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ME 226 Laboratory 1 Spring 2010

Mechanical Testing of Materials – The Tensile Test

Location: HOPEMAN 133
In this experiment you will be determining Young’s modulus, the yield strength, ultimate
strength, fracture stress, elongation, and other properties of several tensile bars using a screw driven
MTS load frame. After testing you will need to make graphs from your data. You will need various
measurements of sample geometry to calculate engineering stress versus engineering strain to obtain the
material properties. You will be expected to estimate the magnitude and sources of error in your
measurements. Your samples will include an annealed AISI 1018 steel sample and a T-351 tempered
2024 aluminum specimen that have the same geometry. The heat treatment of the steel is fully annealed;
the tensile samples should have quite different material properties so you will see a variety of material

Before coming to lab, read through this handout so that you will know what will be expected of
you in the lab. Each student should answer all the questions on the preliminary question sheet to be
turned in before doing the lab (See important dates for Lab #1). Each group will write one report by
answering the questions in the discussion section of this lab manual. You will receive the lab data as an
Excel file.

Timing: This lab takes about one hour.

1. Apparatus:
In this experiment you will use an MTS machine designed for tensile testing to obtain mechanical
properties for the two specimens. The machine has an 11,200 lb. capacity (50.2 kN). As shown in Figure
1, the MTS machine consists of a large heavy-duty test frame with a fixed beam at the bottom, a moving
beam (referred to as a crosshead) and a gearbox and large motor located (concealed) in its base. The
motor moves the crosshead vertically up or down. The gearbox is used to select high and low speed
ranges for movement of the crosshead. The specimen is mounted between two grips, one attached to the
fixed beam and the other attached to the moving crosshead. The movement of the crosshead relative to
the fixed beam generates the strain within the specimen and consequently the corresponding load. The
crosshead beam contains a (strain gage) load cell that measures the applied force on the tensile

Next to the test frame is the associated electronics console and computer that uses LabVIEW, a
computer software package for controlling experiments and recording data. MTS calls the program Test
Works. The program contains the main start/stop controls for testing and the adjustments for the
sensitivity of the strain gage load cell (a strain gage bridge) as well as a "chart recorder" to read the
output of the load cell bridge.

Most engineering materials are nearly rate-insensitive but the rate of elongation is controlled during the
tensile test by moving one of the grips at a fixed displacement rate relative to the other. Usual testing
rates correspond to engineering strain rates of about 10-3/s where the strain rate represents how quickly
the strain in the gage length is changing with respect to time. You might expect that if the specimen had
a one inch gage length, you would set the displacement of the machine to 10-3 inches per second, for the

specimen to experience a 10-3/s strain rate. However, the machine displacement also includes the
elongation of the grips, the ends of specimen, the load cell, and the deflection of everything in the test
frame. During the initial displacement of the crossheads, the sample experiences little load as the gaps
between the thread and around the pins are being closed. That is why the sample extension must be
measured with an extensometer to obtain an accurate measurement of the elastic strains so Young’s
Modulus can be determined. A close-up view of a specimen with an attached extensometer is shown in
Figure 2.

You will be testing two samples in uniaxial tension. During a tension test, it is desirable to apply forces
to the specimen large enough to break it. The grip region must have a large enough area to transmit the
force to the gage length of the sample without significant deformation or slipping. Consequently, most
specimens have enlarged grip regions. While most material properties are supposed to be specimen
geometry and grip independent, there are some weak dependencies. For the samples chosen in this
laboratory, there are additional strains in the gage length so your calculations of Young’s modulus will
be low by about 1-2 %. A very long sample with a small gage length is needed to accurately determine
Young’s modulus. In engineering practice, there are standard specimen geometries specified by the
American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM). ASTM also prescribes test methods so that data
reported for design purposes is obtained in a very standardized way. The specimen geometry is usually
reported as part of the test results. A copy of the E 8–04 Standard Test Methods for Tension Testing of
Metallic Materials can be found in the lab and in Carlson Reference (TA402.A51b v.3.01 2006). The
procedure below is based on this standard.

