What is the importance of a material testing lab to society?

What is the importance of a material testing lab to society? | LabLynx Resources

Materials and materials testing

Before we can answer why a materials testing laboratory is vital to society, we must ask what a material is and what testing looks like. The definition of “material” has varied significantly over the years, depending on the course of study, laboratory, author, etc. A 1974 definition by Richardson and Peterson that has seen some use in academic study defines a material as “any nonliving matter of academic, engineering, or commercial importance.”[1] But recently, biomaterials like biopolymers (as replacements for plastics)[2] and even natural[3] and engineered biological tissues[4] have been referenced as “materials.” A modern example would be biodegradable materials research for tissue and medical implant engineering.[5] Yet today, more questions arise. What of matter that doesn’t have “academic, engineering, or commercial importance”; can it now be called a “material” in 2023? What if a particular matter exists today but hasn’t been thoroughly studied to determine its value to researchers and industrialists? Indeed, defining “material” today is no easy task.

To complicate things further, a material can be defined based upon the context of use, i.e., as a raw material, processed matter, or a discretely manufactured product. The ISO 10303-45 standard, which addresses the representation and exchange of material and product manufacturing information in a standardized way, essentially views “materials” and “products” (e.g., fasteners) as being interchangeable, complicating matters further.[6][7]

Taking into account the works of various researchers[1][7][8], as well as ISO 10303-45, the concepts of “raw materials”[9] and “chemical elements”[10], and modern trends towards the inclusion of biomaterials in materials science, we can land on the following definition:

A material is discrete matter that is elementally raw (e.g., native metallic and non-metallic elements), fundamentally processed (e.g., calcium oxide), or entirely manufactured (by human, automation, or both; e.g., a fastener) that has an inherent set of properties that a human or automation-driven solution (e.g., an artificial intelligence [AI] algorithm) has identified for a potential or realized use environment.

Going down this path leads us to the realization that materials, by definition, are inherently linked to the act of intentional human- or automation-driven creation, i.e., manufacturing and construction. And when we talk about manufacturing and construction, terms such as “quality,” “safety,” and “reliability” work their way into the discussion out of necessity. These three traits are vital to anything manufactured and constructed, requiring laboratory testing to better ensure those traits are fully represented with the manufactured or constructed item. This is where the importance of a materials testing laboratory comes in. These labs test materials using mechanical, chemical, and other analytical methods to determine the material’s viability, quality, and reliability, among other things. These analyses promote confidence in manufactured and constructed items, as seen in the next section.

Materials testing laboratories: helping ensure quality, safety, and reliabilitymaterials testing lab

From the nylon used in climbing rope to the bolts used in bridges, materials are involved in the manufacture and construction of everything in modern society. In addition to ensuring quality in manufacturing and construction processes, the quality of the materials used in those processes is also vital to address. When processes and materials are of standardized high quality, the result is usually a safer and more reliable item, generally sought after by end-users and driven by accreditors and regulators. The company manufacturing climbing rope hopefully recognizes that lives are at risk with those using their products and will take standards like UIAA 101 for Dynamic Ropes[11] seriously. This manufacturing standard mandates laboratory testing of climbing ropes to a standardized laboratory test method such as EN 892:2012+A3:2023 Mountaineering equipment – Dynamic mountaineering ropes – Safety requirements and test methods.[11][12], as well as UIAA’s methods. As the UIAA notes, “safety has been at the forefront” of its activities[13], while at the same time recognizing that by focusing on safety and reliability, the practice of climbing and mountaineering can be positively promoted. Compliant and well-operated materials testing laboratories are critical to giving end users a greater sense of trust in their climbing ropes, further aiding in the positive expansion of climbing as an activity. (Put another way, fewer people would take on climbing if they knew quality testing wasn’t part of the rope manufacturing process.)

Similarly, the engineering firm responsible for constructing a bridge hopefully recognizes that lives are at risk with those crossing bridges and they (and hopefully their subcontractors) will take standards like ASTM F3125 Standard Specification for High Strength Structural Bolts, Steel and Alloy Steel, Heat Treated, 120 ksi (830 MPa) and 150 ksi (1040 MPa) Minimum Tensile Strength, Inch and Metric Dimensions, as well as construction specifications like AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications and AASHTO LRFD Bridge Construction Specifications[14], seriously. Test methods for those fasteners, while not all-inclusive, help drive appropriate use and ensure they are manufactured to perform the supportive task they are prescribed for by industry regulations such as U.S. 23 CFR 625.4.[15] Those regulations exist with the safety of people in mind. While recognizing that compared to the users of climbing rope, a likely smaller percentage of people using bridges think about the safety of bridges, broader society can have greater confidence in their reliable use. (Put another way, if a bridge collapses every few weeks, fewer people would take on their use, presuming that quality testing wasn’t part of the process. Additionally, if bridges were constantly collapsing, transportation of goods would come screeching to a halt, affecting economies.)

Both of these cases illustrate the importance of materials testing laboratories to society, focusing on the end user’s desire for a quality item that is safe and reliable in its use. Without these specialized laboratories testing the mechanical, chemical, and other properties of materials on a standardized, regular basis, much of the fabric of modern society would be in question. At worst, our society could not function at an acceptable standard without this vital quality-related step in the manufacturing and construction process chain.

