50% of product failure is due to Mechanical Fatigue! How can you predict & avoid it?

Article by Rod Mackay updated April 4, 2018


Market data indicates that more than 50% of product failure is due to fatigue, which occurs in many different mechanical components such as turbines and other rotating equipment operating under intense, repeated cyclical loads. The primary tool for both understanding and being able to predict and avoid fatigue has proven to be finite element fatigue analysis.

Fatigue Analysis

Fatigue Analysis

What is fatigue?

Designers normally consider the most important safety consideration to be the overall strength of the component, assembly, or product. To design for this, engineers want to create a design that will stand up to the probable ultimate load, and add a safety factor to that, for insurance.

In operation, however, the design is unlikely to experience static loads. Much more frequently, it will experience cyclical variation, and undergo multiple applications of such load variation, which may lead to failure over time.

The definition of fatigue is: failure under a repeated or otherwise varying load, which never reaches a level sufficient to cause failure in a single application.

The symptoms of fatigue are cracks that result from metal or plastic deformation in localized areas. Such deformation usually results from stress concentration sites on the surface of a component, or a pre-existing, virtually undetectable, defect on or just below the surface. While it may be difficult or even impossible to model such defects in FEA, variability in materials is a constant, and small defects are very likely to exist. FEA can predict stress concentration areas, and can help design engineers predict how long their designs are likely to last before experiencing the onset of fatigue.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation can run fatigue analysis

SOLIDWORKS Simulation packages include fatigue analysis, in fact the entry level Standard version includes fatigue. You can carry out fatigue analysis and predict component failures during the design phase with the CAD embedded add-in. You can then adjust your design or define a preventive maintenance schedule to reduce warranty costs and maximize product life:

  • Check a system’s expected life or accumulated damage after a specified number of cycles.
  • Import load history data from real physical tests to define loading events.

Take a look at SOLIDWORKS Simulation fatigue analysis in action below:

SOLIDWORKS Simulation Standard also includes additional functionalities to help you determine early in the design process if your products will work and how long they will perform, including:

  • Linear static analysis for assembly
  • Time-based motion simulation
  • The Trend Tracker Productivity Tool (provides visual feedback on the impact of a design change on performance criteria such as maximum stress level)

Simulation/FEA software is too expensive!

We know that you understand the value and benefit of virtual prototyping, but feel the investment required to move to SOLIDWORKS Simulation software is too large. SOLIDWORKS Simulation Standard is the entry level package in the simulation suite and is available at an affordable price. Ask us for a competitive quote »

SOLIDWORKS Simulation is too hard to use!

SOLIDWORKS Simulation software works right inside of SOLIDWORKS and is surprisingly easy to set up and test your products with. We can help you learn fatigue analysis along with other product testing types in our SOLIDWORKS Simulation Professional training course. The course can be taken in a Canadian classroom near you or live online from your office.

Want to learn more about fatigue analysis?

Download a guide to learn how you can strike a balance between saving materials and preserving design life along with an overview of the SOLIDWORKS Simulation tools available for you to account for fatigue.

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Rod Mackay

Rod has been using 3D CAD software for over 25 years and has trained thousands of designers to use their CAD systems more effectively. Rod is the Javelin Webmaster and is based in Ottawa, ON., Canada.