Metallurgical Defect Safety Hazards

Metallurgical Defects

Component failure and safety hazards due to metallurgical defects can occur in any product that has metal components. A material defect that causes a failure may be introduced in one of the many processing stages that most metal components go through before becoming finalized products.
Most metals go through some sort of initial casting process and defects could be introduced in several ways during that process:

  • The alloy mix is incorrect.
  • Casting and cooling temperatures are incorrect.
  • Casting and cooling times are incorrect.

After the initial casting, the cast ingots might be formed (rolled, forged, extruded, etc.) into the shape and size that is required for their function or for further processing. Defects can also be introduced during these processes due to the stresses placed on the metal during forming.

After forming, many metal components go through secondary processes such as heat treating, machining, or welding that could also introduce defects into the metal.

  • Improper heat treating can introduce undesirable properties into the metal or eliminate desirable properties.
  • Improper welding can introduce local stresses that can weaken a metal component.

For a metal component with no metallurgical flaws or defects, fatigue failure might only be a concern if the component is being improperly utilized. Using a component to carry weight in excess of the recommended load or subjecting the component to forces beyond the recommended use can cause the component to fail far before its normal life cycle.

Metallurgical defects can have the same effect on a component, even if the component is being used at the recommended levels. A defect could cause a failure to occur when it normally wouldn’t and it can significantly reduce the useful life of a component. If a component with a defect is also being used improperly, the failure could occur even faster.

Since there are so many different metal components in the world, the failure modes and safety hazards of components with metallurgical defects are extremely varied. The hazards can range from minor inconveniences to life threatening injuries. Here are a few examples of safety hazards that could be caused by a component failure due to metallurgical defect:

  • Dropping of a load (crushing or pinching hazard).
  • Failure of a structure (fall hazard, crushing hazard).
  • Failure of a vehicle or mobile equipment (crash hazards).
  • Catastrophic failure of a piece of equipment (crushing, pinching, projectile hazards).

Metallurgical defects can come from a variety of processing errors and can be exacerbated by improper use of equipment or components. A defect can cause many types of component failure and the safety hazards posed by those failures can range from small to life threatening.

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