Quality Control and Data Integrity in Mechanical Testing Of Engineering Materials and Products

Quality Control

Quality control refers to the process of systematically detecting errors in the laboratory testing results to ensure both that the accuracy and reliability of test results are maintained and best possible testing results are supplied to customers. Unreliable and inaccurate testing results can result in faulty failures, degraded field performance of engineering materials and products. it is therefore of great importance to ensure all results provided are accurate, reliable and consistent.

Alfort and Beaty define quality control as;

“Quality control is the mechanism by which products are made to measure up to the specifications determined from the customer’s demands and transform into sales, engineering and manufacturing requirements. It is concerned with making things right rather than discovering and rejecting those made wrong. Quality control is a technique by means of which products of uniform acceptable quality are manufactured.”

A mechanical and materials testing laboratory tests all kinds of materials at all stages of product engineering, from the raw material stage to performance characterization and durability testing of finished ready to market products.

The range and types of instruments to test these materials and product range from simplest to complex. Instruments such as density meter and hardness meters are the simple instruments, while SEMs, fatigue test benches, high strain rate equipments etc., are complex instruments that also have a significant learning curve. Only qualified engineers and analysts would be conducting the tests with the help of calibrated instruments to make sure that the data obtained is reliable and accurate.

Achieving quality in a mechanical and materials testing laboratory requires the use of many tools, instruments and machinery. These include UTMs, hardness meters, fatigue testing rigs, and also various custom made test benches. An established maintenance schedule, calibration, quality assurance program, training and quality control are pre-requisites. Calculations and maintenances of QC Statistics for systematic analysis of historical standard deviations, covariances, uncertainty calculations etc., is also required.

Data Integrity

Data integrity refers to completeness, consistency and accurateness of the raw data generated in the testing laboratory during the course of its work. It means that the raw data has to be reliable, consistent and accurate and that no modifications, changes or deletions cannot be caried out by any person or machine.

Raw data in the quality control laboratory can be generated by testing machnes, DAQ systems, and computer systems as well as by laboratory staff as paper records and reports. Ensuring integrity of data starts from the proper design of the procedural documents, level of access provided to authorized persons, physical reliablility of the infrastructure and training of laboratory personnel. An appropriately designed procedure is uniquely named and numbered has sufficient leeway for records to be stored comfortably digitally and physically and distribution are strictly controlled at all levels.

Having established all the QC standard protocols at AdvanSES, we take pride in our work and our protocols are available for audit at any time.



Polymers and Composite Materials

Polymer materials in their basic form exhibit a range of characteristics and behavior from elastic solid to a viscous liquid. These behavior and properties depend on their material constituents, their structure, temperature, frequency and time scale at which the material or the engineering component is analyzed. The viscous liquid polymer is defined as by having no definite shape and flow. Deformation under the effect of applied load is irreversible. Elastic materials such as steels and aluminum deform instantaneously under the application of load and return to the original state upon the removal of load, provided the applied load is within the yield limits of the material. An elastic solid polymer is characterized by having a definite shape that deforms under external forces, storing this deformation energy and giving it back upon the removal of applied load.

Thermoplastic polymer resins consist of long polymer molecules which may or may not have side chains attached to them. The side chains are not linked to other polymer molecules as shown in Figure(1). Thus there is an absence of cross-links in the thermo- plastic structure. Thermoplastic resins in a granular form can be repeatedly melted or solidified by heating and cooling. Heat softens or melts the material so that it can be molded. Cooling in the mold solidifies the material into a given shape. There are two types of thermoplastic polymers, Crystalline and Amorphous. Following list enumerates the features and properties of both the polymer types.

Figure 1: Chains in Thermoplastic Polymers

Crystalline Polymers:

  1. Crystalline solids break along particular points and directions.
  2. Crystalline solids have an ordered structural pattern of molecular chains.
  3. Crystalline solids flow well at a higher temperature.
  4. Reinforcement with fibers in crystalline polymers increases the load-bearing capabilities.
  5. Crystalline polymers tend to shrink more than amorphous.
  6. The molecular structure of crystalline polymers makes them more suitable for opaque parts and components.
  7. Examples: Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Nylon, Acetal, Polyethersulfone, etc.

