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International Journal of Engineering & Technology IJET-IJENS Vol: 11 No: 06 98

Development of a Dropped Weight

Impact Testing Machine
Leonardo Gunawan, Tatacipta Dirgantara, and Ichsan Setya Putra

Abstract This article presents the development of a importance in the future due to its high strength to weight
dropped weight impact testing machine. The machine was ratio, only a few results have been published.
developed as a facility to provide experimental data to validate From these considerations, systematic studies on energy
numerical simulations of impact loads on crash boxes, parts of absorption capacity of prismatic aluminum columns under low
car structure that absorb kinetic energy during collision. The
dropped weight impact machine was designed to produce impact
speed impact were carried out [7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. In these
load to a specimen that represents a crash box. The machine was studies, behavior of aluminum columns subjected to axial
equipped with sensor systems to measure the velocity of the impact load were numerically analyzed using explicit finite
impactor just before it hit the specimen and the force that element method. Parameters considered in this study were
crushed the specimen, and with a data acquisition system to cross section geometry and wall-thickness to perimeter ratio.
record the crushing force for further analysis. The development Fig. 1 shows a result of numerical simulation of an aluminum
process included the design, fabrication, and function tests of the
machine. The function tests performed after the machine was
circular tube subjected to axial impact load [7].
built indicated that the dropped weight impact testing machine To verify the results of these numerical studies, an impact
can fulfill the design objectives. Results of several experiments testing machine based on dropped weight principle was
using specimens in form of columns with square, hexagonal, developed. The impact speed obtained from this principle is
octagonal and circular cross sections showed that the limited by the dropping height. However, the range of the
experimental results are in good agreements with the results of impact speed still fulfills the low speed criteria. Moreover, its
impact simulations carried out using Finite Element Method.
development and operation cost is low. This article presents
Index Term Crash box, design, impact load, experiments. the design and testing of this machine.


One of the main concerns in traffic safety nowadays is the A. Design Objectives
improvement of the vehicle crashworthiness. To increase
passenger safety, some parts of automotive structure known as The impact testing machine was designed to perform low
crash boxes are designed to absorb kinetic energy during speed impact tests, i.e. impact velocities less than 15 m/s. At
collision. These components are usually in the form of each impact speed, the kinetic energy should be able to be
columns which will undergo progressive plastic deformation varied. The machine should be able to accommodate impact
during collision. The crushing force, i.e. the force needed to tests on specimens of various cross sectional geometry with
deform the crash box, determines the deceleration of the maximum outer geometry of 60 mm and maximum height of
vehicle during collision and indicates the capability of the 170 mm. Other considerations in design were the safety and
crash box to absorb kinetic energy. The value of crushing cost aspects.
force is determined by the geometry and the material of the
B. Conceptual Design
crash box.
Several researches on the analyses of buckling behavior of An impact machine based on dropped weight principle was
prismatic columns under low velocity impact have been selected since it is able to provide impact velocity by using
reported for several years [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. These earlier earth gravity. This machine is a cost effective solution
studies explored columns of different materials and geometries compared to that using a gas gun. In the design, a specimen
which were unrelated from one to another. Hence, it is not was fixed on top of a steel base. An impactor was elevated and
easy to obtain certain relation between columns geometry and then released at a certain height above the specimen. The
material with their capability to absorb impact energy. impactor would hit the specimen with an impact speed that
Practical researches that produced usable design rules are depends on the dropping height. The kinetic energy of the
limited. Further, for columns made of aluminum, which is of impactor was then absorbed by the progressive folding of the
specimen wall, which reduced the kinetic energy of the
LeonardoGunawan is with the Faculty of Mechanical and Aerospace impactor until it finally stopped.
Engineering, Institut Teknologi Bandung, Bandung 40132, Indonesia ( e-mail:
Tatacipta Dirgantara is also with the Faculty of Mechanical and Aerospace
Eng., ITB, Bandung 40132, Indonesia (e-mail:
Ichsan Setya Putra is also with the Faculty of Mechanical and Aerospace
Eng., ITB, Bandung 40132, Indonesia (e-mail:

115606-9393 IJET-IJENS @ December 2011 IJENS

International Journal of Engineering & Technology IJET-IJENS Vol: 11 No: 06 99

Fig. 1. Crushing mode and instantaneous crushing forces of a circular aluminum tube under impact load
from numerical simulations [7]

