Insights from industry

Addressing Challenges in Materials Testing Using Modern Software And Electronics

AZoM talks to Manfred Goblirsch, Software Product Manager at Zwick GmbH, about the role of software in the materials testing process, the capabilities that need to be considered and the benefits good software can provide.

Could you briefly describe how the connection between Zwick testing systems and the software that comes with them enables engineers to accomplish their objectives in testing?

At Zwick we emphasize exceptional quality in engineering and this philosophy is equally applicable to software as well as hardware. Our approach to the development of testXpert II has emphasized the balance between powerful analytical capabilities with intuitive design. We recognize that our customers are responding to changes in their respective markets, which at times means changing roles for individuals within the test lab.

When a test lab is evaluating the capabilities of a testing system, how essential is it that the testing software be included in the assessment?

Software is of critical importance to the selection of a solution for materials, component and function testing. The measurement and control software governs every action undertaken by the testing system and working together with the electronics, it is what delivers the functionality that is required by the user.

All software elements, from the architecture and its capacity to support complex algorithms demanded by some of the more challenging applications, to flexibility such as accepting external channels and handling data export to customer proprietary applications, are involved in supporting test procedures within today’s labs.

Modern conveniences, such as user management capabilities that prescribe privilege restrictions and allowances at various user levels, are growing increasingly important to lab supervisors who must shift lab resources several times throughout the day to manage workflow. In addition, automatic unit conversion ensures that the software speaks the customer’s language. Units are presented in the accordance with the industry standard.

As companies seek to standardize testing protocols and methods across sites around the globe, we have also established products to maximize an organization’s potential to synchronize the process of testing – leading to a reduction in errors and vastly enhanced consistency. Our corporate software licensing program enables a company with global test sites to centralize testing protocols and subsequently dispatch them to various sites within the company network.

Our customers have also indicated that this functionality is particularly helpful in coordinating round robin tests. With a corporate software license, a central lab can also specify the appearance of the user interface and scale this out globally.

Testing labs seem to be constantly responding to changes and managing constraints as demands for testing increase. What are some examples of efficiencies that may be gained through the application of testing software?

Fluidity within the user base translates to increased requirements for ease of use and we have responded with elegant simplicity that enables a customer to commence testing within seconds of engaging the setup process.

While responding to changing needs at the user level has supplied motivation for the simplicity of the testXpert II user interface, there are other factors that have influenced the design as well. Perhaps most prominent among these is enhancing test efficiency. Increasingly, customers are calling for greater throughput, which means they look to us for solutions that will assist them in accomplishing more with their testing systems.

We have designed testXpert II to maximize testing efficiency, incorporating elements that save time in the setup process. With testXpert II, the test environment is stored, so the user simply engages the tools that are to be used and the software automatically recalls the load cell, grips or platens, movement direction, extensometer, hard limits, soft limits and the test space. Intelligent testing has never been easier and this translates to tangible value in high throughput areas such as quality control.

International testing standards play a large role in determining the scope of requirements that systems must be capable of supporting. How does Zwick’s testXpert II measurement and control software support customer needs for compliance with standards?

With more than 500 test programs available, testXpert II supplies test engineers with the capability to perform tests in compliance with over 900 standards. Simply select the standard you require and start the test procedure, testXpert II takes care of all the details.

Another feature that assists customers operating in high throughput environments is the availability of a Standard Test Program. Standard Test Programs pre-store protocols in accordance with specific standards, taking the guesswork out of the test setup process.

For labs that run a wide range of standards, a Master Test Program is available to support a host of standards for tensile, compression, flexure, tear, cyclic, melt flow, pendulum impact, and hardness tests. As testXpert II is the common measurement and control software platform across all Zwick testing solutions, customers are able to switch easily from one system to another.

Industry regulation influences how various sectors manage testing programs. How does testing software support customer compliance with industry regulations and what are some of the elements of testXpert II that may be applied in this area?

While prominent in most industries, regulation plays an integral role in the commercialization of biomedical products and the design and manufacture of new aircraft. In the medical industry, stringent regulatory environments require the ability to maintain accurate records of the testing procedures and results.

Recordkeeping requirements are described under FDA 21 CFR Part 11. Part 11 requires pharmaceutical manufacturers and medical device manufacturers, biotech companies and other FDA-regulated industries to implement controls, including audits, system validations, audit trails, electronic signatures, and documentation for software and systems involved in processing electronic data that are required to be maintained by FDA predicate rules or used to demonstrate compliance to a predicate rule.

To support the needs for rigorous maintenance of test data, Zwick has established a unique electronic recordkeeping function within the testXpert II software. This function provides complete digital documentation of all safety critical tests. Test results can be automatically stored in the customer’s database through the standard Windows ODBC interface as well as the traditional ASCII format, further improving the data integrity.  

In the aerospace industry, the substantial investment level involved in qualifying new materials requires thorough analysis and completion of a wide range of tests in accordance with industry standards. Fiber-reinforced composites, which are increasingly sought for their unique strength and corrosion resistance qualities, consist of thin fiber which are either directionally or randomly oriented and therefore must be characterized with different tests according to the main fiber direction.

Our testXpert II software supports compliance with over 100 standards that range from international testing standards to those established by individual airframe manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus.

Zwick has recently introduced testing systems that operate on a new electronics platform. Could you explain how the new electronics and the software work together to establish value for customers?

Each of our systems run testXpert II measurement and control software and with these latest upgrades, now all of our testing systems operate on the testControl II electronics platform. With this modern electronics platform, test engineers have access to rich data acquisition and control loop rates, which enable the detection of specific phenomena such as the onset of brittle failure in ceramics or the initiation of crack propagation in metal alloys.

The testControl II electronics also delivers exceptional flexibility, with 6 available slots for additional load cells, extensometers, and temperature chambers.

With these upgraded systems, test labs now also have access to enhanced safety features and machine ergonomics for smooth, secure operation. European machine safety directive requirements are becoming increasingly stringent and the design of our new zwicki-Line and ProLine systems is in complete compliance. We have engineered additional security into our standard safety features, such as the braking mechanisms.

Two safety channel circuits allow the operator to be certain that the machine will stop when the safety button is pushed. In addition, there is now a key at the base of the controller which provides a clear separation between setup and test. This is a lockdown feature – meaning it is only possible to change the safety parameters while the machine is in setup mode. With a quick turn of the key, the machine moves into test mode.

We have also taken safety a step further, with sensor technology that responds to sudden force. Should an operator exert a force on the upper fixture or load cell while the machine is in testing mode, the system automatically stops. We designed this capability into our new systems following feedback from lab supervisors that operators attempt grip or fixture changes with the crosshead in motion in an effort to save time during changeovers.

So we incorporated this feedback into our design process to deliver products that meet the highest standards for safety in operation.

About Manfred Goblirsch

Manfred Goblirsch

As the product manager for Zwick’s testXpert II software, Goblirsch creates and maintains roadmaps that weave together customer application requirements with modern electronics capabilities in the context of a software environment for both measurement and control.

Goblirsch’s roots in software development trace back to his start with the company in the late 1990s, when he worked as an application engineer in a specialized area of the business. Pairing customer needs with mechanical design attributes and specific elements of the software, Goblirsch established a knack for delivering unique functionality. When taking a break from software development, he enjoys sailing.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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