The Iron Giant

10/22/2015
 
The Southwark-Emery Universal Testing Machine in Talbot Lab has a variety of uses.
The Southwark-Emery Universal Testing Machine in Talbot Lab has a variety of uses.
In the back of Talbot Lab is a crane bay that is home to the Southwark-Emery Universal Testing Machine. Assembled in 1929, the two-story tall machine can load up to 3,000,000 pounds in tension or compression and can measure the applied force within one tenth of one percent. The Southwark-Emery has a wide range of testing uses, such as strength of MRI shells, load cell calibration (tension and compression), cable anchor testing, girder-plate beam failure tests, load pin calibration, hydraulic ram calibration, and crane hook proof testing. Engineering departments including MechSE actually use this machine to do testing for companies, such as tensile testing a steel bridge component. Illinois’ Southwark-Emery is one of three in the United States located at a university (another one is at the University of California, Berkeley).  
 
I know the Southwark-Emery as the Crusher. It earned this nickname from its annual demonstration at EOH. If you haven’t seen it, check it out this spring: the Crusher will load a 3-foot tall, 18-inch diameter pillar until failure, which means until the pillar is instantaneously crushed. The vibration from the pillar’s failure is enough to rattle the floor of the crane bay.
 
The Crusher gets its force from two hydraulic cylinders. The cylinders are powered by an adjustable stroke pumping unit located under the floor of the crane bay. The pumping unit draws oil from a supply tank that has an average capacity of 700 gallons. The two well-greased cylinders are threaded and run through a center piece that is moved up and down by their rotation. For compression tests, a plate called an Emery pressure capsule is attached to the center piece and forced downward by the cylinders, pressing on the specimen. In tensile testing, one end of the specimen is attached at the top of the Crusher’s frame, while the other end is attached by various methods to the center piece. The cylinders’ motion causes a downward tensile force on the specimen by the center piece.  
 
Several TAM classes use the Crusher. For those of you planning to take TAM 252, you will get to design a load cell to be tested under compression by the machine. Other majors have classes that use the Crusher as well, such as CEE 300 which uses it for concrete testing.  
 
I encourage checking out the Crusher. After all, it’s not every place that you can see an iron giant.