The crushing force of the specimen during the impact was impact head, weighting masses and rollers. The rollers were
sensed by using a load cell which was placed between the attached to the frame and each roller was equipped with a
specimen and the steel base. The crushing force data was then pretension spring that kept the roller always in contact with the
recorded by a data acquisition system. A speed sensor was guide column. This mechanism ensured that the impactor
used to measure the speed of the impactor just before hitting assembly always moved along the guide column during the
the specimen. The crushing force data, the dropped weight experiments. The impact head was designed to be the part of
mass and the impact speed were used in the validation of the impactor assembly that hit the specimen. The mass of the
numerical analysis. frame, roller and impact head without the weighting masses
From the design principle and requirements, the dropped was 20 kg. The mass of the impactor assembly could be
weight impact testing machine was designed. Based on the adjusted by adding several weighting masses until the total
design objectives and following [12, 13], several designs were mass of the impactor assembly was 150 kg.
considered and the best solution according to some previously If there is no significant friction working on the rollers, the
set criteria was selected. Fig. 2 shows schematically the final impactor assembly will hit the specimen with a speed of:
design of the impact testing machine which can be divided
into 4 subsystems, namely: the frame that consists of guide v 2 gH (1)
columns, base plate and concrete block; the impactor assembly
that consists of impactor frame, projectile, roller, and Although the length of the guide columns was 6 m, the
weighting mass; the clamp and hoist mechanism; and the maximum dropping height of the impactor was less than 6 m
instrumentation. since some space should be provided for the specimen, the
load cell, the hoist, the clamp and the impactor assembly itself.
Frame The maximum effective height for the impactor was 5 m
The columns were designed to act as a guide of the moving which corresponds to a maximum impact velocity of 9.9 m/s.
impactor assembly. Two columns guide design was selected The maximum kinetic energy of the impactor with maximum
from three alternatives: no column, one column and two mass of 150 kg is thus 7350 J.
columns. The two columns guide design was selected due to
Clamp Mechanism and Hoist
its safety, moderate price and easiness of operation. The
columns were made of 6 m long stainless steel pipe, with outer The clamp mechanism was designed to clamp and release
diameter of 11.4 mm and thickness of 6 mm. They were the impactor assembly with maximum weight of 150 kg. A
mounted on top of a base plate made of 3 cm thick steel. The hoist was used to lift the clamp mechanism together with the
base plate was fixed on top of a 1 m 1 m 2 m concrete impactor assembly to a certain height related to the desired
block. The concrete block was half-buried in a square hole impact velocity. By a trigger from an operator, the clamp
with width of 1.2 m and depth of 1.7 m on the floor. The hole mechanism could release the impactor assembly at the desired
was at first filled with 0.2 m thick sand and then the concrete height which then moved downward and hit the specimen.
block was put inside the hole. Finally, the gap between the Instrumentation
hole and block was filled with sand. The sand would isolate
the shock and vibrations during the experiment to the 1) Load-cell
neighborhood. The crushing force of the specimen was measured by using
a load cell which was specifically designed and built for this
Impactor Assembly machine. The load cell was designed to produce linear output
The impactor assembly consisted of an impactor frame, an without any hysteresis. Therefore, the load cell was designed

115606-9393 IJET-IJENS @ December 2011 IJENS

International Journal of Engineering & Technology IJET-IJENS Vol: 11 No: 06 100

Fig. 2. Schematic drawing and picture of the dropped weight impact machine

to be loaded with a maximum stress at 10% of its yield properties, the capacity of the load-cell is thus 70 kN. Prior to
strength. Buckling of the load cell was also considered in the the manufacturing, impact simulations were performed to
design. AISI 431 Stainless Steel was chosen as the material of check the performance of this design.
the load cell. It has a yield strength of 655 MPa (at 0.2% The load cell was machined from solid stainless steel. After
offset), a Youngs modulus of 200 GPa, and a good corrosion manufacturing process, two strain gauges were bonded to the
resistance. Fig. 3 shows the design of the load cell. The basic load-cell tube at half height and at circumferentially opposite
part of the load-cell was a tube with outer diameter of 90 mm, positions. The strain-gauges were then configured in a half
thickness of 4 mm, and height of 35 mm. Both ends of the Wheatstone bridge. Detailed design process of the load cell
tube were integrally connected to 80 mm thick flanges which can be found in [14].
were needed to realize a linear strain distribution over the The load cell was calibrated by using Tarno Grocki
cross section of the tube. From the geometry and material compression machine. The load cell was loaded by using quasi

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International Journal of Engineering & Technology IJET-IJENS Vol: 11 No: 06 101

