Structural success

Engineering Failure Analysis

June 7, 1996

There is a question which must surely have been on the minds of the organisers of a new journal such as this: "Is there a need for yet another engineering journal?" A good answer to this would be along the lines of the Dodo's answer to Alice's question "What is a Caucus Race?": "The best way to explain it is to do it."

The first five issues suffice to illustrate that it supplies a real need in the world of engineering, where searching through a pile of literature that grows at an ever-increasing rate becomes a more laborious task with each year that passes. Where for example, would one start looking for a careful study of the engineering aspects of the Hillsborough disaster, not a daily newspaper-style condemnation of the police, or the football authorities or the general organisation, but a study of the design of crash barriers. For whatever other mistakes were made on that day, there would have been no loss of life had the barriers not broken.

At a time when there is so much automation affecting our daily lives, so many "gadgets" in the home, so much engineering on which we depend, reliability is now of prime concern. Without a greater degree of reliability than we have now, we face the prospect, as we approach the next century, that the average householder will spend a long period of every day simply waiting for the arrival of a repair engineer. The equivalent effect in industry is clearly of national importance.

So a journal whose aims are to help reduce the incidence of failures could easily be said to be overdue. Such subject matter cuts across the disciplines of conventional engineering although the emphasis is clearly on mechanical failure, coupled as it is to structural engineering, metallurgy, chemistry and design. Metallic, polymeric, ceramic and natural materials are all included.

The early issues serve to show that this journal is of the highest quality, both in its production and contents. Some 30 papers to date are seen to have been written by experts in their field and to have been refereed by their peers. The standard of the papers is equal to that of papers in the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers or of any similar organisation. They are practical papers, often based on case studies, but with an equally high standard of theoretical analysis.

It could be argued that the issues so far contain a considerable amount of "homebrew", in that nine of the 30 papers are written by members of the editorial advisory board, including the editor-in-chief, but this is perhaps only natural for a new journal "trying to find its feet", as it were. Again, although 21 of the 30 papers are university-based, I have no doubt that the proportions of industry/academic papers will level itself out to match those of other learned journals after a year or two.

This is very much an international journal, only five of the 21 members of the editorial advisory board being based in the UK, while 12 of the 30 papers to date are from countries as far afield as the US, Norway, India, China and Japan.

No expense has been spared in the quality of the production. The high-quality paper and the printing ensures that diagrams, and particularly photographs are all excellent, but of course this is reflected in the price:Pounds 135 for four issues annually is perhaps enough to make technical libraries hesitate about buying it. I am sure, however, investment of this kind will be seen to be worthwhile in years to come, as this series of volumes is likely to become a standard reference work.

The third issue alone, in Volume 1, investigates the causes of the Sleipner accident (when the A platform sank in Gandsfjiord in 1991) the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879, the fracture of the clapper of Britain's largest bell, the Great Paul, in 1992, as well as the Hillsborough disaster. Yet in the same issue there is a paper on nonlinear finite element modelling of porcine bioprosthetic valves. Such is the diversity of the engineering disciplines covered.

Eric Laithwaite is emeritus professor of engineering, Imperial College, London, and visiting professor, University of Sussex.

Engineering Failure Analysis

Editor - D. R. H. Jones
ISBN - ISSN 1350 6307
Publisher - Pergamon
Price - £135.00

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