Have you ever wondered why, considering the technological advancements of today, engineering failures are still a common occurrence? Each and every day, small and large failures occur across numerous facilities throughout the country and globe, and often for one of the following three causes. Read on to learn more about failures in engineering and how we can prevent them from becoming disasters.
Flaws in Design
The most common cause of engineering failures is often the presence of design flaws. If a machine or device malfunctions randomly, chances are there was a crucial shortcoming in the construction and programming of said machine or device. Design flaws aren’t always the sole cause of engineering failures, but they can also be what exacerbatesthe issue.
For instance, the catalyst for the sinking of the Titanic was human error (running into an iceberg), but the ship’s malfunctioning anti-sinking mechanisms made the disaster far deadlier. The specific design of these mechanisms was flawed to begin with and destined to fail upon impact.
Material failures are not the same as design flaws. A flawed design indicates a pre-existing issue that is always going to fail, whereas material failures are often caused by various outside influences (more on those later).
For example, factors such as intense pressure or chemical exposure can all cause material or machine failure. Metal that oxidizes and rusts is an example of a material failure, as is a machine that partially melts due to extreme heat exposure. Material failures are often more catastrophic as they are harder to predict.
The “Unavoidables”: Extreme Conditions and Environments
There are certain outside influences that cause engineering failures and are, unfortunately, often unavoidable. These include extreme conditional and/or environmental factors. For instance, an unavoidable severe storm can cause irreparable damage to materials and machines, leading to inevitable engineering failures. Luckily, these “unavoidables” are much easier to predict than material failures, especially weather-related factors.
Ultimately, the most common cause for engineering failures is often a combination of all three of these influences. Hiring a forensic engineering consultant following engineering failures is essential for determining the true catalyst. With that information, you can implement preventative measures going forward to better protect your machines and materials and other individuals.