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- Invention

- The History of Galdabini and Tensile Testers in Italy

- Working Principle of UTMs

- Types of Universal Testing Machines

- How to Specify the right Machine, Controller, LC + Grip

- Choosing the Best Supplier

- Newtons to lbs. Calculator Conversion Tool

Universal Testing Machines (UTMs) are also commonly referred to as tensile testers, pull testers, or
materials testing systems. UTMs are at the heart of material science and play a critical role in almost
every manufacturing environment. The annual global market for these types of machines is $500 million
which includes machines, accessories, software, and services(MRO). This article will go into detail about
the history of universal testing machines, how they work, and how to specify the right testing system for
your specific ASTM procedure or application.


Universal Testing Machines have existed in various forms since the 1800’s. One of the original
applications was for testing the strength of steel used in steam power boilers. These boilers would
encapsulate large amounts of steam pressure, and explosions were both catastrophic and fairly common.
One of the largest explosions occurred in Manhattan in 1850 at a machine shop on what is now Pearl St.
and killed over 60 people.
The History Of Galdabini and Tensile Testers in Italy:

Galdabini (est. 1890) entered the market in the early 1900s with a series of dead-weight testing
machines and developed their own universal testing machine in 1934. During this time Galdabini also
developed some of the largest metal straightening machines and hydraulic presses in the world. The
company is the 2nd oldest continuously operating manufacturer of these types of UTM materials testing

The picture above shows the historical Galdabini manufacturing plant during the second world war in
the 1940's. The company was founded by Emilia Crespi and Cesare Galdabini in Gallarate, Italy which is
near Milan in the northern part of the country. The town of Gallarate was vital to Italy's textile industry
during the early 1900's. The Galdabini factory originally supported this textile manufacturing and quickly
expanded into building machine tools such as hydraulic stamping machines and metal tube bending
Working Principle of UTMs:

Today's Universal Testing Machines use a rotating ball screw in order to drive a load-bearing crosshead
up and down. An electrical motor powers a series of pulleys and gears which turn the screw, creating the
crosshead motion. The motion of the electrical motor is controlled using pulse width modulation (PWM)
by an astable oscillator circuit. Tensile testers are relatively robust in design and therefore have a small
amount of failure modes. Therefore universal testing machines need relatively little maintenance and are
easy to fix in the event of a break down.
Aside from the machine, a few other components are required to make up the complete system. A load
cell is used to measure the force during the test. A position sensor, most commonly an encoder, is used
to measure the location of the crosshead. Most machines are controlled using the position data channel,
and will move at a software controlled rate of speed according to the desired ASTM test or similar

Types of Universal Testing Machines:

There are several types of UTMs which exist under the larger umbrella of material testing systems. For
our purposes, we will focus only on static, axial-loading, tension/compression type machines. Other
types of testing machines which will not be discussed here include electro-dynamic testers, impact
testers, servo-hydraulic fatigue systems, torsion testers, torsional bi-axial machines, and planar bi-axial

Single Column Machines

Single column Universal testing machines, also uncommonly known as C-frame testers because of their
shape, have the smallest footprint and capacity. These systems are typically used on a benchtop and
their loading capacities can range from several ounces to about 1,000 lbs. Virtually every single column
machine is electromechanical and uses a small servo-electric motor for both power and control. Have a
testing application that requires more than 1,000 lbs.? You will need to use a dual column machine or
else risk bending the machine.

Dual Column Machines

A dual column test stand is also referred to as an H frame because of its design. The H frame
construction is extremely robust and was the basis for some of the very first universal testing machines.
These systems can range in capacity from 500 to over 100,000 lbs. The largest Universal Testing Machine
ever manufactured is housed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in
Gaithersburg MD. The machine is over 100 ft. high and is capable of applying forces up to 12,000,000
lbs. This machine is driven by a hydraulic system.

Dual Column UTM’s can be either electromechanical or servo-hydraulic. Generally, hydraulic machines
are better suited for extremely repetitive testing of high strength materials in production environments.
The electro-mechanical machines are much more versatile in terms of their speed, and length of stroke,
which better suits them for R&D environments where many different types of tests can be performed.
The electro-mechanical ballscrew testing machines are also much easier to transport and ship.

Specifying the right Machine, Controller, LC + Grip

There are four major steps involved when specifying a Universal Testing Machine. While these machines
are considered to be “universal” it still takes a considerable amount of foresight and planning in order to
get the perfect machine for your lab.

