Richard Goshgarian, market manager for the global plastics testing market at Instron, talks to AZoM about the three main challenges associated with plastic testing.
Please could you provide a brief introduction to the three main challenges associated with plastic testing?
Challenge 1: Compliance to Test Standards – Changes and Misconceptions
We are finding that more and more customers are not following standards correctly, and our research showed that much of the time this is as a result of the customer simply not being aware of changes made to standards, or to misinterpretation of the standard itself. Some of the implications that result from this can be failed audits, lost time investigating why results from different labs do not agree, and production delays. We want to raise awareness of the misconceptions in compliance to testing standards, and help our customers to avoid these common pitfalls.
Challenge 2: Factors that Influence Results
In addition to standards-related issues, not everyone who operates test systems necessarily has an extensive understanding of materials testing; particularly the factors that influence results (negatively or positively). Even expert level employees are often not aware of some of the less obvious factors that can result in testing issues, for example, even the heat generated from an operator’s fingers can significantly influence results for some plastics materials. This can mean that factors such as whether or not the operator wears gloves, or the length of time that they handle specimens for, could be increasing the variability of results.
Challenge 3: Efficiency/Throughput
Finally, the third challenge relates to system efficiency and throughput. There is a wide variety of different testing systems and accessories available in the market to help customers ensure compliancy with key standards such as ISO 527-2. However, the types of systems and accessories used can have a great impact on efficiency. For example, the use of an automatic extensometer versus a clip on extensometer, or the use of alignment aids on grips (and many more!) could significantly improve a lab’s throughput. We want to help our customers to achieve optimum efficiency and reduce their test related costs by advising them on the changes they could be making to their processes. Essentially, a very small change can make a big difference and does not need to be a costly or difficult process. The video below demonstrates this point perfectly:
Instron recently conducted extensive research into these areas. What did that involve and how has it shaped your approach?
Much of the research Instron conducted was to validate and quantify the points raised in challenges #2 and #3; this involved months of both controlled and blind experiments, followed by lab visits across the globe to share our findings. The response from our customers to the presentation of our findings was incredible; in many cases we discovered that the labs we were visiting were experiencing the exact same challenges that we had identified in our research but had not been able to establish the cause of the issues that they were experiencing. As a result of our research we were able to assist these customers in the resolution of months of testing issues in just a few days.
Why is it important to comply with the latest standards and how is Instron helping their customer achieve this?
The goal of any standard is to provide instructions and guidelines around a test so that different companies, labs, or operators are able to test in the same manner, thus allowing the ability to compare results. If all tests were conducted differently, then key information such as material datasheets and part specifications would offer virtually no value.
To help our customers to comply with the latest standards we have been offering free educational assistance to anyone that would like it. Most recently this has led us to host a series of seminars, webinars and masterclasses across the globe, all focused around testing to ISO 527-2. These have been greatly received by the customers affected by the changes to this standard and we will continue to offer this assistance for a variety of different testing standards moving forwards.
Our brand new website (launched at the beginning of this year) also hosts the largest database of testing solutions yet, all of which can be freely accessed by customers.
Why is it important to understand the many factors that can influence a result?
Not having this knowledge makes it very difficult to obtain accurate and/or repeatable results. This in turn often leads to lower confidence in results, both for a lab’s personnel and for a lab’s customers, both internally and externally. Countless time can also be lost when someone without this knowledge tries to troubleshoot data-related issues as time spent troubleshooting problems or re-running experiments is effectively deemed as downtime or as lost opportunity for the lab. It is true that some issues can be resolved easily, but often there can be no obvious clues that suggest what the issue may be. This fact, in combination with there being many different possible factors, is what can make it so challenging for test labs and personnel to resolve issues in a timely manner.
How do you help your customers understand these factors and what changes can be made to ensure a lower risk during testing?
Similar to how we are educating customers on standards and compliance related issues, we are providing education around best practices, the factors that influence results, and the many ways to find a resolution. This includes the seminars, webinars, training courses and testing solutions assistance mentioned above, but also includes dedicated web content providing information on the 3 main challenges in plastics testing that we have identified.
