On February 24, 2009 a Taurus XL rocket carrying NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory failed to reach orbit due the payload fairing failing to separate. On March 4, 2011 it happened to a second Taurus rocket carrying the NASA Glory satellite. Both rockets and their payloads reentered the atmosphere, broke apart, and burned up costing a total of $700 million. The failure was linked to the wrong type of aluminum being used to form the frangible joints that separated the fairing, and ultimately to the aluminum manufacturer’s falsification of test results for the material.
These incidents provide a potent example of why material testing is important for two reasons. The first is that the material inconsistencies were discovered by testing the trimmings from the machining operation that prepared the joints. Important for preventing similar failures in the future. The second is that if the initial material testing had performed correctly, suitable aluminum could have been used instead, and NASA would likely enjoy the use of two rather important atmospheric monitoring satellites.
Why Material Testing Is Important
Rockets and aircraft failures are only the most spectacular examples of engineering failures due to inadequate testing of materials, or deliberate falsification of materials testing. In fact, while engineering failures in these fields are the most spectacular, they are far from being the most deadly, or even the most expensive. In February of 2023 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Southern Turkey and Northern Syria. As a result of the earthquake, and several large aftershocks over 164,000 buildings collapsed or were severely damaged. Nearly 60 thousand deaths have been reported, over a million people were left homeless, and damages are estimated to be well over $100 billion US.
A significant part of this damage was linked to the use of inadequate materials, not enough materials, and in Turkey a general failure to meet their own building codes. Including skinting on material testing of construction supply. In short, material testing is important because it saves lives, structures, and systems for the low, low price of doing the job right in the first place. Something as simple as knowing the difference in 304 vs. 316 stainless steels and which one you’re using can save lives. Appropriate and consistent material testing allows manufacturers and builders alike to perform the following:
|Ensure Quality||Material testing helps to ensure that the materials used in manufacturing or construction meet standards and specifications|
|Provide for Safety||Testing materials can help ensure that they are safe for use in a particular application, that they won’t pose a risk to people or the environment, and that they have the needed strength range.|
|Meet Performance Standards||Material testing can help determine the performance characteristics of materials under different conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and stress. Identifying any points of failure before it becomes an issue.|
|Optimize Products||Material testing can help identify the optimal composition, processing, and treatment of materials for applications. It can identify areas where performance of a product in its final role can be enhanced, and identify areas where costs can be saved without risking the integrity of the final product or its maker.|
|Meet Regulations||Material testing is often required to comply with various regulations and standards, such as those related to product safety or environmental protection.|
All of which are critically important to satisfying a range of needs from shelter to space traveler. In every field material is important to not only getting the job done, but getting the job done better, for a lower cost, and more safely. Now, it isn’t cost effective for all manufacturers to test every piece of material that they produce.
It would be cost prohibitive for a machine shop for example to test every single piece of aluminum or other metal that they purchase. That is why the metal foundry or supplier is supposed to provide some sort of certification. A large part of a manufacturers ability to meet regulatory requirements and standards therefore depend on them choosing a metal supplier they can trust.
New and Verified Remnant Aluminum You Can Count On
When buying aluminum or any other metal manufacturers know that they know exactly what formulation of the metal they are buying. This holds true whether they are buying cast aluminum tooling plates for making molds, or 6061 aluminum for an architectural structure. New aluminum comes with a mill certification that stakes the foundry that forged or cast that aluminum on the purchased metal being exactly what it is certified to be. That is why it is so important that aluminum is purchased from reputable sources. The quality of their materials testing and their honesty affects everyone down the production line, especially the end user.
It is more difficult to ensure the quality of remnant aluminums. Remnant aluminum being the leftover pieces or shorts that remain after initial cutting or machining. They are at a remove from the original production and a mill certification may or may not be available. However, through material testing equipment like XRF scanners their composition can be verified, and in most use cases verified remnants can be used without any compromises to the end product’s quality or integrity. Mill test reports and onsite verification offer a promise of quality materials that is as good as the supplier’s word.
Industrial Metal Service is well aware of why material testing is important and knows why the job needs to be done right the first time. We understand your business and reputation depend on the accuracy of our precision metal cutting services and onsite verifications. Contact us to find an aluminum and metal supplier you can trust.