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  • Summary Material Test Systems

    Dear BIOMCH-L subscribers:

    Several weeks ago I posted an inquiry regarding material testing
    systems. Below is a copy of the original posting, as well as all the
    responses I have received to date - the responses keep trickling in. I
    wish to thank all of you for your thoughtful responses and comments. Any
    additional comments are also most welcome!
    Many thanks - Barbara Best

    Original posting:
    I am setting up a biomechanics program within a biology department
    and will be acquiring a material testing system. Thus far, I have looked at
    two servohydraulic systems - the Instron 8511 and the MTS Mini-Bionix 858.
    I am looking for a system that I can use for my own research, as well as
    undergraduate student projects and laboratories in physiology, ecology,
    marine biology and biomechanics. Therefore I require a system that is (1)
    versatile, (2) very user friendly, and (3) has excellent performance. An
    additional consideration is that my institution generously supports Mac
    computers only; Instron has Mac drivers for LabView, while the MTS
    interfaces with a PC.

    I would welcome any comments from those of you familiar with the
    Inston 8511, MTS Mini-Bionix 858 or similar systems, particularly
    regarding their performance, versatility and "user-friendliness".

    Thanks in advance for your comments.

    From: Glen Niebur

    Our lab has a custom built 4-axis load frame. It is a table top model
    with 3 translational, and one rotational axis. It has relatively easy
    to use software. It only interfaces with a PC though. The other down
    side is that there is no "service department", and so you would have
    to do the maintenance yourself. The upside is that the guy who did
    the software is pretty responsive to requests for enhancements and fixes.

    The company (really just two guys) who built ours is building and
    selling addtional systems. If you are interested, you can call
    Larry Berglund (507) 284-2588 or (507) 288-1479.


    From: Nat Ordway (Sorry, the email address was inadvertently erased.)

    Barbara, in our research lab we have an MTS Bionix 858 testing machine and
    have used it for the past five years with no major problems besides some
    routine maintenance.In terms of user friendliness, there is definately a
    learning curve. I am not to familiar with the mini 858, so you'll have to
    ask if that machine is any easier to run. Regarding the issue of Mac vs PC,
    it depends on whether you plan to use the computer for data acquisition and
    control or just data acquisition. We have mainly Macs in our lab and we use
    LabView. The MTS 858 has BNC terminals right on the front panel, so data
    acquisition can easily be performed using the Mac. If you have any other
    questions, I'd be happy to try to help you out.

    Nat Ordway
    Dept of Orthopedics
    SUNY Health Science Center
    Syracuse, NY
    (315) 464-6462

    >From Thomas G. Loebig,

    We are currently using MTS Bionix 858 axial/torsional system with a max rated
    axial load of 15 kN (3.3 kip), and max rated torque of 150 N-m (1500 in-lb).
    Performance is excellent, versatility is good and can be enhanced if you have
    someone who can really learn the system, i.e., if you need to test outside of
    the "normal" range of the performance envelope, you will need to do some
    electronic and mechanical "tweaking." We started with the MTS PC TestLink
    interface which worked very well and was very user-friendly for simple tests.
    If you would want to customize your data acquisition, you would need a
    programmer who is rather sophisticated with QuickBasic. For biomechanical
    testing, I really like the performance and testing range of the Mini-Bionix
    which I sometimes wish we had. We have, however, learned to adapt with our
    current system and with great satisfaction.

    Getting to the point... We are currently implementing a custom "upgrade" of
    our control software using LabView and a new PC board. The other engineer in
    our lab, Tom Daniel, is spearheading the job and will do all of the
    programming. He's been in contact will people who have done this before, so
    if your interested, his e-mail is Note that a
    Mac would do the job just as well if not better than a PC. We have 5 Macs
    and one PC whose only reason for existence heretofore was to run the MTS via
    TestLink. LabView will enable us greatly expanded control and data
    acquisition capabilities with increased user-friendliness.

    Other systems you might want to check out are:

    10915 Valley-View Road
    Eden Prairie, MN 55344
    (612) 828-9937
    They make servo-pneumatic testing systems that are controlled by PC's with
    their own plug-in boards. I've heard good things about them.

