Factor of Safety - In reality - Factor of Ignorance?
We do not know exactly:
Full Details of Load(s)
The Nature of Defects Introduced by Manufacturing
It is common practice to size components so the maximum design stress is below the UTS or yield stress by an appropriate factor - the Factor of Safety, often based on UTS or occasionally based on Yield Strength (or in some cases involving fatigue, on the fatigue endurance strength).
Generally use a larger FoS if:
There is little information about one or more of the factors above.
Failure would have serious consequences, such as loss of life.
Increasingly now computers are being used to provide more accurate simulation of stresses that occur in components, particularly in the case of high value products where safety and saving weight is essential - aircraft and automotive.
In these critical applications, manufactured components will sometimes be tested to assess the reliability of the material and the manufacturing techniques. For some applications the efforts that go into large scale operations mean that much lower FoS are used for these than can be used for routine daily working - An example of this is lifting operations and cranes.
The FoS, also sometimes known as the design factor of safety, nd or n, may be determined in terms of the material's ultimate tensile stress (UTS) or the yield stress:
n = strength / stress, or FoS = UTS / design stress
It should be noted that the above disussion is satisfactory for linear systems where the stress is proportional to the
load. However for situations where buckling or instability is a possibility, the stress and load are NOT linearly related,
then the design factor or factor of safety MUST be based on loads, ie:
Return to Module Introduction.
David J Grieve, Revised 5th October 2010, Original: 19th July 2001.