Failure Analysis of an Aluminum Chiller Pipe by Experimental Simulation and Stress Analysis
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An explosion at a food processing plant was initially attributed during scene investigation to a separated butt weld in aluminum piping associated with an ammonia-based refrigeration system. The piping failed at a weld with no obvious gross plastic deformation and, on this basis primarily, was incorrectly determined to have failed by fatigue. A series of tests on exemplar welded pipe specimens was conducted to establish fractographic characteristics for the various failure modes. Finite element stress analyses were also conducted to assist in the fracture mode determination. The results of the exemplar tests and stress analyses demonstrated that the subject weld fracture occurred via a single-event overstress due to post-explosion collapse of the adjacent roof truss.