Catastrophic failure

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A catastrophic failure is a sudden and total failure from which recovery is impossible. Catastrophic failures often lead to cascading systems failure. The term is most commonly used for structural failures, but has often been extended to many other disciplines where total and irrecoverable loss occurs. Such failures are investigated using the methods of forensic engineering, which aims to isolate the cause or causes of failure.

Catastrophic failure is also observed in the steam turbine rotor occurring due to peak stress acting on the rotor and also the stress concentration increases which ultimately leads to the failure of the disc.

In firearms, catastrophic failure usually refers to a rupture or disintegration of the barrel or receiver of the gun when firing it. Some possible causes for this is the gun being out of battery, having improper headspace, using incorrect ammunition for the firearm, using ammunition with an incorrect propellant charge,[1] an obstructed or partially obstructed barrel,[2] or weakened metal in the barrel or receiver. A failure of this type, also known colloquially as a "kaboom", or "kB" failure, can pose a threat to the user and bystanders.

In chemical engineering, thermal runaway can cause catastrophic failure.


Original Tay Bridge from the north
Fallen Tay Bridge from the north

Examples of catastrophic failure of engineered structures include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hal W. Hendrick, Paul Paradis, Richard J. Hornick (2010-12-12). Human Factors Issues in Handgun Safety and Forensics. CRC Press. p. 132. Retrieved 2014-02-24. Many firearms are destroyed and injuries sustained by home reloaders who make a mistake in estimating the correct powder charge. 
  2. ^ Gregg Lee Carter, ed. (2012-05-31). Guns in American Society. ABC-CLIO. p. 255. ISBN 978-0-313-38670-1. Retrieved 2014-02-24. ... and left the copper jacket lodged in the barrel, leading to a catastrophic failuer of the rifle when the next bullet fired hit the jacket remnants.