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Things You Do Not Know About Polymer Failure Analysis

Polymer materials can be moulded into a variety of shapes with the application of heat. In the case of thermoset polymers such as rubbers curing, also known as vulcanizing, is a kind of chemical reaction where the cross-links between the molecular chains of the materials are formed. The crosslinks are intra-molecular bonds that help to provide a resilient 3D structure to the polymeric materials.

Understanding the reason for polymer failure is necessary to prevent recurrence. It also helps to avoid failure in similar products, structures, systems, and components. Failure analysis helps in understanding and improving the design, manufacturing techniques, and materials selection.

Failure analysis is a process that consists of different investigation processes aimed at figuring out the reason behind material and structural failure. In most cases, there are five reasons that can describe the reason for polymer failure.

  • Improper and poor design,
  • Incorrect use of the materials,
  • Defects during manufacturing process,
  • Defects during service conditioning,
  • A combination of any of the above.

In order to determine the applicable reason for polymer failure, the process greatly relies on chemical analysis and laboratory testing of the components. Such methods include Fracture Mechanics (FM), and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) that now also come under the umbrella of failure analysis.

With the improvement of computer modelling and the growing knowledge of structure-property relationships of polymer materials, failure analysis has become more accessible and feasible for all businesses that have access to an analytical laboratory. It has become a crucial part of the business industry since failure testing has great commercial implications. These include but are not limited to

  • Product recalls
  • Legal disputes
  • Expensive warranty claims.

Moreover, faulty products can lead to damaged reputation of the brand and stall future sales even if the product is improved after the roll-out.

Most Common Reasons for Polymer Failure

There are a few main reasons for failure in plastic products.

  • Long-term Behaviour: Since mechanical properties of plastics are temperature and time-dependent, there is a possibility of deterioration over time due to material wear and polymer behaviour over time.
  • Environmental Effects: Exposure to extreme temperatures and chemical environments can mitigate the long-lasting performance of plastic materials.
  • Manufacturing Effects: An error in the manufacturing process can lead to complications down the line, such can include poor performance of the products as well as its effects on consumer wellbeing.
  • Human Error: Human factor can is one of the main reasons for plastic failure. According to a industry survey report, almost 45% of failure has a close association with human factors, such as poor material selection and errors in the designed manufacturing process.
  • Mechanical Failure: Also, can be understood as physical failure of the polymer product. Mechanical failure can be divided into ductile, meaning the product goes through very high strain, resulting in deformation or breakage, and brittle fracture, in which case polymer goes through a relatively low strain resulting in cracking and brittleness of the product.

Best Platform for Failure Analysis

Failure testing is a multi-faceted process which requires multiple analytical and physical testing methods to deliver most accurate analysis. With over 25 years of experience in the field, ExcelPlas has conducted a large range of tests on polymers, rubbers, elastomers, and other polymer-based materials. Failure analysis has been one of the most crucial parts of the polymer industry meaning ExcelPlas Laboratories have dealt with matters of material selection, manufacturing faults in conveyor scale production lines, legal disputes, as well as assisted small businesses with acquiring certification necessary for commercial sales. No matter the scale of the enquiry, ExcelPlas labs have proven to be experienced and equipped for a large scope of the polymer failure testing.

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