How do you start an analysis?

The first step is to collect evidence, getting failed items and photographing key areas. We then look at it to identify common features to understand how the product was being used, what environment it’s being used in and what environment it failed in. Key elements to uncovering the problem are the items and documents, talk to the end user and manufacturer and collecting information that will help us piece together a scenario that led to failure. Sometimes that also involves some sort of engineering analysis, experimentation or simulation.

How long does a usual analysis take?

Projects usually take a few weeks, others years. It depends on what the issue is, what the financial and product exposure is (how much is out there) and how quickly parties respond.

What is the best advice you give clients?

I tell people that the first thing they should do is set up an operation, monitor its performance with potential failures in mind, asking: “What are quality controls that could be set to avoid failure?” For example, put controls in place to maintain appropriate temperatures, time and pressure. Then if there is a failure and you’re not sure what to do, the best thing to do is react early and quickly. Understand the problem as early as you can to see how widespread it is. If there is a report that a product failed, is it a predictor of future failures?

Where is there potential for composites in the future?

I think it depends on the industry. No specific part comes to mind, but I’d say look at any industry that uses composites and there is room for growth: civil engineering, marine, aerospace, medical devices. In each one we see increased use of composites and continue to see that trend. I think it’s mostly driven by designers wanting to give an “edge” and composites allow for that optimization. Twenty years ago no one cared about weight; they wanted cheap. That mentality has changed. Over the years composites have provided performance that you can’t get from other materials, primarily the ability to rehabilitate civil infrastructures. Without tearing down a bridge, you can rehabilitate it using composites to patch and improve performance.

In what area of the industry are the most problems?

I’d say the sporting goods industry is the most common industry. The reason for that is because composites are used to increase performance and make high performing products, which are then used by a wide range of skill users who don’t know how to take care of them or what composites are.