The data you will record are the load and specimen elongation as a function of time. The load will be
measured with the load cell in series with the sample. The specimen elongation will be measured with
an extensometer attached directly to the sample. This transducer is designed to produce a linear voltage
output with respect to gage length displacement. Since the initial gage length is fixed, the output is then
proportional to the engineering strain. If the load signal (voltage which is proportional to the applied
force) and the extensometer signals are plotted using an X-Y plot, the initial slope is used to determine
the elastic modulus. To prevent damage to the extensometer, it must be removed before the specimen
fractures. After this point, the elongation of the specimen is estimated by Test Works from the cross-
head displacement, force, and machine stiffness. The machine stiffness is determined from the crosshead
displacement less the extensometer displacement plotted versus the load.



Threaded end

Fixed beam

Figure 1. MTS tensile testing machine. Figure 2. Specimen with extensometer.

2. Experimental Procedure:

Measure and record the diameter and lengths of all the samples. Be sure to estimate the
magnitude and sources of error in your measurements.

Chris Pratt will calibrate the MTS load cell and the extensometer for you. She will help you obtain and
understand the details of these calibrations. Be sure you record the gage length of the extensometer
along with the calibrated units for the extensometer displacement. Also record the load cell range
and displacement rate settings for the crosshead on the MTS for each individual sample. These
settings may vary between samples and will be used to interpret your laboratory data later. Also make
sure to avoid hysteresis effects when calibrating the extensometer - Chris will help you understand how
to implement these procedures.

Once the instrument is calibrated you are ready to mount the sample and perform the actual test. Repeat
this procedure for both specimens. Install the specimen in the grips. Be careful to follow the
recommended installation procedures as given by Chris so that no damage occurs to yourself or the test
equipment. Be careful to avoid placing any part of your body at a pinch point. The final coupling should
be performed by trial and error by slipping the pin in by hand with the machine stopped. Move the
crosshead up and down at a very slow speed until you can do this manually. Zero and calibrate the load
cell once the specimen is in place (Why do you need to rezero the load cell?). Do this in Test Works,
which can adjust the load cell bridge to match the zero line on the chart. (The preliminary calculation
that you have done in the preparatory questions should confirm that for the steel samples you should
expect about 5000 lb. full-scale range for measurement.) Install the calibrated extensometer on the
specimen. Be sure that it is centered and straight and that it is fully closed. Re-zero the extensometer so
the data on the load and displacement versus time data file does not require you to remove the local zero
offset that was used in calibration.
Strain rates on the order of 10- /s are reasonable. Strengths typically have only weak strain rate

dependence. Chris may recommend a faster rate based on time constraints. Heat treatment and chemical
variations may differ for materials so these conditions are reflected in the reported textbook values. The
shape of the curves, however, remains fundamentally the same.

Observe the specimen. Do not get too close because fracture of the specimen liberates all the stored
elastic energy in the specimen. Do you see bands propagating along the steel specimen? These are
Luders bands indicating the multiplication and motion of dislocations. They will not be visible unless
the specimen is highly polished.

You will obtain an excel file with load and extension vs time so you can calculate stress vs strain for the
test. After a few percent strain just before fracture remove the extensometer and then continue the
test, recording the load vs. time curve until fracture. Observe the neck formation. Note that it always
starts to form at the maximum load for ductile tensile tests. Measure the final cross-sectional area
both at the neck and away from the neck and the final total length of each sample.

3. Background and Theory
Additional background for this lab can be found in your ME 226 textbook, Mechanics of
Materials, by Gere and Goodno or most introductory mechanics of materials or materials science texts.
In a uniaxial tension test, we are mainly interested in the stress and strain in the axial direction.

σ = Engineering stress is the force per unit (original) area.

ε = Engineering strain is the elongation per unit (original) length

P δ
Engineering Stress, σ = and Engineering Strain, ε =
A0 L0

where A0 = original cross sectional area of specimen

L0 = original length of the gage section
P = applied force
δ = L − L0 = change in length
In the linear elastic region of the uniaxial test, Hooke’s law relates the engineering stress to the
engineering strain,

where E is Young's modulus. (Note that this relationship holds only for uniaxial elastic
tension/compression. We will consider a more general form for the stress-strain relationship later in the
course.) It is assumed σ = 0 when ε = 0 .

