Nonmetallic Failure Analysis

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 damage to corporate reputations is immense, with related production delays and financial losses as a result. 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.  

Non-Metallic Failure Analysis Methods

For non-metallic materials, the typical failure analysis process undertaken by non-met testing specialists looks like this: 

  • Reviewing the steps that occurred before the failure
  • Simulating the conditions under which the failure occurred to the failure
  • 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 Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry and FTIR Spectroscopy
  • Environmental 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
  • Non-destructive testing involving various production components, including equipment, personnel, and procedures


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.




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 GC-MS, 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.

IMR Test Labs has five facilities around the world that offer these services, including three in the United States, one in Singapore, and another in China.  Our metals and non-metals groups work closely together when materials with a mixture of metals and non-metals are involved.

Nonmetallic Failure Analysis


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.

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

GC/MS: Additives

Hardness (Rockwell, Durometer, Barcol)

Heat Aging

Impact Strength

Lap Shear Testing

Material Identification

Melt Flow Rate/Index

Oil Content

SEFA Testing

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



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