Asee peer logo

Failure Analysis: A Performance Theme For Engineering Design

Download Paper |


2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.496.1 - 6.496.6

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Juan Herrera

author page

Stephen Stafford

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1464

FAILURE ANALYSIS: A PERFORMANCE THEME FOR ENGINEERING DESIGN J. M. Herrera and S. W. Stafford University of Texas at El Paso


Failure Analysis is a course in the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering curriculum that deals with the practical and theoretical aspects of material failure and performance analysis. Fractures and failed components, when constructively exploited can be uniquely revealing in the engineering design sense. The fracture face of a broken part, for example, often contains a remarkably detailed record of the conditions and events leading to the failure. In the case of fatigue failures, the service history of the component can sometimes be read from the fracture face in a manner similar to the way that a forester interprets the growth rings of trees. Fracture patterns in glass and in various brittle materials, can also be very revealing as to the origin and progression of the fracture, and thus the likely cause.

Fundamental to an understanding of design for failure avoidance is an equally thorough understanding of how and why materials, in their fabricated forms, fail. The latter understanding is not generally obtainable from studying laboratory fractures of standard test specimens. These fractures are usually quite different in appearance from the fractures typically found in manufactured components subject to real service environments and to real load spectra.

The instructional opportunities in failed parts are manifold – stress concentration, welds, heat treatment, fatigue, wear phenomena, corrosion, etc. Handling, studying, and analyzing a service failure can give the student a learning experience not readily equaled by any textbook or laboratory exercise. Since failure normally represents a severe deviation from the expected performance of the component, the lesson may have profound and long-lasting implications that transcend its purely technical content.

While engineering failures can result in positive outcomes, such as improved designs and new innovations, many people may only think of engineering failures in negative terms.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Herrera, J., & Stafford, S. (2001, June), Failure Analysis: A Performance Theme For Engineering Design Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2001 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015