True stress σTrue and true strain εTrue differ from engineering stress and strain because they
refer to the instantaneous area and gage length respectively.
P dL
True stress σTrue = and true strain, dεTrue = 

where L = instantaneous length of gage section

A = instantaneous cross-sectional area.

The strain has the natural logarithm or ln dependence because it is determined from the
instantaneous gage length. This can be obtained by integrating the true strain equation given above to
obtain an expression for εTrue. Integrate

ε True L
∫ dεTrue = ∫
0 L0
to obtain
εTrue = ln .
Note that
x 1 ⎛ x⎞2 1 ⎛ x⎞3 1 ⎛ x⎞4
ln (a + x ) = ln(a) + − + ⎝ ⎠ − ⎝ ⎠ + ,
a 2 ⎝ a⎠ 3 a 4 a
so that when ΔL << Lo

⎛ Lo + ΔL ⎞
εTrue = ln⎜ ⎟ = ln(1+ ε) ≅ ε .
⎝ Lo ⎠
For strains of about 1%, the "error" is of order of ε 2 or 10-4. Consequently, there is no significant
difference in the engineering and true strains when all measurements are of small strains.

To calculate the true stress, an estimate for the instantaneous area A is needed, since typically this is not
measured. For large strains in plastic deformation, the volume of the specimen is approximately
conserved (do you know why?); shear deformation changes shape but not volume. The volume of course
changes in the elastic part of the tensile curve (can you calculate how large the change in volume is
before yield). Once plastic deformation starts the volume is nearly constant, the instantaneous area A
can be calculated from the measured length L . Assuming volume is conserved and the deformation is
uniform throughout the gage length (i.e., before necking!), Volume = A0 L0 AL . Or, rearranging
A = A0 0 .
Initially, the specimen will deform so that its cross-sectional area will remain homogeneous along its
length and therefore, the stress and strain will be approximately constant throughout the gage length of
the specimen. When the work hardening rate has reached its critical value, the specimen may neck down
and begin local deformation. This always occurs at the peak load. (Why?) To determine the true stress-
strain behavior beyond the peak load requires knowledge of the non-uniform geometry of the neck in
both the calculation of the strain and the stress distribution. In this region, the stress is non-uniform
because the cross-sectional area changes along the tensile bar’s length; the strain is non-uniform because
the geometry is rapidly changing. In ductile materials, the true stress at fracture can be several times the
engineering stress at fracture.

Most data you will be exposed to are engineering stress and strain unless otherwise specified. If there is
a yield point, namely, a sharp transition between elastic and plastic deformation, yield stress is typically
defined as the stress at the yield point. If there is a yield drop, there is an upper yield point and a lower
yield point. If the load vs displacement curve is smooth, the yield point is usually defined as the stress
corresponding to a specific amount of plastic strain. 0.2% permanent strain is used to define the yield
stress by ASTM. Then the yield stress is so identified as 0.2% yield. The ultimate strength or tensile
strength is the largest engineering stress achieved during the test to failure.

The elongation to failure is the permanent engineering strain at fracture determined at zero load. It does
not include elastic strain but does include both uniform strain and the localized, necking, strain. The
elongation to failure is usually stated as percent strain over a given gage length. The reduction in area is
a better a measure of ductility. The true strain at fracture can’t be measured at the neck so it is
determined by measuring the areas of the fractured specimen at the fracture site and the equation
obtained using a constant volume approximation and D the sample diameter,
ε True = ln = ln 0 = 2 ln 0 .
L0 A D
The area under the engineering stress-strain curve is a measure of the energy needed to fracture the
specimen. It has units of work/unit volume of the gage length within the neck and it is sometimes
erroneously referred to as a measure of a material's "toughness." However, the term fracture toughness
more correctly refers to the energy required to fracture pre-cracked samples. Fracture toughness is a
concept that comes from Fracture Mechanics not covered in the course text. Although, these two
quantities may be related in some instances, this relationship is still unknown to the technical and
scientific community.