    Sintech-A Division of MTS
    PO Box 14226, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-4226
    (919) 677-2480
    Instron like electro-mechanical testing systems also controlled by PC's.

    With Windows and all the new GUI software for the PC, especially LabView,
    limiting your choice of test systems based on control platform might not get
    you the best system for your money. Some of these companies may already be
    developing Mac interfaces. The PowerMac can run SoftPC and SoftWindows
    that can then run any DOS or Windows software, at a peformance penalty that
    should be reduced or eliminated in the future. You can also buy a
    "PC-on-a-board" that plugs into any Mac with a NuBus slot, the you have a
    486 PC and a Mac in the same platform, although I don't know if the
    "virtual PC" can really
    support control of a testing system.

    Anyway, I hope i've been of some help and not too much of a bore. Good luck
    with your lab.


    >From tim foutz <>

    you may wish to consider the liveco vytrodyne system. we are
    having success using the system on small tendons (embyo chicks)

    tim foutz

    From: Fred Werner

    At Syracuse University, we set up an undergraduate biomechanics
    track that required the use of a materials testing machine. We choose to
    go with a MTS/Sintech screw machine that uses TestsWorks software. We
    deliberately choose not to go with a servohydraulic machine (even though I
    normally use a Bionix 858 machine for my research). We didn't want to
    expose the students to a high speed (12"/sec) actuator speed.
    The students (seniors) have quite successfully been able to define and
    write their own test methods this past semester. During their junior year
    they conduct labs using the Sintech machine but only with an instructor
    helping them. The testworks software is quite easy to use - it is a PC
    windows program.
    When we decided on the MTS system (about 13 months ago), Instron
    was supposed to be coming out with new software in maybe January, 1993 that
    would be just as good. So, I would suggest that you check into very recent
    users of that software.
    Good luck in your search.
    Fred Werner

    From: stuart mcgill

    Hello Barbara,
    I purchased an INSTRON 8511 a couple of years ago (one of the first I
    believe). We have been using it for compressing spine segments. It has
    quite good performance- we have achieved 16000 N/s load rates. There is
    quite a learning curve- especially if you wish to apply some different
    waveforms, but that is probably standard for most machines. So, generally
    we have been pleased. Be prepared for maintenance costs(I undersdtand an
    oil change and calibration costs approximately 1800 dollars(CDN)).
    Hope this helps,
    Stu McGill

    From: Janet Schechtman

    I understand that my friend Deepak Vashishth already replied to you.
    I would like to add that I use both MTS and INSTRON systems.
    Our INSTRON system is screw-driven but the control and software
    interface are, probably, the same as for the hydraulic driven system.
    Our MTS is an hydraulic driven system. I personally prefer the MTS
    system both for being user-friendly and for its performance and
    the possibility of adding external sensors through a standard A/D
    input. On the INSTRON you are very limited on what you can add as
    external sensors.
    Another important point: nowadays it is very easy to transfer data
    from the pc to the macintosh. Macintosh computers already come with
    a software (Apple File Exchange) that converts files from the PC to
    Macintosh and from Macintosh to PC.
    If you have any further query do not hesitate to contact me.

    From: Bob Redd

    Dear Barbara,
    There is a new system available which is specifically designed for
    biomechanical testing. The company is called Columbia Labs. The are
    located in Buffalo, NY. The system, as I understand it, operates off of a
    PC. It is unique in that it can perform experiments in solution under
    controlled chemical (pH) and
    temperature environments.

    If interested, you should contact Mark Lauren at 716-833-8815.

    Good luck!


    From: "Jeff Rouleau"

    We are using a Model 810 uniaxial MTS with a separate torsion actuator. The
    machine is controlled either by the MTS-supplied microprofiler or custom
    LabView software and boards on a Mac IIci. We previously had IBM data
    acquisition, but it was inflexible and difficult for new students to learn.
    I am not aware of what Instron has to offer, but we are more than satisfied
    with our MTS-mac interface. I might add that the system is used very
    frequently by a large number of students, clinicians, and faculty.

