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Tensile Strength Testing

A tensile strength test, also known as tension test, is probably the most fundamental type of mechanical test you can perform on material. Tensile tests are simple, relatively inexpensive, and fully standardized. By pulling on something, you will very quickly determine how the material will react to forces being applied in tension. As the material is being pulled, you will find its strength along with how much it will elongate.

Test are performed as per the ASTM E8, ASTM A370, ASTM B557, IS/ BS Standard. Tensile test measures the resistance of a material to a static or slowly applied force. Machined specimen is placed in the testing machine and load is applied. Strain gage or extensometer is used to measure elongation. The stress obtained at the highest applied force is the Tensile Strength.

The Yield Strength is the stress at which a prescribed amount of plastic deformation (commonly 0.2%) is produced. Elongation describes the extent to which the specimen stretched before fracture. Information concerning the strength, stiffness, and ductility of a material can be obtained from a tensile test. Variations of the tensile testing include; Room Temperature, Low Temperature, Elevated Temperature (ASTM E21), Shear, Temperature and Humidity, Combined Tension and Compression, Through Thickness, True Strain, Notched Tensile, and r (ASTM E646) & n (ASTM E517) values.

Tensile strength measures the force required to pull something such as rope, wire, or a structural beam to the point where it breaks. The tensile strength of a material is the maximum amount of tensile stress that it can take before failure, for example breaking.

There are three typical definitions of tensile strength:

Yield strength

The stress a material can withstand without permanent deformation. This is not a sharply defined point. Yield strength is the stress which will cause a permanent deformation of 0.2% of the original dimension. Point at which material exceeds the elastic limit and will not return to its origin shape or length if the stress is removed.This value is determined by evaluating a stress-strain diagram produced during a tensile test.

A value called "yield strength" of a material is defined as the stress applied to the material at which plastics deformation starts to occur while the material is loaded.

Ultimate Tensile Strength

The maximum stress a material withstands when subjected to an applied load. Dividing the load at failure by the original cross sectional area determines the value Breaking strength - The stress coordinate on the stress-strain curve at the point of rupture

One of the properties you can determine about a material is its ultimate tensile strength (UTS). This is the maximum load the specimen sustains during the test. The UTS may or may not equate to the strength at break. This all depends on what type of material you are testing. brittle, ductile, or substance that even exhibits both properties. And sometimes material may be ductile when tested in lab, when placed in service and exposed to extreme cold temperature, it transition to brittle behavior.

Typical Tensile Strength
Some typical tensile strengths of some materials:

Material Yield strength
Ultimate strength
Structural steel ASTM A36 steel 250 400 7.8
Steel, API 5L X65 (Fikret Mert Veral) 448 531 7.8
Steel, high strength alloy ASTM A514 690 760 7.8
Steel, high tensile 1650 1860 7.8
Steel Wire 7.8
Steel, Piano wire c. 2000 7.8
High density polyethylene (HDPE) 26-33 37 0.95
Polypropylene 12-43 19.7-80 0.91
Stainless steel AISI 302 - Cold-rolled 520 860
Cast iron 4.5% C, ASTM A-48 130 (??) 200
Titanium Alloy (6% Al, 4% V) 830 900 4.51
Aluminum Alloy 2014-T6 400 455 2.7
Copper 99.9% Cu 70 220 8.92
Cupronickel 10% Ni, 1.6% Fe, 1% Mn, balance Cu 130 350 8.94
Brass 250
Tungsten 1510 19.25
Glass (St Gobain "R") 4400 (3600 in composite) 2.53
Bamboo 142 265 .4
Marble N/A 15
Concrete N/A 3
Carbon Fiber N/A 5650 1.75
Spider silk 1150 (??) 1200
Silkworm silk 500
Kevlar 3620 1.44
Vectran 2850-3340
Pine Wood (parallel to grain) 40
Bone (limb) 130
Nylon, type 6/6 45 75
Rubber - 15
Boron N/A 3100 2.46
Silicon, monocrystalline (m-Si) N/A 7000 2.33
Silicon carbide (SiC) N/A 3440
Sapphire (Al2O3) N/A 1900 3.9-4.1
Carbon nanotube (see note below) N/A 62000 rrrrrrrrrrr1.34

Why Perform a Tensile Test or Tension Test?

You can learn a lot about a substance from tensile testing. As you continue to pull on the material until it breaks, you will obtain a good, complete tensile profile. A curve will result showing how it reacted to the forces being applied. The point of failure is of much interest and is typically called its "Ultimate Strength" or UTS on the chart.

Tensile Test Curve

Hooke's Law

For most tensile testing of materials, you will notice that in the initial portion of the test, the relationship between the applied force, or load, and the elongation the specimen exhibits is linear. In this linear region, the line obeys the relationship defined as "Hooke's Law" where the ratio of stress to strain is a constant, or Hookes Law. E is the slope of the line in this region where stress (σ) is proportional to strain (ε) and is called the "Modulus of Elasticity" or "Young's Modulus".

Modulus of Elasticity

Tensile Test Curve
Select image to enlarge The modulus of elasticity is a measure of the stiffness of the material, but it only applies in the linear region of the curve. If a specimen is loaded within this linear region, the material will return to its exact same condition if the load is removed. At the point that the curve is no longer linear and deviates from the straight-line relationship, Hooke's Law no longer applies and some permanent deformation occurs in the specimen. This point is called the "elastic, or proportional, limit". From this point on in the tensile test, the material reacts plastically to any further increase in load or stress. It will not return to its original, unstressed condition if the load were removed.

Offset Method

For some materials (e.g., metals and plastics), the departure from the linear elastic region cannot be easily identified. Therefore, an offset method to determine the yield strength of the material tested is allowed. These methods are discussed in ASTM E8 (metals) and D638 (plastics). An offset is specified as a % of strain (for metals, usually 0.2% from E8 and sometimes for plastics a value of 2% is used). The stress (R) that is determined from the intersection point "r" when the line of the linear elastic region (with slope equal to Modulus of Elasticity) is drawn from the offset "m" becomes theYield Strength by the offset method.

Alternate Moduli

The tensile curves of some materials do not have a very well-defined linear region. In these cases, ASTM Standard E111 provides for alternative methods for determining the modulus of a material, as well as Young's Modulus. These alternate moduli are the secant modulus and tangent modulus.


You will also be able to find the amount of stretch or elongation the specimen undergoes during tensile testing This can be expressed as an absolute measurement in the change in length or as a relative measurement called "strain". Strain itself can be expressed in two different ways, as "engineering strain" and "true strain". Engineering strain is probably the easiest and the most common expression of strain used. It is the ratio of the change in length to the original length, Engineering strain formula. Whereas, the true strain is similar but based on the instantaneous length of the specimen as the test progresses, , where Li is the instantaneous length and L0 the initial length.

Tensile Strength Tesing
Typical Tensile Strength
Stainless Steel Tensile Strength
Hardness Testing
Brinell Hardness Testing
Rockwell Hardness Testing
Vickers Hardness Testing
Bend Testing
Compression Testing
Tensile Strength Tesing
Yield Strength Testing
Brinell and Rockwell Hardness Conversion Chart
How to detect the hardness of stainless steel pipe

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