Determine the Root Cause for Failure of Raw Materials and Final ProductsWoman engineer working on blueprint in office with colleagues on background

Many finished products are made from non-metallic materials such as polymers, fiber-reinforced composites, and ceramics. When these products fail to perform according to standards, the potential financial costs and damage to corporate reputations is immense.. To address these problems and prevent their future occurrence, non-metallic failure analysis is a must.

While many products consist of both metallic and non-metallic raw materials, we’ll restrict our discussion to non-metallic failure analysis on this page.  See the link at the bottom of the page for a download of the Failure Analysis Case Study Guide for a more robust overview. 

While there are slight differences, metallic failure analysis, plastics failure testing, and component failure testing essentially make use of the same methods.

Most of these failure modes are also present in metallic materials, though metallics may also be subject to corrosion and hydrogen embrittlement, among others, as additional failure modes.


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Failure Analysis Testing Processes 

  • Reviewing the steps that occurred before the failure
  • Simulating the conditions under which the failure occurred Collecting samples for chemical analysis
  • Investigating why some components, if any, remain intact
  • Determining the root causes behind the failure
  • Recommending steps to avoid future recurrence

In some circumstances, it aids the failure analysis process to inspect the site where the failure took place. Analyzing non-metallic materials often involves multi-disciplinary processes. These can include the following:

  • Chemical analysis through the use of FTIR Spectroscopy
  • Environmental exposure testing that approximates the conditions at the time of the failure’s occurrence
  • Fractography, or the study of fractured material surfaces
  • Microscopic examination using scanning electron microscopes and similar equipment
  • Mechanical testing utilizing a wide range of analytical equipment, and taking into account component geometry and failure parameters

Failure Analysis Testing Services

IMR Test Labs offers a comprehensive array of failure analysis services for non-metallic materials, including the following:

  • Fractography services, which are particularly useful for determining causes of fractures in plastic components and other non-metallic material surfaces
  • Investigative chemistry, including adhesive identification, coating contamination, contaminant identification, paint identification, and surface contamination. These are useful for analyzing paint adhesion failures and determining the presence of contaminants in paints and plastics.
  • Physical testing for benchmarking plastic part materials and determining distribution of fibers in fiber-reinforced plastics, among others.
  • Residual analysis, such as FTIR, scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray analysis (there is a close relationship between investigative chemistry and residual analysis) for contaminant identification
  • Thermal analysis for measuring properties such as melting point, crystallization temperature, filler content and mechanical properties as a function of temperature
  • Litigation failure analysis, involving trial expert witness testimony, technical disposition, legal consultation, and test witness services

The above services are available for a wide range of non-metallic materials and parts, including electrical components, fabrics, medical tools and devices, plated plastic parts, plastics and printed circuit boards.

Failure Analysis
Failure Mechanism
Root Cause
Applied Stresses
Fracture Origin
Trace Contaminants
XRD Analysis
Identification of Unknown Powders
Analysis of Corrosion Products
Phase Identification
Crystal Structure
Reverse Engineering
Competitive Analysis
Material Confirmation
Material Characterization
Additive Analysis to Trace Level
Bond Strength
Chemical Exposure Testing
Coefficient of Friction
Compression Set
Compressive Properties (-40°F to 660°F)
Density & Specific Gravity
DSC Analysis: Melting Point Glass Transition % Crystallinity
Dynamic Mechanical Analyzer (DMA) Testing
Fatigue Testing (ambient temperature)
Flexural Properties (-40°F to 660°F)
FTIR Analysis
Hardness (Rockwell, Durometer, Barcol)
Heat Aging
Impact Strength
Lap Shear Testing
Material Identification
Melt Flow Rate/Index
SEM/EDS Analysis: Fillers
Tensile Properties (-40°F to 660°F)
TGA Analysis: Polymer Glass and Ash Content
TMA: Glass Transition, Coefficient of Thermal Expansion, Heat Deflection

Additional Non-metallic Failure Analysis Services

Failure analysis of non-metallic materials is necessary to prevent the future recurrence of failures in non-metallic materials. There are different kinds of non-metallic failure analysis techniques. The use of these techniques ultimately depends on the type of non-metallic material to be analyzed and tested.

Request a quote to know more about our non-metallic failure analysis services.

To download our Failure Analysis Guide, click here.

Paints & Coatings
Coating Shear Fatigue
Coating Thickness
Dime Scrape
Impact Resistance
Material Identification (Base Polymer)
Material Properties of Liquid Paints and Coatings
MIL-STD-801 Section 504 Testing (Contamination by Fluids)
Pencil Hardness
Solvent Resistance
Specular Gloss (20° and 60°)
Stain Resistance
Trace Analysis
Polymer Additives
Leachable Compounds
Extractable Compounds
Semi-Volatile Compounds


Click here for a complete list of accreditations and certifications for all IMR Test Labs locations.