How to Determine the Cause of Glass Failures

July 10th, 2020 by Jordan Scott

Glass breakage happens for many reasons and determining those reasons is an important step in preventing future breakage. That’s why Arup held a webinar titled, “Broken Glass: How and Why to Find the Origin of Failure Among the Fragments.” Graham Dodd, part of the Arup Materials team, explained why it’s important to find the origin of a glass failure.

The first reason is to prevent or manage further failures to keep people safe. Second is establishing responsibility.

“Most of us work in a contractual construction environment so this is often an important point,” said Dodd. “Was it damaged before installation? Was there something wrong with the system’s manufacturing?”

There are several steps to follow to deduce the cause of glass breakage. Those steps include:

  1. Keeping the glass for examination. Dodd said that while the broken glass may look like hazardous rubbish, it’s the body that needs to be examined.
  2. Viewing the overall crack pattern. This will help determine the sequence of events that led to the glass breakage.
  3. Establishing a direction of propagation.
  4. Studying the features at the origin. For this step Dobb recommended patience.
  5. Keeping the fragments from the origin. After an investigation is complete it’s important to keep the origin fragments, even if the rest of the glass is scrapped, in case it needs to be re-examined.
  6. Applying fractography. According to Dodd, this will allow someone to create an estimate of what the stress was at the point of failure.

During the webinar, Dodd covered several case studies. These studies demonstrated that it’s possible to determine the cause of glass breakage such as nickel sulfide inclusions in tempered glass, an object hit the glass, thermal stress or when the wrong glass was used for an application.

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