When engineer and scientist Mike LaCourt, an instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Technological University (MTU, Houghton, MI), needed materials testing machines that were easy to use and allowed new students to work independently, he turned to Tinius Olsen (Horsham, PA).
The MTU lab that LaCourt works in is outfitted with two Tinius Olsen 60 Super Ls and a 120 Super L, which LaCourt says are basic enough for even the newest of operators to be able to understand. In fact, most students can be up and running on the machines in less than 45 minutes. That is important, says LaCourt, because he cannot waste precious class time teaching students how to operate machinery. For that reason, LaCourt chose machines that had enough function packed into an easy-to-use operating system. “The purpose of the course isn’t to teach them how to operate a system. It’s to teach them what types of tests they can utilize and what those tests will deliver them in the way of critical physical properties and materials performance data. I’m not trying to make a tester out of them-I’m trying to make an engineer out of them.
“The Tinius Olsen machines tend to run a little lower in cost and in my opinion are more versatile and less complex. You can take someone who has little or no experience using materials testing systems and get them started at a much higher rate,” says LaCourt “The students that I have that use them are sophomores and have either never used these machines before or have very little experience.”
The students run basic materials testing on metals, ceramics and composites using compression tests and tension tests. They also are taught how to run manufacturing processes such as extrusion, deep drawing and powder metallurgy. “I bought these particular machines because I wanted to put them to use by a number of students at the same time working somewhat individually,” says LaCourt. “I want them to get used to running materials-type tests in order to get an idea of the types of stuff you can get, and then later on in their junior and senior years when they start to do things where they need to know data, they have the basics down. If they need something more sophisticated, they already know the basics.”
LaCourt is happy with his choice. He says that working with Tinius Olsen has been a positive experience. One of the more unique features of his machines is the ability to make simple modifications onsite. Tinius Olsen designed the machines with upgrades in mind, says LaCourt, and it made it quite simple for his department to handle the modifications. More advanced modifications, such as retrofits, are handled by Tinius Olsen. In fact, MTU has one older machine currently in the process of being retrofitted.
Also, the machines allow students to transition well into more advanced processes. “There are two parts to any of these systems-one is to control the test and the other is to acquire data as you’re running the test,” says LaCourt. “The controls I’m getting are much more programmable, so that the students can put in defined processes. When they are running the tests, the data acquisition capabilities are much higher than the previous system we had.”
LaCourt says he would recommend the Tinius Olsen machines to any college or technical institute because of the ease of use and the opportunity they offer for students to start working independently much faster. LaCourt’s lab required a niche product, and Tinius Olsen easily filled that niche.
- Tinius Olsen