Advanced Materials & Processes

NOV-DEC 2013

Covers developments in engineering materials selection, processing, fabrication, testing/characterization, materials engineering trends, and emerging technologies, industrial and consumer applications, as well as business and management trends

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Fig. 3 – Zwick roboTest R with 6-axis industrial robot for automated testing of metal specimens. An optional cross-section measurement device incorporates three transducers to measure width and thickness. Roughly 80% of applications using Zwick robotic testing systems involve destructive testing. 450 robotic testing systems worldwide. Just as exact reproducibility of a given product was a key benefit of successful large scale manufacturing, the same is true in the world of test and measurement. Eliminating operator influence delivers high test result reproducibility and reduces test result scatter, adds Kaifler. For example, operator influence introduces challenges such as unintentional errors in the measurement of specimen thickness. One reason is that test programs often call for multiple human operators to engage with the testing system. Each operator may measure specimens in a slightly different manner, for varying reasons, including environmental effects such as temperature and moisture that result from physical handling of test specimens. Specimen alignment errors represent yet another aspect of human error that can occur during testing. Alignment errors may result during specimen clamping with an incorrect grip angle, inconsistent clamping length, or off-center clamps. Humans are also subject to conditions that robotic systems are not, such as operator fatigue and poor habits that can result from extended periods of routine testing. In contrast, the 24/7 aspect of automated testing allows testing to be performed continuously—during nights or weekends without breaks—elevating test throughput and increasing test lab efficiency. Using automated testing routines to process large quantities of specimens also enables lab managers to optimize the way highly trained workers are deployed, redirecting valuable staff resources away from routine work to focus on more complex tasks. In addition to increasing accuracy, maximizing resources, and reducing human error, automation delivers a strong return on investment (Fig. 1). "Robotic testing systems deliver low per specimen testing costs that allow a sysADVANCED MATERIALS & PROCESSES • NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2013 21

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