Reliable Concrete Testing – Manual Vs. Automated Operation: A Comparison

A large majority of civil engineers have reported that using reliably and soundly tested concrete is the single most important factor that they consider in a construction project.

No wonder, the construction industry is always coming up with innovative and better testing methods to ensure that concrete used in projects is of the best quality with the least chances of failure. Alongside simple concrete testing procedures, there are several other testing methods that are governed by various testing standards, such as ASTM C39, ASTM C469, ASTM C1609, and ASTM C109.

Let us have a deep dive into the various mechanical methods of testing concrete in a laboratory setting. We will also look at the way automation is changing these procedures and the good and bad aspects of doing so.

How is Mechanical Testing of Concrete Carried Out?

To ensure that a specimen of concrete meets the desired strength and deflection specifications for its proposed area of application, we first need to prepare a suitable sample with the correct dimensions, which has to be mould cured. We then proceed with the test by carrying out the appropriate procedure as per the test standard.

Once this is done, we need to analyse the data and tabulate the findings in a test report. This can be done either manually, which is a tedious process and can be prone to human errors.

Alternatively, one can use automation to derive crucial diagnostic insights from the test data.

How to take advantage of modern automation techniques in concrete testing?

If you introduce automation in your concrete testing procedure, you can get the tests done in significantly smaller durations of time. You also reduce the many human errors during the data entry process that inadvertently corrupt your data leading to false conclusions. Finally, automated algorithms can analyse and derive actionable insights much faster and reliably than human analysis.

You use servo-motors to introduce automatic control during the execution of the actual test process. The entire mechanism is automated by a hardware controller or similar software. You only need to enter the intended test and analyses in the details that you wish to perform on the data. The machine will then handle everything and serve you ready-made usable final test results.

Manual vs. Automatic: Which one is best for me?

Manual testing is often sufficient for most concrete tests. In case the test requires strain rate feedback, then you would need to use an automated testing system instead.

Some concrete tests, such as those governed by the ASTM C39 industry standard, require the loading rate to be verified throughout the testing procedure. This is because the loading rate of concrete is sensitive to compressive strength. To ensure standardization and compatibility among different laboratories, we need to keep the loading rate within a specified range.

This can be easily be managed by using a digital indicator if you are using a manually operated machine. Otherwise, you could do this easily if you conduct the test on an automatic testing machine.

For other concrete tests, like the ones that need to comply with the ASTM C1609 standard, it is essential to maintain a slow but uniform speed throughout the test. You cannot do this by using a digital indicator fitted to a manually operated testing machine. For such tests, it is better to use fully automated servo-controlled machines. The controllers in these let you control the movement of the machine with extreme precision. They thus enable you to maintain the steady and constant speed that the tests require.

To conclude, you can get away with manual testing in most scenarios. On the other hand, if you go for one of the special tests mentioned above, please choose a good automated testing machine manufactured by a reliable and reputed company.

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