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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tem to pay for itself in as little as two years," says Kaifler. Flexibility of the automated testing platform to accommodate varying customer requirements is a crucial factor. Test systems must be able to integrate a variety of customer-specific instruments, such as scales, cameras, and hardness testers, into the process (Fig. 2). "Flexibility of the measurement and control software is an essential aspect of performing complex parallel processing of specimens, but in all cases it's a matter of weighing pros like smoother daily lab operation and cons such as an upfront effort to robotize handling procedures," notes Kaifler. How robotic systems work Parallel processing from a central specimen distribution point enables fast evaluation of several specimen characteristics such as hardness and cross-section measurement, reducing the time required to run each test. Central specimen distribution, coupled with intelligent features of the test equipment, allows "fast" specimens to overtake "slow" ones. Consider this example of an automated procedure involving tensile and hardness testing of steel plates. The process begins with a robot equipped with a mechanical grip, and a testing machine. An operator places multiple test specimens in a magazine and inputs test parameters. After the operator fills the magazine, the system independently ensures proper specimen feeding. Barcode or matrix code readers may be used to maintain reliable specimen identification and positive test result assignment. The robotic arm extracts a specimen and positions it in the test system where the metal plate is held in a chuck. Forces exerted on the sample appear on screen and are stored in the system as well. As part of the system, Zwick's testXpert software can record all data relevant to the test, operator, and environmental conditions, explains Kaifler. With regard to plastics, the most common mechanical tests include tensile, flexure, and notched impact according to Charpy and Izod. Zwick's robotic Polar testing system performs all three tests at the same time. Operators simply load a magazine with the three different types of specimens and the robot handles each specimen for all further steps. The system includes an industrial robot with a pneumatically operated gripper. After the specimen is taken from the magazine, a crosssection measurement is made. Specimens requiring a notched impact test are taken directly into the pendulum impact tester, while tensile specimens are clamped in pneumatic grips of the tensile testing machine. In this setup, the tensile tester is equipped with an extensometer for measuring strain, featuring high resolution measurement accuracy and a large measurement range (Figs. 4 and

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