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Three Important Considerations Before You Buy a Materials Tester

Three Important Considerations Before You Buy a Materials Tester
By: Toby Rogers, Director of Lloyd Instruments Materials Testing Equipment and Chatillon Force Testing Instruments

Material tester, friction tester, peel tester, compression tester, or tensile tester - material testing machines go by many names. So, when users need to find the best machine to test their products, the market can appear to be a difficult one to navigate. 

There are some basic criteria that users should keep in mind when making a material tester purchasing decision. These criteria include cost, quality and application. In addition, there are a range of other factors that should be considered. They include flexibility, ease of use, and adaptability.

Along with those factors, there are specific instrument characteristics to consider. Among them are the size of the work area, the suitability of the instrument’s software for the application, the adaptability of the instrument to future needs, and the instrument manufacturer’s ability to provide aftermarket training and support.

What application need does the material tester satisfy? How much should the machine cost? How do you evaluate the different material testing machines on the market to determine which one is the right one? Will the machine that is right for today also be the right choice in the future?

When it comes to choosing the right material tester, here’s what should be considered before making the purchase:

1 - Basic Criteria: 

A good quality material tester itself is not enough if users want to make sure they get the best material tester at the best price. The combination of the material tester and its testing software is what users need to be aware of when buying a machine to perform stable and reliable tests. While the material tester performs the actual test, it is the material testing software that calculates and stores the test results. It also should be able to transfer and integrate that data to user’s own analysis software. 

If application requirements change over time, users can save by investing in a material tester that comes with a comprehensive software package that allows them to perform many different types of tests, without needing to make additional investments or to purchase new software modules. 

Having a software with the flexibility to adapt to changing needs is a major benefit. Acquiring additional material testing software modules every time testing needs change can end up becoming a costly affair. Some material testers today come with a comprehensive software package as a standard.

Materials Testing Software Package
Image: Software package

Ease of Use
Users should always remember to try the material tester before they buy, so they know whether the tester’s design is suitable and its software package is intuitive and meets their application requirements. Most modern material testers offer a standards library that can with a single click configure the machine to test according to a specific international standard. If a user needs a special test setup, some material testers have a built-in wizard that guides the user through the test setup, so that it can be easily and quickly configured for unusual or complex tests.

2 - Product Specifics: 

Work Area
To future proof a solution, users should make certain to choose a tester with a large work area (tall and wide). That way, if there is a need to test larger specimens in the future, they will not be limited by the size of the work area. If the user works with very large specimens, choosing a machine that is compatible with Pogos is worth considering. By adding a Pogo to a test system, users can increase the work area significantly. 

Note: Some machines are compatible with Pogos from the start, so even though a user does not need the Pogo right away, adding one later is possible. This is an additional benefit should the need arise. With some machines, a user may need to add the Pogo when it is bought or may have to buy a new machine built for Pogos later to solve a need. Alternatively, a user may have to spend money on an upgrade to prepare the machine to use a Pogo.

Software Modules
Users should select a machine that offers a wide range of built-in software modules if needs change over time. By having more modules available upfront, users will have flexibility and avoid additional costs if or when their testing needs change. 

Automation Ready
Users should consider choosing a test machine that is optimized for automated testing. That way they can save money by optimizing their workflow. They should make certain to choose a machine that features a CANBUS interface as this will make for better communication between add-on accessories and help to ensure faster speeds and accuracy.

LD Series Dual Column Test Machine for Automated Testing
Image: Materials tester optimized for automation

Easy Mounting 

Future testing needs may require the use of accessories such as splinter shields and extensometers. Some machines have easy mounting slots that makes it quick and easy to add those accessories. This saves time and helps to ensure that the accessories are properly added/installed and will not fall off during test.

Materials Tester Mounting Slots
Image: Mounting slots

Materials Tester with Splinter Shield
Image: Materials tester with splinter shield

3 – Actual Needs: 

Future Needs
When considering the purchase of a material tester it is a good thing to think about future testing needs. Do users plan to expand their product range? If so, it is important that the material tester has sufficient capacity for future requirements. As a rule of thumb, one can safely assume that a material tester will be able to take smaller load cells than the ones it has attached when it was purchased.

Be Realistic About Needs
There is a material tester for every need. Consider what tests it needs to perform. If they are advanced or must meet specific standards, then a material tester with high assurance documentation, traceability, reliability and accuracy is what the buyer should go for. However, if test results can be done within a wide margin, then there is no reason to invest in the most expensive model on the market. If there is uncertainty regarding future needs, consider contacting a specialist for advice in identifying the right material tester.

LD Series - Bench mounted
Image: Advanced dual column tester with extra wide work area and capacity up to 100 kN

CS2 Series Force Testing Machine
Image: Force tester with capacity up to 5 kN

Think Long Term
When choosing a material testing machine look for a stable partner who can be there to provide after-sales support. Training, service and support are key considerations. Make certain that the manufacturer has been in the market for a long time and can provide skilled professionals who know the industry, understand the specific challenges and how to overcome them. 

Materials Testing Training
Image: Training

Consider Upgrading

If the choice is between two model sizes, consider if it might be worth the extra cost to buy a larger model to ensure that the user can use the same machine if testing needs change or a larger-capacity machine might be needed over time. There often is the temptation initially to purchase a smaller model with fewer features and capabilities to save money now. If there is a chance that the need for more capacity should arise later, a user may have to buy an additional machine and end up with a far-more expensive solution in the long run.