Fracture analysis of an aluminum alloy crank arm on a bicycle pedal

Two Sides of the Same Coin – Damage Analysis and Product Development

Steinbeis experts look at the material and product sector from an interdisciplinary perspective

To gain a comprehensive understanding of damage and its effects, damage should not be viewed in isolation. Instead, it must be understood in the context of its causes, the type of material, environmental factors, and potential solutions. This requires an interdisciplinary approach that assimilates insights from a variety of fields, such as materials science, engineering, physics, and chemistry. Experts at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Material Technology have recognized this and are working intensively on such an approach.

Images produced using light microscopy and a scanning electron microscope


To understand a problem from every angle and develop suitable hypotheses and solutions, it is important to adopt a systematic approach. This helps to reduce clutter, work more efficiently, and gain consistent results by following steps as specified.

The usable life of a product can be influenced by everything from its design to the processes that are used to manufacture it. “Potentially everything – from material-compatible design to material-compatible manufacturing processes, as well as interactions between those two factors – plays a decisive role in improving not just the quality of a product, but also in extending its service life under the given conditions of use,” explains Steinbeis Entrepreneur Professor Dr. Hadi Mozaffari-Jovein.

His team at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Material Technology conducts research, development and optimization work on materials and corresponding processing techniques. It is also involved in developing the products of the future, as well as improving existing products and manufacturing processes. This is because a rethink is needed – not only regarding how new materials are put to use, but also when it comes to manufacturing processes, both from the perspective of designing new products and regarding the functions they perform and testing methods.

An essential factor: material analysis under different conditions

A variety of analytical methods are used to determine the properties of a material. Mechanical properties such as fatigue resistance, and metallurgical properties such as produced microstructures, are analyzed and evaluated not only after manufacturing processes but also after subsequent post-processing. To conduct such assessments, the behavior of products is examined in different media under different load conditions. This is particularly important for their long-term stability.

With the processes actually used to manufacture products, the main focus lies in the material itself and the tools that are used to make the product. Products are robust and faultless if both of these factors work together in harmony. Accordingly, the Steinbeis experts consider a spectrum of issues in relation to both failure analysis and material-compatible manufacturing processes, with key consideration being given to the methods of failure analysis. This involves examining defective parts for the possible causes of faults in order to analyze and document the weak points of products, or damage resulting from the material itself and the manufacturing process.

“After conducting a detailed analysis of the problem, we determine causes and influencing factors, and based on these, hypotheses are derived as to what may have caused the damage. These hypotheses should be based on sound insights and experience,” explains Hadi Mozaffari-Jovein, describing the procedure. Taking analysis and testing as a starting point, suitable solutions can be developed not only to eliminate the cause of the damage, but also to introduce preventive measures to eliminate the causes of malfunctions. And – as demonstrated in practical terms with the example of a broken crank arm on an aluminum alloy bicycle pedal – the cause of a fracture should be clarified, meaning numerous investigations need to be conducted. By drawing on a systematic sequence of testing methods and examinations of the structure of the fracture, it is possible to determine the nature of a fracture and thus implement measures required to eliminate weak points.


Prof. Dr. Hadi Mozaffari-Jovein (authpr)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Transfer Center Material Technology (Deißlingen)