    Jeff Rouleau

    From: Edward A Morra

    I am involved in biomechanical testing at Calhoun Research at the Akron
    General Medical Center, and we use the Instron 8511 with very good
    results. We do a variety of tests including fatigue, stress-strain, creep
    and stress relaxation. The control panel that we use comes with a load
    and displacement control module (a strain module is available). The panel
    is relatively easy to learn to manipulate (about an hour or two of
    learning curve) and allows a large degree of versatility. Instron
    provided us with a software package that will control the 8511 and take
    data off internal sensors. The software was originally written for DOS
    but has been recently updated to a psuedo-Windows type of program. It is
    called FLAPS and is a little klugey by my standards. We generally use the
    control panel to operate the 8511 and have written our own windows based
    data acquisition program (with Visual Basic Pro) called DAP.
    Any other specific questions? E-mail me anytime directly: Good luck to you!

    - Ed Morra -

    From: (D.Vashishth)

    Dear Dr. Best,
    We here at IRC in Biomedical materials (QMW),University of London have
    been using the MTS machines for the past two years. I,personally has been
    involved with a number of tests on the MTS_Bionix (model 858). The mini
    bionix you are looking at is quite similar to this except that it is much
    more suited for work on smaller specimens in low load ranges etc. As you
    must be aware of the 858 runs on the Os2 based software Teststar within
    which lies the Testware which is used to write test templates. The setting
    up of the various parameters
    using teststar is quite straightforward, the new version even remembers your
    window postions and once you log on it opens up everything the way you left
    it last time you tested. Testware where you design the tests, has a number
    of predefined processes like ramp, cycle etc. To write up a test you just
    click on them and define the parameters. In crux, i find it quite user
    About the versatility of the machine, you can do most of the biomechanical
    testing on the bionix. Over the past years the 858 has catered to all of our
    test requirements. The tests carried out on the system are as :
    (i) Torsion tests on whole bones
    (ii) Uniaxial fatigue tests on Dumbbel specimens of cortical bone and bone
    (iii) Fatigue tests on blocks of Cancellous bone
    (iv) Combined load tests on various knee fixation devices which involve
    applying torsion under fixed or increasing compression.
    (v) Using the file playback to input parameters from gait cycle for load
    (vi) Fracture toughness evaluation of cortical bone using compact tension
    (vii) Monotonic and fatigue tests on spinal fixation devices.
    Most of these tests have been carried out inside an environmental chamber
    which maintains a constant supply of physiological saline at desired
    temperature. The one we have is home made but nowadays MTS has it as
    standard shelf item
    Finally, one of the other things about the MTS, we have had excellent
    customer serice. They seem to aim at the biomedical market and are alawys
    interested in solving the 'non typical engineering problems'. I hope this
    information is useful to you, if you have any more questions please let me

    Deepak Vashishth


    Hi Barbara,
    My apologies for delaying this reply to your posting "Material Test Systems".

    I am a research technician at the Centre for Biomaterials, University of
    Toronto, Canada. We use both Instron and MTS servo-hydraulic equipment in
    our lab (Soft-tissue mechanics), and like you, we are Macintosh based.
    Also, like you, we have a multitude of grad/under-grad students working in
    our lab. Your situation sounds very familiar and so I hope I can help shed
    some light.

    In Canada, MTS is head and shoulders above Instron in service, but it all
    ends there for us. We bought a multi-axis test system from them that did
    not do what they claimed it would. They did have a solution to the problem,
    but it required us
    to buy a 486PC. They were extremely nice and helpful with this problem. I
    hate PCs. Also, the operation of their system is not obvious. Students find
    it very frustrating when they are learning. Did I mention I hate PCs?

    Instron on the other hand, sold us a 8501 test frame with a digital user
    panel (Model 8500). The use of this panel is very obvious, and students get
    aquainted and comfortable very quickly.

    Interfacing the Instron to a Macintosh equiped with National Instruments
    Data Acquisition hardware was a breeze. I heard of Instron's Mac drivers
    for LabVIEW, but we do not use them.

    I do not know much about MTS's Mini-Bionix 858 (is it digital?), so I would
    give the edge (a big edge) to Instron, just don't attempt to get your
    technical support from Instron Canada. :-)

    I'd love to hear what you eventually bought.

    Chris Pereira