Product Liability and Failure Analysis

Engineering Product Liability and Failure Analysis by Board Certified Forensic Engineers

Machines and mechanical systems have become increasingly intertwined in our everyday work and personal lives; humans are constantly interacting with and depending upon machines. When a mechanical component or system malfunctions, it can often result in severe injury or death. Analysis of failures involving individual components or complete system failures requires a high level of engineering knowledge and experience, combined with keen investigative and analysis skills, to fully understand the failure mode and to pinpoint the origin of the failure. Veritech’s forensic engineers have found that mechanical failures can often be attributed to design defects, manufacturing defects, operator misuse, improper maintenance or a combination of these factors. In addition to having a thorough understanding of design and manufacturing processes, Veritech’s engineers also understand the tools available to reduce or eliminate the consequences of a foreseeable failure; such tools include “Failure Modes and Effects Analysis” (FMEA), the “design hierarchy”, and “life cycle analysis” among others.  Veritech's highly qualified forensic engineers have the advantage of using a team approach on larger, more complicated projects which enables us to draw on various engineering experiences to ensure that our comprehensive failure analysis incorporates multiple viewpoints so that no detail is overlooked.

Some of the failed products and components analyzed by Veritech engineers include:

  • Vehicle Components

    • Wheels and Tires

    • Brake pads

    • Brake calipers

    • Steering Systems

    • Drivetrain

    • Suspension Components

  • Consumer Products

    • Trailers

    • Office Equipment

    • Appliances

    • Furniture

    • Power Tools

    • Bicycle Tires and Wheels

    • Window Coverings

    • Children’s Toys

  • Industrial Machinery

  • Airline Equipment and Airport Machinery

  • Construction Equipment


Mechanical Engineering Failure Analysis

While failures of engineered structures, buildings, and bridges is more in the realm of civil or structural engineering, mechanical failures rely on analysis from the perspective of mechanical engineering. Mechanical systems typically include objects that move or rotate, and the stresses, forces, and cyclical loading of these systems may result in failure over time. Obvious signs of mechanical failure may manifest themselves in the form of overloading situations when the design criteria is insufficient to meet the demands of the product usage. Overload failures may result in mechanisms that exhibit excessive deflection, buckling, and fracture. Other types of failure modes exist, such as thermal cycling, failures due to environmental factors such as corrosion, and cyclical fatigue. Cyclical fatigue, for example, typically shows evidence of small cracks in a component (usually metallic components) as it is cycled by a force or deflection over a large number of cycles. After a certain number of repetitive cycles, a part that has been subjected to cyclical fatigue may fail abruptly and catastrophically. This failure occurs when a part has exceeded its designed limit of fatigue, resulting in a “fatigue failure”. It is important to note that the material that a component is made from has an effect on the number of cycles that the part can sustain before failing. Therefore, part design and material selection are important factors to consider when analyzing a mechanical system.

Consumer Product Safety Commission and Failure Analysis of Consumer Products

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is a small branch of the United States Government that has oversight of many products sold in US markets. It is estimated that the CPSC regulates over 15,000 different types of products. These products include everyday items such as window coverings, children’s toys, some cleaning products, bicycle helmets, strollers, and many more. The CPSC has enacted many regulations surrounding the specific design of consumer products to ensure that they are safe to use. CPSC is often made aware of widespread product issues through the use of their online database, and through online reporting of product failures by anyone who has information regarding the product issues. Through consideration of product safety issues during usage, and issues with design and failure modes, the CPSC also issues recalls of products, or “corrective actions” to ensure that the general public is made aware of the potential safety issues, and safeguarded against potential dangerous products. Veritech’s analysis of consumer products often includes assessments of failure trends associated with a specific product or component, to assess whether or not a trend of the failure is present across a number of separate product models. Determining trends in product failures can be a valuable starting point in identifying mechanical design or manufacturing issues, as it may indicate that a problem manifests across an entire product line.

Veritech’s licensed Professional Engineers rely on their extensive education, training and experience in manufacturing, product development, mechanical engineering and forensic analysis to perform comprehensive investigations and analysis of mechanical failures.

Please contact one of our licensed professional engineers at 303-660-4395 to discuss your case and receive a free initial consultation with honest and candid comments.

Mark Kittel, PE Product liability and failure analysis expert witness

Mark Kittel, P.E., D.F.E.

Principal Engineer

Joe Tremblay, PE