Why do some metals fail?

Visual Inspection

Metal failure is a huge concern in a number of industries, from construction to manufacturing and more. An issue could cause serious injuries and massive economic damage. One way to reduce the risk of an incident is to do regular inspections. They can include a combination of visual inspection and sophisticated testing like UT, radiographic, or MPI. The goal is to keep track of the condition of the metals and spot signs of wear as early as possible.

A number of things can cause a metal to fail. Below is a little bit of info about the most common causes so you can prepare for them.


The majority of failures are due to fatigue. Over time the loads on a metal can fluctuate. If there is a small material failure, the changes in loading can allow it to gradually develop. In time a crack may occur and the metal may no longer be able to support the load. As a result it will fail.


All metals will have a maximum threshold in terms of their strength. However, putting a greater load on the metal can push it beyond this. The end result can be a failure.

Corrosion and erosion

Exposing metals to certain environments can cause a great deal of wear and ultimately lead to a failure. For example it could be a corrosive environment with chemicals or salt water. Or, it could be a location where there is exposure to wind, rain, and ice.

Stress corrosion cracking

While corrosion alone can cause a failure, it is even more likely when there are two other factors present. These are tensile stress and using a material that is susceptible to the issue. The combination can result in a rapid failure.


When two metal surfaces slide against one another it can score them. This type of wear is known as fretting. Over time it can lead to fatigue cracking or allow corrosion.


A combination of high temperature and stress can cause this type of failure. The problem occurs because of the deformation of the grains in the metals.

Hydrogen embrittlement

One of the most harmful substances to accidentally expose alloys to during manufacturing and processing is hydrogen. It can make the final alloy more brittle, reducing its ductility and capacity to bear loads. As a result, the metal can crack or fail much easier.

Talk to us about visual inspection and other forms of NDT

Format NDT Ltd can help clients to reduce the risk of metal failure. We do this by offering a full range of non-destructive testing. Our experts can examine various metal products, from structures to pipes, tanks, and machinery housings. They look for signs of wear and any flaws.

So, if you want to arrange visual inspection, other forms of NDT, or a combination of them, please let us know. We can provide the most reliable services.