to improve product life with the latest technological developments. Examples include fuels and lubricants research and new coatings for improved lubrication and reduced wear. SwRI experts also refine fabrication practices, ranging from welding techniques for submersible pressure vessels to the superplastic forming of parts.

 

Failure Analysis for Medical Applications

Advances in medical equipment and biomedical technology have generated a variety of uses for common materials and new, biocompatible materials for equipment and implanted devices. The complex interactions of stress, friction, wear, and chemical attack that occur in the human body can cause material-related failure. SwRI researchers investigate failure mechanisms in biomedical implants and medical equipment, such as wear and delamination in orthopedic service. In addition, the material, mechanical, and chemical properties of devices are characterized following long-term service.

 

 

Multidisciplinary Centers

image of failure
  • Steam Turbine Technology

image of technician troubleshooting operating and installation issue
  • Nuclear Power Industry

image of turbomachinery performance diagnostic
image of turbine development prototype
image representing rotordynamic and mechanical design audit
image of turbine
image of deteriorated turbine blades
  • Piping

image of aerothermal flow analysis data
image of turbine coating materials
image of turbine equipment
image of technician using blade vibration audit technology
image of turbine testing
image representing fuels, lubricants and combustion technology

 

Failure Analysis Contact Information

For more information about our root cause failure diagnosis capabilities, or how you can contract with SwRI, please visit the Root Cause Failure Diagnosis web page of the Gas Turbine Technology Center web site or contact Klaus Brun, Ph.D. at kbrun@swri.org or (210) 522-5449.

 

Contact Information

Dan Hopkins, Ph.D., P.E.

Materials Science and Failure Analysis

(210) 522-2934

dhopkins@swri.org


Richard A. Page

Structural System and Component Failure Analysis

(210) 522-3252

rpage@swri.org


Sastry Cheruvu

Materials Science and Failure Analysis

(210) 522-2492

scheruvu@swri.org


Stan Silvus

Electronic and Electrical Component Analysis

(210) 522-2742

ssilvus@swri.org


David Ransom

Gas Turbine Root Cause Diagnosis

(210) 522-5281

dransom@swri.org


Keith Bartels, Ph.D.

Medical Manufacturing Assistance

(210) 522-6062

kbartels@swri.org

Related Terminology

electronic failure analysis

root cause analysis

component analysis

electrical destructive analysis

construction analysis

design review

destructive physical analysis

DPA

plasma etching

vendor audit

mean-time-between-failure computations

MTBF computations

pre-cap visual inspection

qualification testing

systematic failure analysis

power generation

aerospace

medical device failure analysis

oil and gas industries

chemical industries

manufacturing and transportation

finite element analysis

experimental stress analysis

damage tolerance analysis

life extension predictions

mechanical testing

in-service condition assessment

hazard and risk assessment

failure modes and effects analysis

nondestructive evaluation

| SwRI Technical Divisions | SwRI Home |

Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 10 technical divisions.

05/09/16