Failure Analysis Essay

ABET Competency Objectives (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

(e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

(g) an ability to communicate effectively

(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context

Writing and Submission Requirements

Length:     700 words, minimum

Format:     IEEE manuscript form (columns not necessary); double spaced, pg #s in upper left, title, headings should be both labeled and numbered

Submission:        Turn text in to E-Learning as an attached document in Word format (.docx). Name the file using your full name and the name of the assignment (e.g.: Emory Smith FA Case Analysis.docx).

Assignment Prompt and Context

Failure Analysis (FA) is both a preventative process and forensic tool in engineering. FA is used during the design and development phase of a product, process, or service to systematically anticipate potential points of failure and correct them before the product is released to the consumer. As a forensic process, FA is used to diagnose actual failures and recommend solutions. For both kinds of FA, “standards” may be employed to guide decisions.

Famous cases of engineering failure include the Challenger Shuttle Disaster, the I-35W Mississippi Bridge collapse in Minneapolis, MN, and more recently, the I-85 bridge collapse and fire in Atlanta, GA. Every day, though, engineering failures happen all over the world, both big and small, with damage ranging from minimal to catastrophic. Failures may be due to manufacturing decisions (e.g., using a lower quality material to cut costs), use violations (the consumer uses the item in an incorrect manner, e.g., pushing a machine past capacity), or unexpected environmental conditions (e.g., extreme weather events or unanticipated air flow through a building). FA as a process is at the heart of balancing production and performance in engineering.

In this paper, you will report on an engineering failure in your field and make recommendations for how this failure can be prevented in the future. This failure could be a famous or published case of failure (such as named above) or it can be a common type of failure, such as turbine failure, which you examine using published case studies. The emphasis in this paper is on the Recommendations section – this is your opportunity to use your engineering knowledge to recommend a solution to a problem.


You will research and document an engineering failure in your area of engineering. Your paper will include the following major sections:

  1. Case Description (what happened?)
  2. Case Investigation (what did they find? How did they find it?)
  3. Recommendations (how will this problem be prevented in the future?)

Case description – the section describes the failure. This includes the context of the failure and why the failure matters.

Case Investigation – this section documents the failure analysis methods used in the case, including the tests that were performed and the outcomes of the tests. This section should include all information necessary to understanding the root cause.

Recommendations – this section explains the impact of the failure, identifies standards or practices which may have contributed to the failure, and makes recommendations for how to prevent the failure from happening again.

Any of the above sections may have sub-sections. For example, you may use subheadings for each type of test performed. You may also use lists, tables, and diagrams in your paper.

Other Requirements

  • At least two images or figures must be used in the paper. You may use more than two figures. Label and cite figures properly.
    • Use the Word “References” menu to insert captions.
  • A minimum of 6 high quality sources: academic, trade, and reference texts are acceptable.
    • Using low-quality sources will result in a 25% reduction in grade.
  • The final paper must have a title, Table of Contents, and References page.
    • If you do not use a title page, then include your name in the header with the page number.
    • Use the Word Style menu to create headings. This will allow you automatically generate a TOC using the References tool.
    • Failure to use the Style and References menu will result in a 10% reduction in grade.
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