When a construction fails, it’s important to trace to the root cause of the problem, to take appropriate action and prevent the same problem occurring again. In such situations, there’s often a lack of information on the circumstances that led to the problem: the maintenance state, geometry and alignment, and the available friction. Detailed forensics are needed to find out what could have gone wrong. This is supported strongly by numerical simulation, assessing contact forces and exploring balance equations.
In one example project, we examined container cranes with multiple bearings failing due to excessive loading. Why did this damage occur, what was the root cause of the situation? Deformed profiles pointed quickly at stress concentration on one side of the wheel, leading to plastic deformation. Yet this didn’t explain really what was going on. How did this occur in the first place, and how did it grow over time? In the end, a culprit was found in the flexibility of the construction. This lead to camber angles developing under the action of the contact forces.
Proper understanding helps selecting the appropriate interventions, addressing and resolving the problem.