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Failure Investigation

It's an unfortunate fact that structures and materials in the workplace can fail.

On these hopefully rare occasions, the most pressing and crucial issue after making the site safe, is to establish how and why the fault occurred.

We undertake failure investigations across the rail industry and many other industrial sectors, and we fully appreciate the seriousness - and often urgency - of these situations.

Key information on the specifications, operating conditions and history of a failed component is collected. Our experienced and technically qualified metallurgists, material scientists and chemists then employ a variety of methods to diagnose the cause of that failure.

Using a full range of metallographic, mechanical and analytical techniques, we can identify underlying issues which may be invisible to the naked eye, and difficult or impossible to diagnose without specialist knowledge and equipment. 

And once we’ve established the circumstances and causal factors involved, we’ll recommend actions and measures to reduce the likelihood of recurrences.


  • Visual Inspection & Measurement

Full evaluation of fractured components for signs of deformation, cracking, elongation, corrosion, attrition, wear or impact. We can also identify indicative signs of any operating conditions that may contribute to failure.

  • Component Surface Analysis

​​​​​​​Evaluation of component fracture surfaces to identify the failure mechanism. In most cases this can be achieved via a combination of visual examination, optical microscopy and technical experience.

  • Mechanical Properties Analysis

​​​​​​​Measurement of the mechanical properties of samples, which may include hardness, tensile, compressive and impact testing.

  • Microstructural Analysis

​​​​​​​Material microstructures can reveal features which identify the method of manufacture of components, in particular the forming method used and any subsequent heat treatment and/or damage.

  • Scanning Electron Microscopy

​​​​​​​Examination by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), coupled with elemental analysis, can reveal features and faults normally too small to be seen. These are often important in order to fully understand the events leading to failure.

  • Comparative Evaluation

​​​​​​​Component comparison testing against industry and legislative standards, and/or 'new' versus 'old'.

  • Chemical & Compositional Analysis

​​​​​​​A range of techniques are used to characterise the material and determine whether it meets the original specification set out in engineering drawings. These may include Dispersive X-Ray Analysis, Optical Emissions Spectroscopy and Fourier Transform Infra-Red Spectroscopy.

  • Assessments of Fitness for Purpose

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Evaluation of measures such as tolerances, compatibility, resistance to chemical attack, etc. Plus condition assessments of used mechanical components to estimate remaining useful life and determine fitness for continued safe operation.