Automated Materials Testing from Tinius Olsen

Tinius Olsen introduces the next evolution of mechanical testing incorporated with automated testing options. As part of a testing solution, a range of options exist with regards to what kinds of tests are performed, and at what capacity, when automated testing is discussed. The different testing options that could be taken into consideration for an automated testing solution most often include not just a horizontal or vertical tensile test, but also a flexural test, and/or a hardness test (select one or many scales), and/ or any other type of physical testing equipment that can report importable test data to Tinius Olsen Horizon software.

The main advantage with all Tinius Olsen’s automated materials testing solutions is the flexibility and control of the different test machines and testing that can be performed. Usually centered around a Tinius Olsen tensile tester, desired specimen volume throughput, the loading capacity, and range of tests performed can be scaled according to your needs.

Primary Test Station

Tinius Olsen’s central technology is tensile testing machinery; they have been manufacturing testing machines, testing for tensile strength, flexural strength, shear strength, compressive strength, peel strength….and many other physical parameters since the company was established in 1880. Many different technological advances have been witnessed by the company over the years. Some they have integrated into their testing machines, but none have been as sensational as the integrating of a robot with computer control and data analysis software.

At the center of all Tinius Olsen’s automated systems is a tensile tester. These testers can have either a vertical orientation, or, more typically for automated systems, a horizontal orientation and consist of an electromechanical tensile tester, which is available in a selection of full test capacities. Testing in the horizontal plane allows the use of a precision extensometer that makes the most of gravity to rest on, and follow, the specimen as it is pulled to break; using air bearings and a non-slip finish on the knife edges of the extensometer, one can easily realize Class A accuracy on the extensometer.

Alternatively, the primary test station could consist of a vertically oriented hydraulic testing machine. Using open front crossheads on the tester allows the robot to position the sample into the tester and the hydraulic grips can be easily closed. Extensometry is attained using either Tinius Olsen’s standard non-contacting extensometers or Tinius Olsen’s automatic clip on extensometer.

For lower force testing, this machine could be a standard electromechanical testing machine, using, for instance, pneumatic grips, whose operation can be regulated remotely.

Summary of Notable Features of Primary Test Station

  • Testing machines can be used in either stand-alone or combined into a robotic automated test cell
  • Specimen throughput can be enhanced to the capabilities of the testing machines
  • Machine loading capacity is not limited and can be either horizontal or vertical in operation, keeping footprint at ideal values

Specimen Storage Station

The central benefit of an integrated and robotic test system is the ability to analyze a huge number of specimens leaving operators available to conduct other types of quality tests. These large numbers of specimens have to be kept in such a way that allows easy access for the robotic arm to pick up the ‘next’ specimen. Storage systems can be simple specimen racks that are arranged in an arc around the robot arm so the robot moves around to grab the next specimen, or several large storage racks that are pneumatically moved into position so that the robot returns to the same place to take the next specimen.

Sample Identification Station

Once a specimen has been chosen, it is essential to know as much as possible about the specimen. Each specimen should be identified, usually, with a barcode. The barcode can hold unique information regarding the specimen and can be fed into the Horizon software. Alternatively, the barcode can activate an import of data into the Horizon software. Unique information for each specimen may include test parameters, identifiers, result limits or any other applicable data.

Dimensional Measurements

When the barcode information is being read and stored, the specimen thickness and width is measured in the reduced section of the specimen. The pneumatic arms on the thickness and width gauges are triggered and the measurements recorded. Once recorded, the robot lifts and moves the specimen and the thickness and width are measured for a second time. This is repeated a third time and the minimum values are recorded into the computer.

Safety and Security

The main factor to the whole automated robotic testing system is that it can work without manual intervention. While this by itself has many benefits, it presents a possibility of a risk to unfamiliar bystanders if the robot moves. To prevent any danger to operators and onlookers the whole testing system can be fenced by polycarbonate safety shielding, with specimen loading doors and interlocked access doors to prevent any unauthorized access.

Secondary Test Station

The secondary test station could actually be any type of physical test equipment, such as another tensile test frame working a flexural test on the specimen, a Rockell hardness test, Vicker, Knoop/Brinell, or a combination of these, or an impact test, etc. If space permits, there is no reason why a third or fourth test station cannot be added in the system. These extra stations could be a repeat of the primary and/or secondary station, so as to boost specimen throughput.

Robotic Handling

To make the whole system accurately automated, the engine that is at the center of the system, quite literally, is a robot. The robot has six axes of rotation and has a custom pneumatic hand that can pick up various specimen types. This hand can accommodate a range of different specimen sizes, shapes, and weight and the gripping force can be altered to guarantee secure specimen holding without risking the possible introduction of a stress point or weakening of the more delicate specimens.

The robot can be programmed so that it can transfer the specimen from station to station, rotating the specimen so it can be loaded either vertically, horizontally, or any angle in between, based on the requirements of each piece of testing equipment within the system.

