Forensic engineering primarily deals with the investigation of materials, products, structures or components that are either failing or are not performing up to the standards by which they were sold. More often than not, these faulty items can lead to personal injuries or property damage. Typically, a forensic engineering investigation is conducted in order to locate the cause(s) of the failure, as well as assisting the court in determining the facts of an accident.
In modern forensic engineering, an increased amount of emphasis has been placed on investigating the cause for failure of consumer items or patents. The primary reason for this emphasis is that firms are being sued more frequently now over the issue of allegedly defective products than in previous years.
The following are the methods forensic engineers typically apply in their investigations:
• A careful analysis of the service record of the component at question
• A review of the loads carried
• A record of temperatures suffered
• An in-depth analysis of the microstructure of the material used
• An assessment of witness evidence
Investigating and collecting data on structures, materials, or components that have failed is vital to forensic engineering because it allows to piece together the scene and see the root of the problem. These investigations must involve collecting evidence, taking measurements, developing models, and performing experiments. There are many types of investigations that may be conducted across many different types of accidents. These generally include fires, explosions, air and rail crashes, as well as other important accidents or possible crimes.
The original crime scene is very important and the forensic investigations that take place make full use of many important investigative techniques such as radiography, electron microscopes, and trace evidence. When a product fails and no reason for the failure can be found, Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) performed in the microscope can reveal the presence of aggressive chemicals that left traces on the adjacent surfaces.
Forensic engineering has many more uses than just faulty equipment, and many large corporations depend on them for their daily business. Insurance companies use forensic engineers to prove liability in automobile accidents. The wreckage of the cars, eyewitness reports, and other forensic evidence is all used together to create an accurate depiction of the events. Most of all engineering disasters (bridge failures, building collapses) are investigated by engineers who are experienced with various forensic methods. These same engineers are also called upon when component failure is suspected, which is common with many rail crashes or aviation accidents. Forensic engineering is also used in the instance of a medical device malfunctioning, a dryer catching fire, or even a hammer breaking off and injuring the user. The point is, forensic engineering surrounds us in our everyday lives and is imperative in society.