Nicola Symonds

Nicola Symonds


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Failure Investigations

We have the facilities and the expertise to offer forensic materials engineering, failure investigations and metallography services directly to industry and government.

Talk to us about failure investigations

Why analyse failure?

By investigating the failure of systems and components, repeat issues can be prevented. We can identify and interpret fractographic clues providing you with the evidence to understand the failure mechanisms.

We have investigated issues across many sectors including energy, aerospace, marine and rail. Key clients include the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), Hamworthy Combustion Engineering Ltd and BAE Systems (military ships). Learn more about our accident investigation work.


Common failure mechanisms

  • Fatigue
  • Corrosion
  • Erosion
  • Cavitation
  • Fretting
  • Rolling contact fatigue
  • Overload
  • Electrical arcing

Contact profilometry measurements

SEM image of ductile dimples on a failed surface

What our work can provide

Our work often involves special investigative skills gained through years of experience and knowledge. We can provide:

  • Photographic record of state
  • Forensic materials engineering
  • Macro and micro examination
  • Fractography
  • Testing of extracted coupon samples
  • Characterisation and measurement
  • CT (computed tomography) for internal failures
  • Professional opinions and expert witness services
  • Conductivity measurements

    Conductivity measurements taken across a heat damaged aluminium aircraft part to determine the intensity of the fire.

  • Cross sectioning

    Polished cross-sectional view through a bone implant screw to determine extent and type of corrosion damage.

  • CT Scanning

    Computed Tomography (CT) view through failed welded aluminium component to determine the crack front position and the condition of the welds.

  • Macro fractography

    Macro fractography examination of a failed keel of a yacht. It was identified that the support rods had fractured driven by reverse bending fatigue.

  • Optical microscopy

    Optical microscope image of an aluminium fracture surface displaying arc shaped beachmarks consistent with fatigue crack propagation.

  • Scanning electron microscopy

    Scanning electron microscope (SEM) micrograph of a steel surface damaged through cutting wear.

  • Etching

    Polished cross-section through a fractured aluminium welded component. The microstructure was revealed through etching with Keller reagent.

Example Case Studies