Forensic Engineering

Polymers, Composites & Ceramics Assessment & Failure Analysis

J.S. Held’s Inaugural Global Risk Report Examines Potential Business Risks & Opportunities in 2024

Read More close Created with Sketch.

We determine the root cause of degradation and failure in matters involving polymers/plastics, adhesives, composites, ceramics, glasses, concrete, wood products, and other non-metallic materials and engineered products.

Our team is composed of chemists, materials scientists, and mechanical engineers.

We leverage our technical and scientific expertise to analyze product or component failures and provide dispute and litigation support, including expert testimony. Our capabilities include stress analysis; analysis of degradation and related environmental exposure factors; evaluation of cracks, fractures, and environmental stress cracking; and failure analysis.

We are also retained to identify and evaluate manufacturing defects, issues related to polymer design and compounding, and coating failures, such as surface preparation and coating application deficiencies.

For current engineering licensure information, click here.

Our Services
  • Analysis of Fire Debris Contamination & Degradation
  • Chemical Degradation Analysis
  • Corrosion Analysis
  • Dispute & Litigation Support
  • Failure Analysis of Adhesives & Coatings
  • Failure Analysis of Glass, Ceramics & Other Nonmetallic Components
  • Failure Analysis of Polymeric Piping
  • Fatigue Analysis
  • Material Contaminant Analysis
  • Polymer Incompatibility Analysis
  • Service Life Analysis
Dispute & Litigation Support
  • Desk review of documents including expert reports and testimony
  • Synthesize and communicate literature and testing data of complex technical issues to nontechnical personnel
  • Preparation of reports, presentations, or demonstratives for use during mediation, arbitration, or trial
  • Deposition, arbitration, and trial testimony
  • Mediation of damage and root cause claims on a technical basis
Failure Analysis

Our team utilizes our laboratory services to identify the mechanism and cause of failures of polymeric and composite components, analyze process and other systemic factors that contributed to the failure, and, when applicable, estimate how long these detrimental conditions existed. We often distinguish between failures that resulted from design of the component or process/system, manufacturing or fabrication method, material deficiency or incompatibility, or as the result of outside factors (e.g., temperature or stress).

Material Characterization

Our team utilizes analytical techniques to evaluate polymers and similar materials to determine what material and environmental factors led to or contributed to a failure event. Our expertise with polymeric and composite materials encompasses delamination; fatigue; fracture; structure-property-processing relationships; interfacial structure and properties; adhesive bonding and joining; mechanical testing of materials, corrosion, and degradation; and chemical and thermal analysis.

The analytical techniques utilized by our team include:

  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)
  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
  • Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Examinations
  • Standard Wet Chemistry Methodologies
Our Team is Engaged in Matters Involving
  • Adhesives
  • Building & Construction Materials, Including Wood
  • Coatings
  • Consumer Products (e.g., Sporting Goods, Hand Tools, Chairs, Ladders)
  • HVAC Components
  • Medical Devices
  • Paints
  • Piping & Pipelines
  • Plumbing Materials & Components
  • Power Grid Infrastructure
  • Roadway Surfaces
  • Vehicle Components
Examples of Previous Projects

Acetal Resins

Corrosion degradation in chlorinated waters, stress induced failures

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

Environmental degradation of filter nozzles in a municipal water system


Elastomeric contact adhesives, analysis of load-creep behavior, identification of adhesive components, floor failures


Analysis of fiberglass reinforced chemical storage tanks, composite pipelines, carbon fiber components

Cross-Linked Polyethylene (PEX)

Environmental degradation of residential potable water and hydronic heating system tubing, issues of antioxidant/stabilizer package, ultraviolet (UV) light degradation, electrical cable insulation failures


Testing of rope strength and elongation, failures of nylon safety lanyards typically associated with environmental degradation and/or local deterioration from service conditions


Identification of source, cracking, blistering and peeling, thermal analysis related to fire investigations

Polycarbonate (PC) & Other Safety Glasses Materials

Ability to withstand impacts in support of accident investigations

Polyethylene (PE)

Analysis of chemical storage tank failures in a chlor-alkali manufacturing facility

Polypropylene (PP)

Manufacture, antioxidant/stabilizer package, deformulation of water heater dip tubes, failure analysis of consumer products and pipes

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) & Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC) Piping & Fittings

Plumbing and fire protection systems; issues involving material defects; stress corrosion cracking, installation, and bonding

Rubbers & Elastomers

Investigations of tire and hose failures, deterioration of expansion joints, thermal analysis of sealing compounds

Related Insights

Our insights cover a variety of topics impacting businesses, society, the economy, and the environment. Check out our latest white papers, research reports, educational seminars, industry speaking engagements, and perspective articles.

Keep up with the latest research and announcements from our team.
Our Experts