1. Selecting the Right Test Frame

The test frame is the most critical component of the system because it determines the base capacity of
the entire setup. The test frame is not necessarily upgradeable, so proper care must be taken to select
enough capacity. The machine capacity is reliant on the application. The larger machines can fulfill a
wide range of test procedures however they tend to operate at slower speeds and thus are not ideal for
applications such as peel testing. The larger, floor standing machines can weigh over 1,500 lbs. so proper
planning must be undertaken for the shipping and final placement of the unit.

2. Settling in on a Suitable Controller

Control systems for Universal Testing Machines have evolved quite rapidly in recent years. Analog
Vacuum Tubes and Paper Chart Recorders have been replaced with digital computers. Most UTM
manufacturers offer two standard options for their controller units.

Standalone, Low-Feature Controller:

The standalone controller is ideal for highly repetitive testing such as in manufacturing quality labs. The
interface has a pinpad and a small digital readout screen. Operators can select from a limited amount of
tests and run the machine without a PC. Data is spit out on the screen and hand copied, or a series of
raw data can be uploaded back to a PC for further analysis and documentation. These standalone type
controllers tend to have less options in terms of servo-control, but they are also lower cost.

PC-Based, Full-Feature Controller:

PC-Based Controllers are more typically suited for R&D settings where operators are constantly making
changes to their test procedures and doing advanced analysis on the data results. The machine is
completely operated through the PC. The PC-Based controller can either be embedded inside a PC
desktop tower, or can be embedded inside an external interface box. In some rare cases the controller
and data acquisition (DAQ) is embedded in the base of the machine. USB and Ethernet are the two most
common data connection types. Using this type of controller allows for much easier collection and
management of data and test results, while also giving the user the maximum amount of control
options. PC-based controller and software packages are generally more expensive than their standalone
counterparts, however this is not always the case.

3. Identifying the Ideal Load Cell(s).

Over the years there have been many different types of devices used to measure load or force. The
industry has settled in on strain gauge load cells. 4 individual strain gauges are typically wired in a
Wheatstone bridge configuration which helps with stabilizing and calibrating the load cell(LC). These 4
strain gauges are packaged into a circular shell which is commonly known as a “pancake.”

As a rule of thumb, load cells work best between 5-95% of their posted range. If you have a 100 lb. load
cell, it will not be able register very well below 5lbs. and a more sensitive load cell will be needed. The
situation is slightly different at the higher end where the risk of damaging the load cell increases
substantially as the load approaches the maximum capacity of the LC.

Hydraulic machines with high capacity will use a pressure gauge transducer or a similar type of sensor
instead of a Load Cell. These pressure gauges are slightly different in principle, however they achieve the
same result.

4. Grips, Fixtures, and Accessories

There are a myriad of grips and fixture options for Universal Testing Machines. The type of grip needed is
based on the material constitution, sample geometry, and maximum anticipated force capacity. The
Universal Grip Company offers the largest selection of grips in the world.

The majority of tensile testing applications will use either a vise grip or a mechanical wedge grip. Circular
or square platens are used for compression testing. There are many more types of fixtures including
bend test fixtures, puncture fixtures, and even special fixtures used to test food. Pneumatic grips are also
popular because they help to standardize testing and increase throughput.
Aside from grips, there are many other add-ons including environmental chambers, extensometers,
deflectomers, and sample preparation tools. The environmental chambers are also known as a furnace
or test oven and can range in temperature from -70C to 350C, depending on the exact setup.
Extensometers and deflectometers are used to measure elongation and compression and there are many
types including regular contact, laser, and video extensometers.

Choosing the Best Supplier

UTM design and control theory is in a very mature state and the basic tenants of the machines are
almost identical between suppliers. There are no longer any patents on these types of systems and the
knowledge is now in the public domain. Universal testing machines tend to last for a very long time, and
for that reason it is critical to choose a supplier that is easy to work with.

Some suppliers will use certain tactics in order to “lock-in” a customer. These tactics can include
everything from holding calibration passwords ransom, to using unique adapter measurements which
force customers to return for additional parts and services. Only the largest manufacturers use these
tactics while the smaller players have chosen a strategy to develop their machines and controllers in a
way that easily interfaces with 3rd party accessory components. 3rd party local calibrators are often
employed to service and maintain UTMs for the smaller OEMs. UGC employs local calibrators to service
and calibrate our machines.

Universal Grip has the engineering capacity to design adapter fixturing and mounts that will attach onto
any machine.