Amorphous Polymers:

  1. Amorphous solids break into uneven parts with ragged edges.
  2. Amorphous solids have a random orientation of molecules with no proper

geometrical or pattern formation.

  • Amorphous solids do not flow as easily and can give problems in mold filling.
  • Examples: ABS, Polystyrene, Polycarbonate, etc.

Figure (2) shows the general types and classification of polymers.

Figure 2: Types of Polymers and Their Classification

The need to improve the mechanical properties of polymers drives the development of various composites. Composites express a mechanical behavior significantly different from that of conventional materials. They provide high load carrying capability, high stiffness to weight ratio and tolerance to damage from water, specific industrial oils, greases etc.

Composite materials are engineered or naturally occurring materials made from two or more constituent materials. The properties of the constituent materials are mostly significantly different. The physical, mechanical and chemical properties remain separate and distinct within the finished material structure. Most composites are made with stiff and tough fibres in a polymer matrix. The polymer matrix is weaker and acts more as a binder and parent material. The objective is usually to come up with a material structure which is strong and stiff able to carry heavy loads. Commercial grade composite materials mostly have glass or carbon fibres in a matrix of thermosetting polymers like epoxy, nylons and polyester based resins. Glass fibres are the most frequently used reinforcing fibres in reinforced polymers. The mechanical characteristics which are predominantly improved by these fibres are tensile and compressive strength. In addition, thermal dimensional stability also increases.  Thermoplastic polymers are preferred as the matrix material where the end goal is to make moldable parts and components. Glass filled nylon and other polymers offer good mechanical, chemical at a lower cost. Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP), is a composite material made of a polymer matrix reinforced with fibres. These fibres are usually glass or fibres. FRPs are commonly used in the aerospace, automotive, marine, and construction industries.

Composite materials also employ continuous fiber reinforcements in the form of a ply. Figure 3 shows two types of such plies where unidirectional fibers and woven fabric bundles are laid out. These plies are impregnated by a polymer resin to form a ply structure. For most composites, the ply is the basic building block as a lamina structure. This lamina may be a unidirectional prepreg, a fabric, or a strand mat.

Figure 3: Unidirection and Woven Fabric Composites

Mechanical and Physical Testing:

The mechanical and physical testing of polymers and their composites is important to determine the material properties. These properties help us understand the deformation characteristics and failure modes which can further be used in design and analysis of end products. The mechanical and physical testing ensure that material complies with performance requirements in accordance with industrial specifications, especially to the demanding aerospace, automotive, consumer, medical industries. Mechanical testing of polymeric composites involves the determination of mechanical parameters such as strength, stiffness, elongation, fatigue life etc., to facilitate its use in the design of structures.

The mechanical testing of composite materials involves a range of test types and standards like ASTM, ISO, EN etc., along with testing conditions in different environments.

The most common mechanical properties such as Modulus of Elasticity, Poisson’s ratio, Tensile strength, and Ultimate tensile strain for composites are obtained from tensile testing and these properties are affected by the geometry, size and properties of the reinforcements.  The Modulus of Elasticity and Poisson’s ratio are determined by measuring the strains during the elastic deformation part of the test, typically below the strain levels of 0.5%.

Uniaxial Tension Test (ASTM D638)

Figure 4: Uniaxial Tension Test on a Material Sample as per ASTM D638

. The stress (σ) in a uniaxial tension test  is calculated from;

               σ = Load / Area of the material sample            ……………………………………..(1)

        The strain(ε)  is calculated from;

              ε = δl (change in length) / l1 (Initial length)     ……………………………………..(2)

The slope of the initial linear portion of the curve (E) is the Young’s modulus and given by;

             E = (σ2- σ1) / (ε2- ε1)                                         ……………………………………..(3)

3 Point Bend Flexure Test (ASTM D790)

Three point bending testing is done to understand the bending stress, flexural stress and strain of composite and thermoplastic materials. The specimen is loaded in a horizontal position, and in such a way that the compressive stress occurs in the upper portion and the tensile stress occurs in the lower portion of the cross section. This is done by having round bars or curved surfaces supporting the specimen from underneath. Round bars or supports with suitable radius are provided so as to have a single point or line of contact with the specimen.