System Control

While the robot is the “mechanical engine” of the automated system, it is Tinius Olsen’s Horizon software that operates as the “brains” of the automation system. Each piece of equipment can work autonomously and Horizon is monitoring and ordering each piece to complete the test.

Not only does it regulate the movement of the specimen through the various testing routines, but it also understands input from other external testers and will place these results into a comprehensive summary report.

Summary of Notable Features of Horizon Software

  • Total PC networking integration and backup across a PC network using industry standard SQL database structure
  • Multiple licensing of Horizon for numerous installations to review techniques, results, and reports away from the testing machine, lab, or plant
  • Multi-level user password capability
  • Recall function enables users to incorporate key data maybe unavailable, or missed, prior to the test
  • Live results during test; there is no restriction to the number of results exhibited and these need not be used in the test report
  • Integrated Team Viewer licenses enables TO engineers to log in directly, upon request, and offer on-machine technical support
  • With adequate PC power and bandwidth, many testing machines can be operated from one PC
  • Users can use pre-written international standards techniques as templates to alter and design their own test techniques

System Integration and Operation

Hardware Requirements for Horizon

  • 2 GHz Pentium Dual Core or better
  • 8 GB RAM
    • Using multiple testing machines may require extra memory and/or a faster processor
    • 32-bit systems are limited to a maximum of 4 GB of which only 3.25 GB is available due to system overheads
  • 512 MB DirectX 10.0 capable video card or better
    • A non-integrated Video Card is recommended for best performance
  • 40 GB of available hard disk space (minimum)
    • NOTE: SQL Server 2012 Express (installs with Horizon) requires a minimum of 6 GB
  • Machine Communication
    • RS232 Machines (i.e. 398, SR2, S-Series, T-Series, 602, MP993, MP600, Impact, and HDV):
    • 1 port per testing machine is required. The port may be either an integrated RS232 port or USB port using an RS232/USB adapter.
    • USB Machines (i.e. MP1200 and VMC controlled):
    • 1 USB port required per testing machine
  • Additional Ports
    • 1 USB Port for use with the software key (required)
    • Ports required for each measuring devices, barcode scanners, etc.
    • 1 USB Port and 1 DisplayPort if using Touch Screen purchased from Tinius Olsen
  • DVD-ROM Drive (to run installation DVD)
  • Mouse or pointing device and keyboard supported by Windows
  • Monitor
    • 32-bit color
    • 1600 x 900 (Widescreen) or higher
    • If a Touch Screen is used, Windows 8 (or above) is best
  • Windows compatible printer (for reporting capabilities)
  • Windows compatible sound card and speakers (for audio playback)
  • An active Internet connection (for TeamViewer use and Help Desk support) recommended

Hardware Requirements for Robot

  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit operating system
  • Intel i7 quad-core processor
  • 32 GB RAM
  • 4 GB video card

Software Requirements for Horizon

  • The Horizon Software is designed for 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems running Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8. It will not install on anything below these Operating Systems (i.e. Windows XP, Windows Vista SP1, Windows 7, etc.).
    • NOTE: A 64-bit Operating System is preferred for best performance
    • NOTE: If using Windows 8 (or higher) the “.NET Framework 3.5” Windows Feature MUST be enabled before attempting installation
  • Internet Explorer 8 or higher
  • Once installed, users must be granted full read\write access to the installed software folders (i.e. the “Horizon” and “Microsoft SQL Server” folders).

Automated Materials Testing from Tinius Olsen

Automated Materials Testing - Picture 1
150 kN capacity horizontal tensile tester with parallel hydraulic grips and a precision horizontal extensometer make this tester ideal for automation.
10 kN capacity tensile tester with pneumatic grips that can be controlled by Horizon software make this tester ideal for automation.
1000 kN hydraulic testing machine with open parallel hydraulic grips with an automatic variable gauge length extensometer (not shown) make this system ideal for automation.
Specimen racks arranged in an arc around the robot. The robot is programmed with all the specimen locations so it knows where to pick the next sample.
In this example the specimen racks are arranged on a pneumatically driven frame. The specimens are loaded into the racks and the racks moved into position. The specimens are driven to the same reference point so that robot selects the next specimen from the same location.
Results from a six station Deflection Temperature Under Load test run on an HDTM603.
Dimensional measurement station where the width and thickness of each specimen is measured.
In this particular example, the entire testing system was enclosed with polycarbonate safety screens.. Access to the specimen loading racks is achieved by a simple door/window, and the whole has one main door to allow access.
In this particular example the primary test station is the horizonal tensile tester on the left. The secondary test station here is the flexural test being performed on a standard electrmechanical tensile tester (see inset for detail). This particular configuration was used to test ASTM D638 specimens of polypropylene.
In the example below the primary test station is the hydraulic tensile tester on the right The secondary test station here is the automatic hardness tester on the left which is ready to perform a Rockwell hardness test.

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