In my opinion, as I do not know if this is true or not, every product or system failure has a cause. Causes are not exactly the same as what we call ‘failure mechanisms’, yet they are related in many cases. One more term to consider is ‘failure mode’ which is the symptoms or results of a failure.
Let’s focus on failure mechanisms in the discussion. During design, manufacturing, and use it is the mechanism information that we can use. We can design out failure mechanisms, minimize introducing them, and delay occurrence via maintenance. For a failure analysis to succeed we need to understand the mechanism(s) at play well to move forward. To design an effective screening test or accelerated life test, we need to know the mechanism(s) involved.
It may be safe to say, failure mechanisms are at the heart of much of what we do in reliability engineering. Let’s explore the many ways something can fail and how understanding failure mechanisms makes a difference.