Figure 5: 3 Point Bend Test Setup at AdvanSES as Per ASTM D790

The load is applied by the rounded nose on the top surface of the specimen. If the specimen is symmetrical about its cross section the maximum tensile and compressive stresses will be equal. This test fixture and geometry provides loading conditions so that specimen fails in tension or compression. For most composite materials, the compressive strength is lower than the tensile and the specimen will fail at the compression surface. This compressive failure is associated with the local buckling (micro buckling) of individual fibres.

4 Point Bend Flexure Test (ASTM D6272)

The four-point flexural test provides values for the modulus of elasticity in bending, flexural stress, flexural. This test is very similar to the three-point bending flexural test. The major difference being that with the addition of a fourth nose for load application the portion of the beam between the two loading points is put under maximum stress. In the 3 point bend test only the portion of beam under the loading nose is under stress.

Figure 6: 4 Point Bend Test Setup at AdvanSES as per ASTM D6272

This arrangement helps when testing high stiffness materials like ceramics, where the number and severity of flaws under maximum stress is directly related to the flexural strength and crack initiation in the material. Compared to the three-point bending flexural test, there are no shear forces in the four-point bending flexural test in the area between the two loading pins.

Poisson’s Ratio Test as per ASTM D3039

Poisson’s ratio is one of the most important parameter used for structure design where all dimensional changes resulting from application of force need to be taken into account. For this test method, Poisson’s ratio is obtained from strains resulting from uniaxial stress only. ASTM D3039 is primarily used to evaluate the Poison’s ratio.

Figure 7: Poisson’s Ratio Test Setup as per ASTM 3039 at AdvanSES

Testing is performed by applying a tensile force to a specimen and measuring various properties of the specimen under stress. Two strain gauges are bonded to the specimen at 0 and 90 degrees to measure the lateral and linear strains. The ratio of the lateral and linear strain provides us with the Poisson’s ratio.

Flatwise Compression Test

The compressive properties of materials are important when the product performs under compressive

Figure 8: Flatwise Compression Test Setup as per ASTM C365 at AdvanSES

loading conditions. The testing is carried out in the direction normal to the plane of facings as the core would be placed in a structural sandwich construction.

The test procedures pertain to compression call for test conditions where the deformation is applied under quasi-static conditions negating the mass and inertia effects.

Combined Loading Compression Test

ASTM D6641 is the testing specification that determines compressive strength and stiffness of polymer matrix composite materials using a combined loading compression (CLC) test fixture. This test procedure introduces the compressive force into the specimen through combined shear end loading.

Figure 9: Combined Loading Compression Setup with Unsupported Gauge Length

ASTM D6641 includes two procedures; Procedure A: to be used with untabbed specimens such as fabrics, chopped fiber composites, laminates with a maximum of 50% 0° plies. Procedure B: is to be used with tabbed specimens having higher orthotropic properties such as unidirectional composites. The use of tabs is necessary to increase the load-bearing area at the specimen ends.

Fatigue Test

ASTM D7791 describes the determination of dynamic fatigue properties of plastics in uniaxial loading conditions. Rigid or semi-rigid plastic samples are loaded in tension (Procedure A) and  rigid plastic samples are loaded in compression (Procedure B) to determine the effect of processing, surface condition, stress, and such, on the fatigue resistance of plastic and reinforced composite materials subjected to uniaxial stress for a large number of cycles. The results are suitable for study of high load carrying capability of candidate materials. ASTM recommends a test frequency of 5 hz or lower.The tests can be carried out under load or displacement control.

