Inside Story Issue 4

ATRONA Material Testing Laboratories, Inc. (www.atrona.com) located in Machesney Park, a suburb of Rockford, Illinois, provides metallurgical and materials analysis and related engineering services.
Issue 4
1st Quarter
2007
A Mitutoyo America Publication

Atrona is accredited internationally to ISO/IEC 17025 standards ANSI/NCSL Z540 and is fully compliant with ISO 9001:2000. Atif “Ott” Odeh, President and Principal Metallurgist, together with a staff of eight metallurgists, engineers and technicians serve a diverse customer base ranging from tier-one automotive, aerospace and military manufacturers, to gear- and other metal-cutters and mills and foundries, as well as governmental and educational institutions. The lab offers a full line of testing services from failure analysis, hardness testing and scanning electron microscopy, to mechanical testing, reverse engineering and even expert witness services.

“Projects come in from around the world.” explains Odeh, “Domestic manufacturers specifying overseas production of products destined to be sold in the US generally require metallurgical testing to US standards. That’s how test articles come to us from Europe, India, China, Brazil and so on.”

Demand drives focus on hardness testing productivity
Though it does not give a direct measurement of specific properties beyond resistance to plastic deformation by penetration, hardness testing is a good analog for resistance to bending and abrasion, as well as for material strength and toughness. Hardness testing is also relatively quick, easy and economical to perform.

Hardness testing can be performed alone or as part of failure analysis or other testing routines such as heat treat certification which makes hardness the most frequent type of test performed by Atrona.

Productivity strategy: training, instruments, certification
In the firm’s early days, Odeh conducted hardness testing himself, but demand for the testing outstripped time available. Odeh explained, “We established a hardness testing training routine, the effectiveness of which is verified by certification. That, together with utilization of the right test equipment, ensures needed productivity, whether it’s me or staff specialists performing tests.”

Training hard
Every member of ATRONA’s staff is certified to Level 2 Hardness Testing; this enables verification from one operator to the next.Training, performed by Odeh, includes theory of hardness testing and heat treating, scales and indenters, and specimen prep. ATRONA also provides hardness testing training seminars for its customers’ operators and technicians.

Instrument design impacts productivity
Instruments are another area where ATRONA achieves gains in testing productivity. Odeh emphasized, “The design of lab equipment greatly impacts output. As a recent example, a domestic off-highway manufacturer required hardness testing on thirty gears just in from China. We needed to test the 8-inch OD and 3-inch bore of each gear. But, these were prototypes which required non-destructive testing because they had to be returned, intact, so the customer could begin immediate in-house mechanical functionality testing.” Odeh continued, “The gears could not be sectioned, but that didn’t matter since we were using a Mitutoyo HR-500 bench model Rockwell/ Brinell instrument to test for Rockwell C-Scale. The HR-500 has a specially designed gooseneck enabling it to access the bore ID directly, eliminating the need for sectioning. And it was fast; we tested all thirty gears in a few hours!”

Citing another example of the impact of instrument design on hardness testing performance, Odeh related, “For micro-hardness testing, we use a Mitutoyo HM-122 Microhardness testing machine. Operation is incredibly simple. It uses an LCD touch-screen to select indentation value, type of indenter, indentation force and tolerance judgment. And, the HM-122 prints out measurements in formats ready to provide to the client. That means we no longer have to hand-transcribe results into a written report. That’s faster, and opportunities to miscopy something, or to forget to write something down are eliminated, as is the chance to misidentify which samples go with what results.”

Commenting on the process that resulted in the Mitutoyo instrument purchases, Odeh explains, “We conducted a survey to find the most accurate benchtop hardness testers that would also be easy to train on. We looked at the major makers to assess their hardware, software and product support. The HR-500 and HM-122 fit the bill so we asked our Mitutoyo distributor for a demo. These machines proved real intuitive to use and it wasn’t long before everyone conducting hardness testing was proficient on them. The Mitutoyos have been in constant use for four years and have proven bullet proof.”

Proficiency efficiency
Like most labs that work with the government or major aerospace, automotive and similar companies, ATRONA is required by those bodies to be accredited to international ISO/IEC 17025 lab accreditation standards and ANSI/NCSL Z2540 for test methods and proficiency. Within that standard there exists inter-laboratory proficiency testing which compares participating labs to their peers, nationally.

Inter-laboratory proficiency is conducted by Collaborative Testing Services, Inc., Sterling, Virginia, which forwards test control samples to participating labs on a quarterly basis. Remarking on the procedure, Odeh says, “Assuming that the sample blocks supplied by Collaborative Testing are absolutely homogeneous and uniform, and knowing that our results are scored against Institute standards, what variables can throw off the score? Well, basically you’ve got to get three things right. First, there’s the operator’s technique in cleaning, polishing, fixturing and in instrument operation. Next, the measuring machines’ accuracy must be right on vs. Collaborative’s calibration. Finally, the reporting must be accurate. Well, we regularly score within the top five percent of labs nationally, which is a testimony to our technicians’ skill, and also to the extreme accuracy and report-out capabilities of our Mitutoyo HR-500 and HM-122 machines.”

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