The LabLynx ELab LIMS Solution Unique to Your Material Testing Lab

Every materials testing laboratory possesses a unique blend of infrastructure, industry standards, and customer requirements. While the specific business needs may differ, all materials testing laboratories share a common goal: the need to deliver consistent, reliable test results quickly. This becomes challenging when your materials testing lab relies on manual processes, paper forms, and spreadsheets stored on various computers.

Enter the LabLynx Material Testing LIMS, designed to enhance and automate your workflows, ensuring compliance with ASTM, United States Military Standards (MIL-STD), and other standards while eliminating error-prone manual work. By providing a centralized source for auditable data, the LabLynx ELab LIMS for material testing labs facilitates accreditation requirements such as ISO/IEC 17025, A2LA, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (Nadcap), and more.  Your materials testing lab will produce higher-quality and faster results while boosting productivity with the powerful features in ELab LIMS.

The LabLynx LIMS offers a wide array of features aimed at enhancing your materials testing lab’s productivity, replacing manual processes, eliminating common pre-analytical errors, and elevating the quality of service.

Key features and benefits of the LabLynx ELab LIMS include:

  • Improve efficiency and quality control with integration of instruments. Consolidating your lab’s data improves efficiency and eliminates errors caused by duplication.
  • Maintain optimal operation efficiency with a LIMS that spans multiple departments and allows you to track your samples from accessioning to result reporting across all departments in your lab. Monitor the consumption of supplies and automatically generate replenishment orders. 
  • Document and enforce compliance with laboratory processes. Auditing tools streamline inspections. Role-based rules limit access to laboratory and customer data. All data is encrypted at rest and in transit. Enforce compliance by restricting access to tests and instruments based on employee certifications.
  • Simple browser interfaces let your staff add or modify workflows as standards and customer requirements change.

References

  1. Richardson, James H.; Peterson, Ronald V. (1974). “Chapter 1: Introduction to Analytical Methods”. Systematic Materials Analysis, Part 1. Materials science series. New York: Academic Press. p. 2. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-587801-2.X5001-0. ISBN: 978-0-12-587801-2.
  2. Das, Abinash; Ringu, Togam; Ghosh, Sampad; Pramanik, Nabakumar (1 July 2023). “A comprehensive review on recent advances in preparation, physicochemical characterization, and bioengineering applications of biopolymers” (in en). Polymer Bulletin 80 (7): 7247–7312. doi: 10.1007/s00289-022-04443-4. ISSN: 0170-0839.
  3. Kurniawan, Nicholas A.; Bouten, Carlijn V.C. (1 April 2018). “Mechanobiology of the cell–matrix interplay: Catching a glimpse of complexity via minimalistic models” (in en). Extreme Mechanics Letters 20: 59–64. doi: 10.1016/j.eml.2018.01.004.
  4. Kim, Hyun S.; Kumbar, Sangamesh G.; Nukavarapu, Syam P. (1 March 2021). “Biomaterial-directed cell behavior for tissue engineering” (in en). Current Opinion in Biomedical Engineering 17: 100260. doi: 10.1016/j.cobme.2020.100260.
  5. Modrák, Marcel; Trebuňová, Marianna; Balogová, Alena Findrik; Hudák, Radovan; Živčák, Jozef (16 March 2023). “Biodegradable Materials for Tissue Engineering: Development, Classification and Current Applications” (in en). Journal of Functional Biomaterials 14 (3): 159. doi: 10.3390/jfb14030159. ISSN: 2079-4983.
  6. “ISO 10303-45:2019 Industrial automation systems and integration — Product data representation and exchange — Part 45: Integrated generic resource: Material and other engineering properties”. International Organization for Standardization. November 2019. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  7. Swindells, Norman (2009). “The Representation and Exchange of Material and Other Engineering Properties” (in en). Data Science Journal 8: 190–200. doi: 10.2481/dsj.008-007. ISSN: 1683-1470.
  8. Mies, D. (2002). “Chapter 17. Managing Materials Data”. In Kutz, Myer. Handbook of materials selection. New York: J. Wiley. p. 499. ISBN: 978-0-471-35924-1.
  9. “raw material”. Oxford English Dictionary . Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  10. Lagowski, J.J.; Mason, B.H.; Tayler, R.J. (16 August 2023). “chemical element”. Encyclopedia Britannica . Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  11. “Safety Standards – UIAA 101”. International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA). 2023. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  12. “EN 892:2012+A3:2023 Mountaineering equipment – Dynamic mountaineering ropes – Safety requirements and test methods”. iTeh, Inc. 25 April 2023. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  13. “Climber Safety”. International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA). 2023. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  14. Hartmann, J.L. (1 December 2017). “Use of High Strength Fasteners in Highway Bridges”. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  15. “Title 23, Chapter I, Subchapter G, Part 625, § 625.4 Standards, policies, and standard specifications”. Code of Federal Regulations. National Archives. 5 June 2023. Retrieved 24 October 2023.