The Failure report

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eportFailure Analysis R

Titanic ShipCase of

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Failure analysis can be described as a series of actions that are undertaken in determining possible causes and/or factors that have led to an undesired loss of functionality with the goal of finding corrective actions[1]. This is important in consumer products because it provides the practical information for determining failure causes and product redesigning in preventing future devastations that would otherwise be devastating. This paper primarily addresses the failure of Titanic ship parts particularly the hull plates. Although the entire failure may be mentioned, such failures as rescue mechanisms are not within the scope of this paper.


Titanic sinking can be described as one of the history’s epic sea disaster and the topic for numerous books and documentaries. The 1912 disaster left the world’s largest ship with a freak accident that came with catastrophic loss of life. The North Atlantic incidence was caused by the ship striking an iceberg. The ship was so badly injured that it lasted only 2 hours before sinking drowning over 1500 on board. The sinking of the ship is said to have been by the water that flowed into watertight compartments. In the design of this ship, it is believed that the team paid more tribute to beauty at the expense of safety. So to describe, the ship was designed with one row of lifeboats on the deck rather than the desired two. This created more space for passengers.


This section analyzes the mode of failure and the causes as well as the effects. The component said to have failed is the hull plates, which allowed water into some of the watertight compartments after collision with the iceberg. Good documentation has been made justifying that attributing the disaster to material failure mode of the hulls and rivets. First of all, it is important to mention the material used for the hull and the rivets given that this was in 1912. Titanic was constructed of one inch-thick mild steel plates. There were over 2 million steel and wrought iron rivets. The Titanic’s hull was triple riveted using mild steel rivets and double riveted using wrought iron. [4,5, 6, 7].

The failure of the hull plates as a result of rivet failure resulted from a number of factors. First the design faults then the environmental conditions. First, it should be noted that Titanic was moving at a very high speed (35mph). This would definitely result in high impact of collision. The great forceful impact caused the six compartments of it to open where the wrought iron rivets failed. According to Mallapragada and Olsen[5] and Aldridge [2], an assessment of the then prevalent conditions, the brittle fracture was a combination of low, high impact loading and high sulphur content of the material. With the near 25 mph speed, the contact of the ship with the iceberg was due to serial impacts that caused the rivets to fail either in shear or by elongation. At high temperatures, steel/wrought material would be ductile but the low temperatures at the time made the material more brittle.

One other component failure is watertight compartments. This was mainly a design flaw. The lower section of the Titanic had 16 major watertight compartments. The watertight compartments were a contributing factor to the failure by keeping flood water in the bow. Without the compartments, the incoming water would have spread and thus the ship would have stayed afloat for longer [4].


The Titanic failure would have been prevented if caution was heeded. The first attempt would have been to try to reduce speed. At least it would have reduced the forceful impact. High temperatures are associated with ductile property rather than the brittle and thus the rivets would have deformed rather than break [4]. Engineers would have used steel rather than wrought iron. Better still, it should have been considered using the Nickel steel because the Nick is stronger even in low temperatures compared to wrought iron. However, that was over 100 years ago and technology was underdeveloped. Although the Titanic incidence was so warning in material failure, there still have been quite observed failures of a similar kind. The Tower Crane Collapse is one such a case to Titanic failure. The similarity lies in the metal failure. The 300ft tower crane collapsed onto the intersection of two major streets downtown San Francisco during the morning rush. The case is similar in the sense that this was a low temperature period. Another metallurgical failure is the Fracture of Titanium Sternal plates. The failure of these plates was associated with using wrought unalloyed titanium, which is weaker and easily succumbs to fatigue failure [4]


From this analysis, it can be concluded that small engineering mistakes can be very expensive. Just basic design mistakes and lack of proper material selection resulted to the accident. Based on the current standards by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, the titanic can be redesigned not to fail through improved welding and steel. Thicker hull plates would be suspended. Chances of failure would be minimized [8]. From the analysis of similar cases above, it can be concluded that in as much as failure analysis involving metallurgical has been done, similar cases still occur. This would mean that some cases could be engineering failures rather than information and/or technologies. As such, thorough assessment/inspection of any project for conformity of the standards is very essential.


  1. . Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2013.Case Studies in Advanced Engineering DesignC. Spitas, V. Spitas and M. Rajabalinejad,

  2. . New York: Chelsea House, 2008.The sinking of the TitanicR. Aldridge,

  3. , 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 15- May- 2016]«Five Biggest Engineering Disasters >»,

  4. , 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 15- May- 2016]«Material failure of titanic ship.»,

  5. , 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 15- May- 2016].Materials TodayS. Mallapragada and B. Olsen, «What really sank the Titanic? — Materials Today»,

  6. . New York: Citadel Press, 2008.What really sank the TitanicJ. McCarty and T. Foecke,

  7. . Wien: Springer, 1979.Plasticity in structural engineering fundamentals and applicationsC. Massonnet, W. Olszak and A. Phillips,

  8. . Waltham, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2012.Applied welding engineeringR. Singh,