Fig. 5. Speed sensor consists of two diode sensor and a bar fixed
to the impactor

Fig. 3. Load cell design [14]

Fig. 6. Impact speed as function of dropping height

Fig. 3. Load cell design [14]

static load. Outputs of the load cell with 0 to 45 kN loads at display unit.
5 kN increments were recorded. The measurements were
carried out 4 times and the results are shown in Fig. 4. It can 3) Signal Processing and Data Acquisition
be seen that the relation between the load and the output
Output signal from Wheatstone bridge was amplified,
voltage was practically linear and repeatable.
filtered, and stored into a PC by using a data acquisition card.
Previous tests and numerical simulations showed that square
2) Speed Sensor aluminum specimen with cross section of 38 mm 38 mm and
To measure the speed of the impactor before hitting the thickness of 2 mm was crushed in a very short time period, in
specimen, an Autonics counter was used to count the elapsed the order of 20 ms. Hence the data acquisition card with the
time of the impactor assembly passing through two infrared ability to sample the data with rate of more than 10 kHz was
diode sensors. The speed of the impactor was determined by used. By using the calibration factor of the load cell, curves of
dividing the distance between the two sensors with the elapsed instantaneous crushing force versus time could be obtained
time. Fig. 5 shows the two diode sensors and a bar fixed to the from the output of the load cell.
impactor assembly which represented the motion of the The mean crushing force of the column was calculated by
impactor. The speed of the impactor was then shown in a using data of force as a function of displacement as follows:

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International Journal of Engineering & Technology IJET-IJENS Vol: 11 No: 06 102

Fig. 7. Square and hexagonal columns before welding process

Fig. 9. Deformation of a square column with perimeter of 112 mm from

experiments and simulations

From several tests, data of impact velocities versus the

dropping height were plotted and compared to the free fall
case, as shown in Fig. 6. It can be seen that the velocities of
Fig. 8. Instantaneous crushing force of a square column with 112 mm the impactor were very close to the free fall velocities. This
perimeter from simulation and experiment shows that the friction between the impactor and the guide
columns was practically small. The data also shows that the
impact velocities varied slightly from one test to another due
1 to the fact that the height of the impactor could not be set
x 0
Pm ( x) P ( x)dx (2)
exactly the same from one to the other test. Hence, the impact
velocity in the experiment should be obtained from the speed
To obtain data of force versus displacement, the displacement sensor, not from the height of the impactor.
of the impactor during impact was calculated from the initial B. Measurement of Crushing Force
impact velocity and the travelled distance by assuming
To check the function of the impact testing machine,
constant deceleration [16,17].
experiments were conducted on columns with 4 cross sectional
geometries: square, hexagonal, octagonal and circumferential.
All columns were 150 mm long and they were made of
Detailed design of the impact testing machine can be found
in [15, 16, 17]. After the machine was built, several tests were 0.8 mm thick Al 6064-T4 with E = 68.9 GPa, = 0.33 and
carried out to check its functions. y = 145 MPa. They were made by using bending and welding
processes. Fig. 7 shows the square and hexagonal columns
A. Impact Velocity prior to welding process. For each cross section, 7 columns of
For the dropped weight impact testing machine, the impact various perimeters were made, as listed in Table I.
velocity depends on the height of the impactor above the Validations of the impact machine were carried out by
specimen, as described by (1) if the friction between the comparing the results of experiments with those of numerical
impactor assembly and the guide columns is practically small. simulations performed by using nonlinear finite element code.

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International Journal of Engineering & Technology IJET-IJENS Vol: 11 No: 06 103

Fig. 10. Comparison of mean crushing force, Pm, of square, hexagonal, octagonal, and circular columns with various perimeter
obtained from simulations and experiments

Mean crushing force, Pm, of columns with various cross sections obtained using numerical simulations and experiments

Square Hexagonal Octagonal Circular

L* Pm [kN] L Pm, kN L Pm [kN] L Pm [kN]
[mm] N** E*** [mm] N E [mm] N E [mm] N E
113 4.09 3.54 109 6.37 5.33 112 5.80 5.72 112 6.49 4.97
129 4.32 3.62 124 6.20 5.93 124 6.11 6.54 124 6.71 5.34
139 4.23 4.31 135 6.18 5.77 136 6.39 6.54 136 6.92 6.00
158 4.32 4.01 156 6.40 6.40 148 6.58 6.86 148 7.18 6.42
168 4.76 3.70 159 6.42 6.39 160 6.87 7.80 160 7.35 6.32
180 5.10 4.24 173 6.57 5.58 172 7.11 7.22 172 7.48 7.31
191 5.30 4.50 181 6.61 6.11 184 7.22 7.85 184 7.80 8.25
* L : length
** N : numerical simulations
*** E : experiments

