Home Innovation Insights

Our Universal Test Machine pulls & crushes products into oblivion ... and clients thank us for it!

Bob Hill, PE
October 17, 2013

Not Your Average Product Torture Device: Home Innovation's Large-Scale UTM

What's over 15 feet tall, has a capacity of 200,000 pounds in both tension and compression, dates back pre-WWII, and can hold a full residential wall section? No, it's not the Jolly Green Engineer. It's the Home Innovation Southwerk-Emery Universal Test Machine (UTM), one of the workhorse pieces of equipment in our product testing lab.

Innovative Header Configuration Being Tested in Home Innovation's UTM

Innovative, energy-efficient header design being put to the test in our Southwerk-Emery Universal Test Machine.

Here at Home Innovation Research Labs, we have a wide variety of test equipment: some custom designed, some standard equipment, and some that's a bit of a hybrid. Many labs have a UTM or universal test machines. The Southwerk-Emery UTM is one of those hybrids. The concept is simple — these machines are designed to either push or pull on a test specimen. Pulling is typically used to measure tensile strength or withdrawal failure. Pushing is typically used to determine compressive strength or bending capacity. The UTM has a frame that suspends a crosshead that can move up and down. At the base of the frame is a test bed where the test specimen is mounted. A control system manages the rate and/or distance that the crosshead moves. For tension, the test specimen is fixed to the crosshead, which moves up putting the specimen in tension. For compression, the crosshead simply presses down on the test specimen. When bending is the desired reaction, supports are placed on the test bed, the bending specimen is mounted on the reaction supports, and the crosshead presses down on the test specimen between the supports.

While the basics of using a UTM are straightforward, there are numerous details to take into account depending on the specific test method used. For example, the test method may specify the use of a spherical head, extensometer, deflectometer, center point loading, third point loading, quarter point loading, strain rate, displacement rate, etc. Sometimes special fixturing is also required such as for fastener withdrawal, or dowel bearing strength. Home Innovation Labs has all these standard capabilities and then some.

Our Southwerk-Emery UTM is not what you'd consider a "typical" UTM. It can handle a specimen measuring up to 9’ tall which allows us to do bending tests on beams 20 feet long or longer. Despite the large size and capacity of this UTM, we also have the instrumentation to use it to measure loads as low as 10 pounds even on very large specimens. But perhaps one of it's most unique characteristics is its heritage. The large-scale machine we use today was originally built for testing timbers to be used in the construction of World War II Liberty ships — our innovation even extends to the procurement and creation of our testing equipment! The massive steel frame is original, but the instrumentation and control systems, of course, have been upgraded many, many times over the last 70 years. This machine and our other bench-top Tinius-Olsen UTM (capacity of about 11,000 pounds; handles test specimens up to about 2 feet tall) receive annual calibration by and ISO 17025 accredited calibration provider to ensure consistent and accurate results.

If a product or system is used in residential construction and you can build it, Home Innovation can take it to its breaking point in our UTMs. If you have something you'd like tested in our UTMs, I'd be happy to discuss this and our other testing capabilities in more detail with you. Just let me know.

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