4. Laboratory Report: DUE February 4 (at the beginning of class).
Lab reports are not to exceed 4 pages, excluding the graphs. Put several curves on the same plot to aid
comparisons. The report should first briefly describe the experimental procedure, the machine settings
you used, and all of your measurement results. When giving results, give equations you used and explain
how you obtained the resulting numbers. Remember, to organize results in paragraphs (equations
should be treated as phrases in a sentence) and to describe all figures and tables in the text; do not
give a figure or table without a caption.

Report the following quantitative data for each of the samples if it exists:

Young's modulus and a standard deviation

0.2% yield strength (offset method)
Volume change in the sample at 0.2% yield (assume Poisson’s ratio is 0.27)
Upper and lower yield stresses
Ultimate or tensile strength
Engineering and also true strain at failure
Reduction in area of the tensile bar at the neck and in remaining gage length
Area of the largest crack that formed in neck before shear lip fracture
True fracture stress

In your discussion please address the following:

1. After plastically deforming the samples, if they were unloaded then upon reloading what
would be the yield point? Explain?
2. Compare your extensometer and crosshead data. Explain what is happening at the very
beginning of the tensile test. How is extension estimated after the extensometer is removed?
Give a value for the machine stiffness from your data. Also, verify whether the strain rates
are as you expect.
3. When an automobile crashes we want the energy of impact to be expended in deforming the
car rather than the occupants. What material property corresponds to energy absorption?
Clearly, a very strong, brittle material would be a poor choice for the car body. What about a
material with high ductility but very low strength? Of the materials you tested in this
experiment, which one would have the best performance as an absorber? Why? Base your
answers on the load vs displacement curves you measured for these materials. How much is
the difference between the steel and aluminum? Be quantitative.
4. Obtain the true stress vs true strain curve for the steel specimen using the load vs
extensometer strain data. Show your equations for determining these quantities. Plot this
data for the region where this calculation is valid. On the same graph, plot engineering stress
versus engineering strain. Do the graphs deviate? Explain why.
5. Mark in red on the strain axis on your graphs the two areas for the steel sample where the
specimen’s cross sectional area is not the same along the entire gage length of the bar. Mark
this area in the aluminum bar. Is the stress the same at every cross section along the length of
the bar in these strain regions? Comment.
6. State something you have learned about tensile testing that is not discussed in the lab


PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS --------- DUE Thursday, January 21st

Keep a copy of your answers to use when doing the lab and lab report.
Read Gere and Goodno, Mechanics of Materials chapter 1
Name:____________________________________ Lab Date:______________

1. Does a steel stress strain curve differ from an aluminum curve? How? Which material stores the
most elastic energy for a given stress? For a given strain?

2. Why do we put an extensometer on the sample rather than just use the extension of the frame of
the MTS as recorded in Test Works? Is the use of the extensometer important in measuring the elastic
modulus? If the load-frame is considered as a large spring what must be measured to find the spring

3. Assume you are specifying aluminum wires to be used in construction. What load could the wire
support if its area was 0.035 inches squared? Explain why. Where is your data from? Hint: Look in an
Appendix H of your ME 226 textbook table 3 page 993 in Mechanics of Materials.

4. For an annealed 1018 steel sample, the ultimate or tensile strength is approximately 45 ksi. For a
specimen with a length of 2.5" and a diameter of 0.399" calculate the maximum load you would expect
to have to apply to fracture the sample. Also, for 10 % strain estimate the elongation the sample would
experience. Use these to determine a load cell range and a cross-head rate to use for tensile testing such
a specimen. The test should take about 10 minutes. Explain and in particular calculate how long the
tensile test would take for the given cross-head rate if the sample broke at 10% strain. Note that these
are the approximate properties and dimensions for your test specimens. Does the machine compliance
play any role in your estimates? How? MTS machines are often found to be 3 times more compliant
than the test bars.