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Introduction to forensic engineering

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Why do products fail and who finds out why? In this free course, Introduction to forensic engineering, we enter the complex world of forensic engineering and examine how scientists analyse product failure. From investigating a ladder accident to determining the reasons behind the failures in medical products, you will understand how the truth can be established.

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • analyse the cause of failures in polymer products;
  • recognise safety-critical polymer components in products;
  • describe different failure modes, using conceptual and engineering diagrams, such as fault-tree analysis diagrams;
  • distinguish between non-specification features and defects in polymer products. Suggest ways of reducing the effects of defects;
  • extract key information from standards, specifications, codes of practice, or technical literature and apply that information to product failures;
  • suggest the most appropriate analytical tools to investigate a particular failure of a polymer product;
  • recognise stress concentrations in given polymer products. Evaluate the severity of a stress concentration at a designed feature and suggest ways of reducing the effects of such concentrations;
  • sketch a fracture or failure surface map from a photograph of a fractured or failed polymer product. In the sketch, identify key features on the surface and suggest ways the crack may have grown;
  • use technical information to evaluate and interpret reconstructions. Similarly, use information from experiments in failure analysis;
  • construct a flow diagram to show a sequence of events, and relate the sequence to the evidence of failure;
  • given the appropriate information, evaluate simple stresses and load paths in multi-component products;
  • examine a simple traceability diagram and suggest critical areas for failure investigations;
  • summarise concisely the evidence in a failure study. Identify parts of that evidence which are critical to the cause(s) of failure;
  • describe where theories of failure suggested by different experts conflict. Prepare a simple statement showing where there is agreement and disagreement.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 20 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 9th December 2014
  • Advanced level
  • Posted under Engineering
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Introduction to forensic engineering


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Forensic engineering has grown substantially in recent years as consumers have demanded ever-increasing levels of quality. Premature product failure not only deprives the users of that product, but can also lead to personal injury and other detrimental effects. This unit introduces you to a subject of interest to engineers, designers, patent agents and solicitors.

This free course is an adapted extract relevant to The Open University course T839 Forensic engineering, which is no longer taught by the University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this subject area [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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