Once customers understand what is causing variability, or high or low results, then the solution is very straightforward; more often than not we find that it will involve simple procedural or technique-related changes. It’s important to note here that not all grips, fixtures, and extensometers are created equal; there are numerous solutions such as pneumatic grips, specimen alignment aids, and automatic extensometers, which eliminate many of the manual processes an operator must endure, which are often the cause of data-related issues.
These solutions are certainly beneficial for labs that rely on multiple operators, have experienced high turnover, or have little time to train new operators. I will point out though that even when using these solutions proper technique is critical for achieving repeatable and accurate results. That is, of course, with the exception of fully automated testing systems, which effectively removes all external sources of variability aside from the variability within the test specimens themselves.
Many industries are time poor. How does Instron ensure that its customers increase throughput and save valuable time?
In my opinion, improving efficiency, increasing throughput, lowering cycle time and reducing testing related costs all fall under the same bucket. Luckily for most labs, it is often possible to make significant improvements without even having to purchase any further equipment.
Efficiency gains can be achieved in a variety of different ways, as well as within different components of testing. What I mean by this is that it’s not just the actual test that consumes time, as the time it takes to setup a system, change fixtures, create methods, analyse results, and create reports all add up.
As mentioned above, labs can choose from a variety of different systems and accessories which may be compliant to a specific standard, but not all accessories and equipment are created equal. Some accessories, such as automatic grips or automatic extensometers can significantly reduce test time and eliminate steps, and averaging and entering specimen dimensions into the test software can be streamlined or automated. The latter capability is actually standard in our software offering but often not utilized. Dimensional measurement is often the longest component of testing and can be reduced by 50% when automated!
How does Instron’s expertise in this area resonate through the development of the systems you offer?
Instron is a very customer centric company and our goal has always been to provide customers with the best ownership experience possible. In order to ensure that the Instron experience is the best, we need to understand what our customers value the most; appreciating both their pain points and their goals. We use this feedback to ensure that our product and service offerings are aligned with what our customers feel is most important. For this reason, the majority of our products, accessories, and services reflect the 3 challenges research, as well as other customer-centric priorities. One thing that we feel differentiates us from most other manufacturers is that many of our solutions are features not options, meaning that they are not “extra”. This is especially true when it comes to our software, where we include things like test method briefs in with our test methods. These explain in detail what is required by the standard to ensure that customers do not accidently overlook critical requirements.
Are there any recent case studies where a customer has benefited from Instron’s knowledge in these areas that you are particularly proud of?
We have received a lot of positive feedback and expressions of gratitude from those we visited but also from those that attended our webinars and seminars, some of which were not Instron customers. It is always a great feeling when we are able to help customers overcome challenges or problems that many have been assumed as inevitable or “just the way it was”. There are many specific cases I could share, but I would have to say that I am most proud of the sheer volume of people we have helped. We have presented to hundreds of people and only a handful at best could claim they went away without learning something.
Where can our readers learn more about the challenges in plastic testing?
The best place to learn more about the challenges is through a seminar or live webinar, as this allows us to address a customer’s specific questions then and there. However, for those that cannot attend, we also have our webinars recorded and available on our dedicated webinar library. Additionally we have a web page dedicated to the 3 challenges information specifically, but anyone reading this that recognises these types of challenges within their own lab should feel free to contact us directly. We’re here to help!
About Richard Goshgarian
Richard Goshgarian is currently Instron’s Market Manager for the Global Plastics Testing Market. He has worked at Instron for over 11 years in roles ranging from Applications Engineering, to Product Management, and Market Management. Richard holds a BSc in Plastics Engineering as well as an MBA, both attained at the University of Massachusetts. Richard is also an active member of both the ASTM and ISO organisations and continues to work hard to ensure Instron’s compliancy with key standards across the plastics market. Prior to Instron, Richard worked at Honda R&D as a materials engineer, where he focused on the development of plastics materials and interior automotive parts.
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