In FEM analysis, the columns were modeled by using outward and the other two bent inward. The force increased
Belytschko-Tsay shell elements. Based on the convergence significantly and then reduced to a local minimum where the
tests, element size of 1 mm 1 mm was used to obtain column sides were fully folded. This folding mechanism
detailed numerical results at acceptable processing time. To repeated until all kinetic energy of the impactor was fully
make the model as close as possible to the specimen, the absorbed by the folds. Fig. 9 shows that the folding modes and
elements of the welding area were treated separately from the the number of folds in the experiment and in numerical
other part of the column by introducing a different Youngs analysis were in good agreement.
modulus value that was calculated from the hardness data of
C. Calculation of Mean Crushing Force
the welding area [16, 17].
Fig. 8 shows a typical graph of instantaneous crushing force Crushing forces for all columns were measured and
versus time from one impact test and the corresponding presented as mean crushing forces by using (2). The
numerical simulation for a square column with perimeter of experimental data were then compared to those obtained from
112 mm. The data shows that the crushing force fluctuated numerical simulations as shown in Table I and also in Fig. 10.
during the impact which was related to the fold formation of It can be seen that the mean crushing forces obtained from
the column. In the first fold, two sides of the column bent experiments and numerical simulations were in acceptable

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International Journal of Engineering & Technology IJET-IJENS Vol: 11 No: 06 104

agreements. Some differences between numerical simulations [10] Annisa Jusuf, Fajri Syah Allam, Tatacipta Dirgantara, Leonardo
Gunawan, Ichsan Setya Putra, Low velocity impact analysis of
and experiments were addressed to imperfections of geometry prismatic columns using finite element method, in Proceeding of the
and materials of the specimens, and also to numerical models 8th International Conference on Fracture and Strength of Solids, Kuala
used in the simulations. Some improvements still have to be Lumpur, Malaysia, 2010.
[11] S. S. Hendradjaja, L. Gunawan, T. Dirgantara, I. S. Putra. Parametric
carried out to minimize the differences between numerical and
study for circular and octagonal cross section tubes subjected to low
experimental results. However, the results already indicated velocity impact loading, in Proceeding of the Regional Conference on
that the developed dropped weight impact testing machine can Mechanical and Aerospace Technology, Bali, Indonesia, 2010.
be used to validate the results of low speed impact [12] G. Pahl, W. Beitz, and K. Wallace, Engineering design: A Systematic
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IV. CONCLUSIONS Technology, 2004, pp.249-254.
[14] L. Gunawan, T. Dirgantara, I. S. Putra, and V. C. Thanh. Development
The dropped weight impact testing machine has been of load cell for low velocity axial impact testing, in Proceeding of the
successfully developed. The machine can produce impact load Regional Conference on Mechanical and Aerospace Technology, Bali,
to a specimen with maximum speed of 10 m/s and variable Indonesia, 2010.
mass up to maximum 150 kg. During the test, the impact [15] S. Siahaan, Design of a low speed impact testing machine with
maximum load of 150 kg (in Indonesian), Undergraduate final project,
speed and the time history of crushing force can be measured Dept. Aeronautics and Astronautics, Institut Teknologi Bandung,
and recorded for further analysis. Bandung, Indonesia, 2007.
Impact tests performed by using this machine are able to [16] S. S. Hendradjaja, Parametric study of prismatic columns with
produce data that is comparable to those obtained with FEM octagonal and circular cross section subjected to low velocity impact
loading, M.S. thesis, Dept. Aeronautics and Astronautics, Institut
simulations. Teknologi Bandung, Bandung, Indonesia, 2011.
The impact machine can be further improved by equipping [17] B. Rabeta, Parametric studies of low speed impact loading on square
it with displacement sensor to measure the displacement of the and hexagonal columns using experimental and numerical method (In
impactor during impact. The force versus displacement curves Indonesian), M.S. thesis, Dept. Aeronautics and Astronautics, Institut
Teknologi Bandung, Bandung, Indonesia, 2011
can then be generated by combining the time history of force
and displacement data.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the
Directorate General for Higher Education of Republic
Indonesia through Competitive Research Grant 2009-2010 and
Competence Research Grant 2009-2011.

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