Microscopic examination of polymer materials can be very useful for identifying a variety of material defects and establishing the type of fracture that has taken place.
At relatively low levels of magnification, it is possible to see manufacturing defects such as voids, pre-existing microcracks, inclusions and flow lines, or the dispersion and alignment of fillers and fibres. It can also be possible to see the witness marks of mechanical damage or physical contact.
Examination under plane polarised light can be used to indicate the location and intensity of residual stress in clear materials such as polycarbonate and acrylic.
Microscopic examination can be carried out in the laboratory or on-site using a portable microscope.
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) can be used for characterisation of fracture surfaces or defective areas and identification of inorganic components or contaminants present.
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