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30 years of expertise: SKZ answers questions on damage analysis of plastics and plastic products

In recent months, SKZ's Testing business unit has undergone a major restructuring. An important step in this reorganization was the creation of an expert group for special services and expert opinions in the area of customer and project management. This will enable us to support our customers more effectively in their failure analysis needs and to address their challenges in a more targeted manner. What questions do the experts in this area face on a daily basis? SKZ provides the answers.

October 13, 2023

The SKZ Plastics Center has decades of experience in failure analysis.(Photo: SKZ)

Restructuring of Testing business - new expert group established

Plastic products are subject to a variety of demands that require a certain service life. Examples include products used in the construction and automotive industries, and plastics used in medical technology. If premature damage occurs, it can often be costly and, in the worst case, lead to personal injury. It is therefore essential to systematically investigate the cause of damage in order to continuously improve quality. The following questions need to be answered when taking a holistic view of the damage:

What caused the crack or break?
The goal is to determine the cause of cracks, fractures, or deformations in plastic products. This can be due to material defects, improper material selection during component design, manufacturing processes, environmental conditions, or mechanical (over)loading. Often it is a combination (superposition) of several individual factors.

What chemical reactions or influences have caused material damage/brittleness?
Different plastics generally react differently to media. For example, embrittlement can occur, resulting in a change in the plastic's properties. This increases the likelihood of damage or shortens the life of the component.

Why does discoloration occur?
Discoloration of plastics can be caused by factors such as chemical reactions, contact with other materials, or environmental conditions (e.g. storage of soot, pollen, etc.). Identifying the exact cause is usually a matter of microscopic and analytical material testing.

Has the environment affected the life of the product?
Plastics can be affected by UV radiation, moisture, temperature changes and other environmental factors. It is often important not only to identify the individual influences, but also to consider their interaction and the effect on the service life of the plastic product.

What role do manufacturing processes play in the development of defects?
Manufacturing processes such as injection molding, extrusion, or other production methods can in some cases have a significant impact on the quality and integrity of plastic products. For example, plastic-compatible design/construction of the plastic product plays a very important role. However, process control (process parameters such as temperature, pressure, cycle times, etc.) can also have a negative impact on quality. Thermal and spectroscopic analysis methods can often be used in failure investigation to provide information about the history of the molded part and possible weak spots.

Are foreign bodies or impurities present in the material?
Foreign bodies or impurities can get into plastics during production or processing and thus lead to weak points or damage. The aim of the damage analysis is to find out whether such foreign bodies are present and, if so, how they could have caused the damage.

Is the damage due to age or use?
Plastics are subject to natural aging. This naturally leads to a reduction in certain material properties and thus to possible damage. However, in order to prevent damage, it is important to determine whether the damage is actually due to the effects of aging or merely due to excessive use. Damage analysis therefore focuses on checking certain material properties, such as the residual strength of the material, in order to be able to make a well-founded statement about the cause of the damage.

Holistic view required
"Failure analysis is a very complex and multifaceted subject, but it is indispensable for ensuring quality and application safety," says Alexander Ebenbeck, Sales Manager of the SKZ Testing business unit. In principle, when investigating a defective plastic component, all factors must be examined, from the material to the manufacturing process and the subsequent application conditions and environmental influences. "Only a holistic view of all the test results obtained, but also the necessary experience to interpret them correctly, will ultimately allow a qualified statement to be made about the cause of the damage," concludes Ebenbeck.

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Contact Person:

Ulli Eisenhut
Group Manager | Special Services and Expert Reports

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