The collection and analysis of data to determine the cause(s) or potential cause(s) of a failure is referred to as Failure Analysis. In the collection phase, the data may be quantitative, i.e. measurable, or it may be qualitative, in the form of photos, statements or testimony. Each type of data has its own intrinsic value to the investigation and must be handled accordingly.
A powerful tool that is often used to evaluate components in design and failure analysis is Finite Element Analysis, or FEA. A mathematical model is created and the component can be examined independently or as it interacts with other components, whether under mechanical stress, thermal loading or other influences.
Another tool is Fault Tree Analysis, where possible causal factors contributing to an incident can be considered and addressed.