Failure Analysis: Some Introductory Articles and Textbooks

A recent post to sci.materials asked for recommendations of introductory texts on failure analysis. Here's my two cents.

If you have time but no money you should download some articles.

A nice short one by Neville Sachs is "Root Cause Failure Analysis - Understanding Mechanical Failures" and can be found at:

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A longer (49 page) report by R. A. Page is "Guidelines for Forensic Analysis of Failed Parts" It can be found at:
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If you have more time than money, you should visit your friendly neighborhood engineering library and browse a textbook or two. Then you can buy a textbook.

Probably the best introductory textbook on failure analysis is Understanding How Components Fail, by Donald J. Wulpi and published by ASM International (2nd edition, 1999). Wulpi used to run the lab at International Harvester's truck division. He writes from the perspective of a practicing engineer rather than a materials scientist (college professor) like many of the other texts.

There are several other good textbooks. The most recent is Arthur J. McEvily's Metal Failures: Mechanisms, Analysis, Prevention (John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2002). One caution with this book - on page 223 you will find the term "laminar tearing", which should be lamellar tearing. (I suspect the spell checker demons were at work here!)

Two other good books are D. R. H. Jone's Engineering Materials 3 (Materials Failure Analysis: Case Studies and Design Implications), and C.R. Brooks and A. Choudhury's Metallurgical Failure Analysis (McGraw Hill, Inc., 1993).

If you have more money than time, then you might instead consider taking the ASM online course on Principles of Failure Analysis for $395. If you have both lots of money and time, then you can take a whole week to do the ASM course at Materials Park in suburban Cleveland.

Failures often are caused by factors than what you might expect. For a taste of what can go wrong in the real world, see Trevor A. Kletz's book, What Went Wrong? Case Histories of Process Plant Disasters, Gulf Publishing Co., Houston, 2nd edition 1988. Students who think they wouldn't do dumb things should read Henry Petroski's article on the Texas A&M Bonfire collapse at:

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Pittsburgh Pete


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