This article is the first in a series about material engineering and product reliability. The intent of the article is to provide you with a basic understanding of product reliability as viewed through the eyes of a material engineer. When I first talk to engineers who have a different background or focus, I start with the basics. As we speak more, I expand into relevant areas one at a time. That is what I hope to do with this series. Introduce you to some basics, and then move on to a deeper dive into the topic.
When considering product reliability, a materials engineer is concerned with how the materials in components respond when exposed to stressors that can cause the materials to degrade. Stressors include mechanical loads, corrosive environments, chemicals, heat and cold, electricity, and radiation. You may find additional stressors based on the environment components are used in, or how they are used. It’s a problem if a component or joint in a product degrades to the point where it stops functioning as required.