Robert Strehle, Global Marketing Manager for Academia at Zwick/Roell, talks to AZoM about trends in academic research and how these will impact new discoveries in materials science.
Zwick has had an emphasis on academia for some time and it is notable that the company established an industry manager role to focus on the needs of researchers. Please tell us a bit about your role as an industry manager for the academic sector.
In 2009, I took over the role as an industry manager focusing on academia and since then I have had the opportunity to visit hundreds of universities around the world. The visits supported my involvement in ongoing projects and provided me with detailed insights into the needs and problems of researchers and lecturers. Taking these insights back to our product management teams has really enabled us to further improve our products and services. In short, this process has increased our awareness of customer needs within academia and has allowed us to develop solutions that best suit those needs.
I recall that Zwick offers an annual award to recognize outstanding achievement in academic research. Could you tell us more about this and perhaps share some details about this year’s recognition event?
The year 2009 also represents the year we introduced our annual Zwick Science Award. The program is designed to reward young scientists for outstanding achievements in the field of materials and component testing. Up to now we received more than 500 published scientific papers. For me it is a difficult but enjoyable task, assessing all the entries in order to determine an annual shortlist for our panel of judges. With all this information we get a much better understanding of the scientific developments in materials research.
Besides this, the award program stimulates new ideas for testing methods and tools. One example of this can be found in the 2011 submission from a student from Nihon University in Japan. The subject of the paper was a biaxial tensile testing apparatus and the submission was awarded with the 2nd place prize. As a result of the student’s entry, we entered into an agreement with the university to build this testing fixture and we now offer it as a standard product.
Together with the Zwick Science Award we also established an annual Zwick Academia Day where we organize a small scientific conference that includes the award ceremony to formally recognize the winners of the Zwick Science Award. During this event, the winners also have the opportunity to present their paper to an international audience. The next Zwick Academia Day will take place at the Czech Academy of Science in Prague on the 26th of April.
What are some of the trends you have spotted in academic research and how do you see these impacting new discoveries of the behavior of materials?
There many trends to see in the different fields and it would be difficult to name them all. One trend is to use smaller samples for testing because of different reasons. Some of those reasons may include exploration of scaling effects, a scarcity of material to apply to testing purposes, or the need to test small parts of components. Smaller test samples, sometimes only a few millimeters in size are introducing new challenges for testing equipment. Applications in this space require very precise elongation measurement, which we can address with our laserXtens compact extensometer.
This extensometer offers resolution down to 0.04µm, eases the setup process, and delivers outstanding alignment in the gripping system. To develop the gripping system for these micro specimens, we have a cooperation with the University of Applied Science in Luzern, Switzerland. A graduate student there developed a design for such a micro sample gripping system which we have licensed and now offer as a standard product in our portfolio.
Zwick offers solutions that are designed with academic research in mind. Would you please describe what motivated the company to introduce these products and the benefits they offer?
In this case we also have many examples, so I will focus on discussing one. In 2014, we designed a mobile universal testing machine for teaching, which we called teachXpert. It is a zwickiLine machine fully integrated in a cart. The resulting system is mobile—enabling it to be moved between different lecture halls, classrooms and labs. The first customer for this product, a university in Norway, is now using this machine for research as well as for the teaching of their students.
In addition to teachXpert, you also offer the testXpert II measurement and control software platform. Would you take us through some application examples that demonstrate how a customer at a university might use the software for research?
With testXpert® II, we offer the most versatile and sophisticated software for materials testing. Elements that are of particular benefit to scientists are the program’s capabilities that allow the customer to define and setup custom testing methods and algorithms.
The Graphical Sequence Editor in testXpert II enables the user to quickly and easily initiate changes in the test sequence to accomplish specific measurement objectives. The intuitive interface offers drag-and-drop functionality to make custom sequencing a simple task.
We also offer an easy-to-use programming language with our Zwick Interpreter for Materials Testing (ZIMT) script. ZIMT enables customers in academia to access all test data and functions within testXpert II. This powerful utility allows them to define their own calculations, such as test results, formula channels, and more.
Another option we offer for academia is complete, turnkey integration with external channels. Our testControl II control system makes it easy to integrate any sensors such as a strain gages, transducers, LVDTs and more in real time—with full time synchronization. The result is the possibility to fully incorporate external channels as part of the control loop. Such capability can support new discoveries of material behavior.
With our video capture functionality, any test can be captured and also time synchronized for review after the test. This offers researchers the opportunity to visually analyze the test with video input and measurement data in full synchronization. The visual elements, combined with the evolution of the data, lend tremendous support for lecture material enabling lecturers to present different material phenomena in the classroom.
Another aspect that academia appreciates is the user management feature in testXpert II. User management allows the testing machine to support complex research as well as practical exercises for students. Various functions can be turned off for student use, delivering only those functions needed for instruction while safeguarding the testing machine.
These examples represent just a few of the functions which users around the world have reported to me as being valuable toward the daily use of Zwick machines.
It is also worth noting that we offer, exclusively for universities, a special software package program with all-inclusive functionality. The package includes our testXpert® II Education Module, the market’s only commercially available interactive learning software that operates with a virtual testing Machine VTM. Customers in academia find this to be invaluable for the education and training of students in materials testing. A final feature worth noting is the incorporation of 500 different standard test programs to cover most of the standardized testing methods according to ISO, ASTM, JIS, GB, DIN, and more.
If you were to select three areas of research that are poised to contribute to major advancements in the next three to five years, what would they be?
We are seeing some ground breaking work in high temperature testing to develop new materials for engines and turbines.
The aims of this work are to increase efficiency and to support new power plant generation like the Advanced Ultra-Supercritical (A-USC) Power Plants. Certainly another area of emphasis is the development lightweight materials such as novel alloys and the exploration of new production methods for those materials to support usage in industry. There have been breakthroughs recently with 3D printing of materials beyond those which are polymer-based and we expect this work to continue, especially as the automotive industry increases adoption of novel materials. A final area that I would say will support important work in the coming years is the improvement of simulation algorithms by more detailed and advanced parameters.
About Robert Strehle
Robert Strehle is global marketing manager for Academia at Zwick/Roell. He joined Zwick sixteen years ago and has held several positions directly related to the conceptualization and development of new products. Prior to his current position, Strehle spent 3 years in software application development and 5 years in a product management role with a focus on the testXpert® and testXpert® II software platforms and the testControl controller for Zwick testing machines. He holds a Dipl. Phys. degree which is the equivalent of a Master of Science in Physics. He also holds a degree in Business with a concentration in Marketing.
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