Figure 10: Axial Fatigue Samples under Test at AdvanSES as per ASTM D7791

The test method allows generation of a stress or strain as a function of cycles, with the fatigue limit characterized by failure of the specimen or reaching 107 cycles. The 107 cycle value is chosen to limit the test time, but depending on the applications this may or may not be the best choice. The maximum and minimum stress or strain levels are defined through an R ratio. The R ratio is the ratio of minimum to maximum stress or displacement that the material is cycled through during testing. For this standard, samples may be loaded in either tension or compression.


A variety of standardized mechanical tests on composite materials including tension, compression, flexural, shear, and fatigue have been discussed. These mechanical properties of polymers, fiber-reinforced polymeric composites immensely depend on the nature of the polymer, fiber, plies, and the fiber-matrix interfacial bonding. Advanced engineering design and analysis applications like Finite Element Analysis use this mechanical test data to characterize the materials. Second part of the paper will show the use of these mechanical characterization tests in FEA software like Ansys, Abaqus, LS-Dyna, MSC-Marc etc.


1) Mark J.E., Physical properties of polymers handbook. Springer; 2007.

2) Coutney, T.H., Mechanical Behaviour of materials, Waveland, 1996.

3) Dowling, N.E., Mechanical Behaviour of materials, engineering methods for deformation, fracture and fatigue, Pearson, 2016.

4) Adams D.O., Tensile testing of composites: simple in concept, difficult in practice, High

Perform Compos 2015.

5) Saba, et al., An overview of mechanical and physical testing of composite materials, Mechanical and Physical Testing of Biocomposites, Fibre-Reinforced Composites and Hybrid Composites, 2019.

6) Bruno L., Mechanical characterization of composite materials by optical techniques: a review, Optic Laser Eng 2017.

7) Ian McEnteggart, Composites Testing: Challenges & Solutions, JEC Europe – March 2015.




In engineering design and analysis, stress-strain relationships are needed to establish and verify the load-deflection properties of an engineering component under service loads and boundary conditions. From the tensile testing carried out to evaluate materials, various mechanical properties such as the yield strength, Young’s modulus, Poisson’s ratio etc. are obtained. Strain hardening and true stress-strain etc. values can be calculated by means of conversion using equations from the stress-strain curve. The uniaxial tensile test is the primary method to evaluate the material and obtain the parameters. Uniaxial tension test is also the primary test method used for quality control and certification of virtually all ferrous and non-ferrous type of materials.

Standards for tensile testing were amongst the first published and the development of such standards continues today through the ASTM and ISO organizations. Reliable tensile data, which is now generated largely by computer controlled testing machines, is also crucial in the design of safety critical components automotive, aerospace and biomedical applications.

Tensile testing is also important for polymeric materials as they depend strongly on the strain rate because of their viscoelastic nature. Polymers exhibit time dependent deformation like relaxation and creep under service applications. Polymer properties also show a higher temperature dependency than metals. Multiple temperatures and strain rates are generally used to fully characterize polymer materials.

Figure 1: Uniaxial Tension Test on a Material Sample

Figure 2 shows sample uniaxial stress-strain results from testing a metal specimen. The X axis depicts the strain and Y axis the stress. The stress (σ) is calculated from;

σ = Load / Area of the material sample ……………………………………..(1)

The strain(ε) is calculated from;

ε = δl (change in length) / l1 (Initial length) ……………………………………..(2)

The slope of the initial linear portion of the curve (E) is the Young’s modulus and given by;

E = (σ2- σ1) / (ε2- ε1) ……………………………………..(3)

Point A in the graph shows the proportional limit of the material beyond which the material starts to yield. When this point is not clearly visible or decipherable in a test, the off yield strength at B is taken by offsetting the strain (F-G) by 0.2 % of the gauge length. Similarly, extension by yield under load (EUL) is calculated by offsetting the strain 0.5% of the gauge length. The region between points A and B on the graph is also purely elastic, with full recovery on the unloading of the metal, but it is not essentially linear.

