Automation, the only way forward for concrete testing
Concrete
2020/05/13 - 3 minutes read
John Lamond
General Manager | CONTROLS USA

1. Do I need to test my concrete samples to EN, ASTM or AASHTO standards?
The obvious answer is, of course, a resounding YES, but merely stating the obvious will not always win you that testing or material supply contract. Having an up-to-date certificate stating your machine is “calibrated” and a file showing every employee is certified to test the compressive strength of a cylinder does not guarantee compliance.

For many years, manually controlled machines were the industry standard where the full compliance of the applied load to failure was literally at the hands of the operator. We know that the resistance result of the samples can contain errors of up to 15% or more if the applied load rate is too fast or too slow, and the only way to guarantee a constant and correct load rate is through automatic load rate control systems.

Concrete compression machines with fully automatic load control takes the responsibility away from the operator and puts it firmly where it belongs…on the machine — to produce consistent, repeatable specimen testing. Time after time after time.

Every sample is loaded in the same way — every time — regardless of which technician is working on the machine. The technology is available, it is not new, and does not need to cost more than a manually-controlled machine.


2. How do I need to report my sample test results?
The question is not as simple as you may think. Results can be reported in a multitude of ways to many different people, your client, the QC Manager, project engineer, state DOT or the Production Manager…

They take the numbers as presented on the report as true and accurate. But how many hands has that data passed through before it gets to your client, QC Manager or state DOT engineer?

The technician who tests the cylinder writes the strength on the worksheet, who passes it to an admin or lab supervisor who then enters the data onto a spreadsheet, who passes it up the line to the client or QC Manager. How long does this process take? 24 hours? 48 hours? Sometimes even longer if tested on a Friday or before a national holiday.

We live in an age of immediate information. You send an e-mail; you expect an answer. Batching information allows you to collect all the results immediately. For example, batch weights, water content, delivery time, E-ticketing: all this information is gathered and can be transmitted instantaneously if needed. So why should you wait days for a test result that is a simple calculation of load over cross-sectional area from a machine that completes the test automatically?

Well the good news is: you don’t. You can have the electronically signed, fully calculated strength test report complete with stress/time plot the very second the test is finished. And delivered straight to the person of your choice. No manual calculation, no spreadsheets, no time delay, no possibility of error in data transfer because there isn’t one. A pdf report is automatically produced and delivered immediately.


3. How much of my technician’s time would that save?
Potentially hours of your technician’s time as the manual recording of data is no longer needed.
Check our article about "Time is Money"


4. Will I only be testing a specific sample type now and in the future?
Using a compression machine with automatic load control and automatic reporting will increase your testing rate, improve productivity and reduce the potential for reporting errors for the volume of your testing which are cylinders or cubes.

All of these benefits can also be transferred to any other type of sample you test on your machine. If you find the need to test 2-inch mortar cubes, or need a splitting test on a cylinder, or test a beam in flexural mode the same automatic loading and reporting is used.

Pick the correct ASTM or EN Standard, the sample size, set the sample and press START…then let the technology take over.

If you need to add a second or third frame for any reason such as low strength concrete or large beams to be tested in flexure, the frame can be added and controlled from the original machine.


5. Do I need to get rid of my frame bought a few years ago even though it is still working and in calibration?
No, because the beauty of automatic load control technology is that the control is the important element, not the frame. Any frame in reasonable condition, from any brand can be upgraded to automatic control with relative ease and at a reasonable cost.
The investment you made those years ago need not be wasted but enhanced to meet the demands of 21st century testing.


6. Will my calibrator be able to work with this technology?
100% yes. The automatic load control and software also make for a more efficient, simpler and quicker calibration procedure than needed with a manual machine. Every technician who has had the opportunity to calibrate an automatic machine has been impressed with the ease of the procedure and reported how stable and quick the machine can be calibrated.


7. Will your lab still be relevant to your customers tomorrow?
The testing that you offer or perform today may not be what is required by your customers tomorrow. Looking to the future when considering the technology you invest in now could bring rewards through more advanced testing, increased competitiveness and revenue.

Testing such as Modulus of Elasticity (Elastic Modulus or Young’s modulus) or on Fiber Reinforced Concrete (FRC) are not uncommon these days but do require a level of control and reporting not offered by manual machines.

The benefits of automatic load control go far beyond the machine performance and can impact positively on your business. Improved productivity, greater reliability and confidence in your test data, quicker and more efficient reporting, just to name a few, could not only save you money but also give you greater opportunities to make some more...

Purchasing a new compression machine is a significant investment and must be well considered before taking any decisions.

 

Before embarking on your next machine purchase or upgrade, download and complete a short Compression Machine Buyers’ Guide Checklist, it will help you come prepared when starting your investigations.
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