You are on page 1of 4



TITLE: Compression Testing of Materials OBJECTIVE: To study and observe the techniques of the compression testing of various common materials. SPECIMENS: 1. Concrete cylinders; 2" in diameter x 4" high 2. Short wood column; 1" x 1" x 4" 3. Gray Iron cylinder; APPARATUS: 1. Universal testing machine - Vega - 20k machine 2. Dial Calipers 3. Hardened compression test plates and raising block REFERENCES: 1. Manufacturing Processes, H. V. Johnson, Bennett & McKnight, 2nd Ed., 1984,Unit 14, pp. 80-81. 2. Material and Processes in Manufacturing; Degarmo, Black and Kohser, Prentice Hall, Ch. 2, pp. 38-45, 7th Ed., 1997. 3. Materials Testing Laboratory Manual, Kazanas and Wallace, Bennett, 1st Ed., 1974, Laboratory Activity Number 1, pp. 16-20. 4. Materials Testing Laboratory Manual, Vega Enterprises Inc., 1975, Seventh Printing, pp. 46-51. 5. Modern Materials and Manufacturing Processes, R. G. Bruce, M. M. Tomovic, J. E. Neeley, and R. R. Kibbe, Prentice Hall, 2 nd Ed., 1987, pp. 55-60. BACKGROUND INFORMATION: There are four types of stresses that are studied for determining the strength of materials: tension, compression, shear and torsion. In the last laboratory activity we studied tension. It is often stated that materials behave the same in tension and compression. That is true for most ductile materials. However, there are some materials that are very weak in tension and extremely strong in compression. Concrete, wood and cast iron are materials that are mostly tested in compression.

A compression test is most commonly performed on a Universal Testing Machine. The compression space is the lower portion of the machine. Prior to the yield point tension and compression results are similar. The major difference with the compression test compared to the tensile test is that the specimen compresses or the area increases after the yield point is reached. For some ductile materials the specimen will compress until a flat slug is reached. However brittle materials will fail suddenly after their ultimate strength is exceeded. These brittle materials have much greater compression strength than tensile strength. That is why these materials are mostly tested in compression. A compression test is performed to determine the following mechanical properties:

Ultimate Compressive Strength (brittle materials) Modulus of Elasticity Proportional Limit Yield Strength

Ultimate Compressive Strength is the maximum compressive load divided by the original specimen cross sectional area.
MaximumLoad (lbs ) OriginalArea(in 2)

UltimateCompressiveStrength =

Gray Iron or cast iron has very high compression strength and very low tensile strength. Gray iron consists of tiny graphite flakes, which tend to weaken the matrix structure in tension. However, these graphite flakes are very strong in compression. Gray iron tends to fail in diagonal shear. Concrete like gray iron is a brittle material, which is weak in tension and very strong in compression. The diameter of the specimen should be at least three times the size of the largest aggregate. The specimen height should be at least twice the diameter. When concrete specimens are tested in compression they should have flat square ends. Specimens should be capped in paraffin or plaster, which squares the ends and helps to reduce the effects of end friction on compression results. If capped specimens are not available, a 1/8" layer of thick paper, cardboard or fiberboard may be used to distribute the load evenly on the specimen. This is not a recommended practice but may be used for demonstration purposes. Wood is an organic material composed of cells that are aligned in tubes or columns in the general direction of the grain structure. This results in both good tension and compression strength in the direction of the grain but poor results across the grain. Wood is difficult to grip in tension. Wood is most commonly tested in compression. Wood specimens have square ends with a length four times the thickness.

PROCEDURE: Gray Iron-Compression: Attach compression test plates in the lower platen on the Vega Universal testing machine. Place the raising block on the lower compression plate. Using the dial calipers, measure the diameter of the gray cast iron specimen. Place the gray cast iron specimen on the raising block. Make sure that the specimen is centered on the machine. Gradually apply the load and observe the specimen. Record the maximum load that the specimen resists. Continue to apply the load and observe until the specimen fails. Calculate the area of the specimen. Use this area and the maximum load to calculate the compressive strength. Sketch the type of failure for the gray Iron. Specimen Diameter, in. Specimen Area, sq. in. Maximum Load, lbs. Ultimate Compressive Strength, psi Concrete-Compression: Use three concrete specimens that are 2" diameter x 4" height. If capped specimens are not available use 1/8" layer of cardboard, paper or fiberboard at each end of the specimens to evenly distribute the load. Measure the diameter of each specimen. Measure in several locations, both horizontally and vertically. Place the concrete specimen between the compression plates (raising block is not needed) with the appropriate cushioning material. Slowly apply the load. Observe and record the highest load reached. When the load begins to decrease, remove the load and sketch the type of failure in the specimen. Repeat the process for each of the specimens. Calculate the ultimate compressive strength for each specimen 1 Diameter, in. Area, sq. in. Maximum load, lbs. Ultimate Strength, psi Average ultimate strength Wood-Compression: Specimen 2 3

Obtain or prepare wood specimens with lengths four times their thickness. Specimens of size 1" x 1" x 4" with ends sawed square is recommended for this procedure. Center the specimen between the compression plates. Observe the specimen, as the load is gradually applied. Record the maximum load and continue loading until complete failure. Repeat for each specimen. Observe and describe the type of failure for each specimen. Specimen 1 2 3 4

Type of Wood Dimensions, in. Cross sectional area, sq. in. Maximum load, lbs. Ultimate Compressive strength, psi