Figure 2: Sample Uniaxial Stress-Strain Results from a Metal Specimen

Figure 2 shows the engineering stress-strain curve where the values of stress beyond the proportional limit do not give the true picture of stress in the sample as the cross-sectional area of the sample is assumed to be constant. The engineering stress-strain values can be converted to true stress-strain values by the following relation;

σt = σe (1 + εe) = σeλ , ……………………………………..(4)

εt = ln (1 +εe) = ln λ, where λ = initial length / final length …………………………………..(5)

Figure 3: Sample Uniaxial Stress-Strain Results for a Polymeric Rubber Material

Figure 3 shows typical uniaxial stress-strain results from a test on a 40 durometer rubber material. Unlike the results for the metal specimen the elastomer test results do not have or exhibit a yield limit. The material extends in the classical ‘S’ shape and results in a fracture at the end of the tests. Polymeric rubber materials exhibit the following characteristics;
• The load-deflection behavior of an elastomer is markedly non-linear.
• The recoverable strains can be as high 700 %.
• The stress-strain characteristics are highly dependent on temperature and rate effects are highly pronounced.
• Nearly incompressible behavior.
• Viscoelastic effects are significant.
Typical test results for rubber materials show the values of modulus at 100%, 200% and 300%. Modulus represents stress in such results.


1. Strain Rate
2. Extensometry
3. Alignment and Gripping
4. Testing Machine Frame Compliance
5. Young’s Modulus Measurement
6. Specimen Geometry

Strain rate range of different material characterization test methods

1) Quasi-static tension tests 10-5 to 10-1 S-1
2) Dynamic tension tests 10-1 to 102 S-1
3) Very High Strain Rate or Impact tests 102 to 104 S-1

A fundamental difference between a high strain rate tension test and a quasi-static tension test is that inertia and wave propagation effects are present at high rates. An analysis of results from a high strain rate test thus requires consideration of the effect of stress wave propagation along the length of the test specimen in order to determine how fast a uniaxial test can be run to obtain valid stress-strain data.

At the basic level apart from giving us an understanding about the ultimate strain and stress capabilities of the material, tensile tests provide us with information about the factor of safety that needs to be built-in the products using these materials.
1) Fatigue life of engineering materials can be calculated from tensile tests carried out on notched and unnotched specimens.
2) Aging and other environmental effects can be incorporated in the test procedure to characterize the material, as well as predict service life using techniques like Arrhenius equation.
3) Endurance limits in design calculations are calculated from the results obtained from uniaxial tension tests.
4) In manufacturing of rubber materials and products, it is used to determine batch quality and maintain consistency in material and product manufacturing.
5) Electromechanical servo based miniature tensile testing machines can be developed to study material samples of smaller size.

1. Dowling, N. E., Mechanical Behavior of Materials, Engineering Methods for Deformation, Fracture and Fatigue Prentice-Hall, NJ, 99
2. Roylance, D., Mechanical Properties of Materials, MIT, 2008.
3. Gedney, R., Tensile Testing Basics, Tips and Trends, Quality Magazine, 2005.
4. Loveday, M. S., Gray, T., Aegerter, J., Testing of Metallic Materials: A Review, NPL, 2004.
5. Srinivas, K., and Pannikottu, A., Material Characterization and FEA of a Novel Compression Stress Relaxation Method to Evaluate Materials for Sealing Applications at the 28th Annual Dayton-Cincinnati Aerospace Science Symposium, March 2003.
6. Ong, J.H., An Improved Technique for the Prediction of Axial Fatigue Life from Tensile Data, International Journal of Fatigue, 15, No. 3, 1993.
7. Manson, S.S. Fatigue: A Complex Subject–Some Simple Approximations, Experimental Mechanics, SESA Annual Meeting, 1965.
8. Yang, S.M., et al. Failure Life Prediction by Simple Tension Test under Dynamic Load, International Conference on Fracture, 1995.