Tectra Automation, a Hytec Group company, designed and constructed a pneumatic impactor as required by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria. Capable of firing a cylindrical bar up to 50 m per second, the impactor will form an integral part of the institute’s Landward Science Competency Area material research and development studies.
Designed to assess the stress response of materials as part of a Split Hopkinson Bar Test system, the impactor is designed to fire a cylindrical bar of a specified weight and size against instrumented target bars which encapsulate the test item as well as serve to record the loading stress wave that transmits through the test specimen (comprised of the tested material). The current Landward Science’s material science testing is geared towards the testing of materials at higher strain rates in the region of 102 to 104s-1.
Given the speciality of the project, Tectra Automation was the most suitable supplier that had the necessary expertise required for the impactor’s design and construction. This project was contracted as a complete turnkey solution, from research and design to manufacture and commissioning.
The impactor – which has a length of 2.6 m, height of 1.5 m and width of 0.7 m – is equipped with an array of specialised pneumatic componentry, including quick release valves, pressure intensifier and accumulator, for achieving the high-specification discharge. The 25 mm internal diameter barrel is comprised of a specialised hydraulic tube capable of bearing pressure up to 300 bar with a 5 mm wall thickness and has been designed to be easily changed as required by the research.
Test parameters, including the size, weight and discharge speed of the cylindrical bar, are programmed by the operator through a Bosch Rexroth HMI. Based on these inputs, the internal programmable logic controller automatically calculates the pressure at which to launch the cylindrical bar as required by the material test.
The arming and firing of a cylindrical bar – which occurs through remote activation – is conducted through a controlled initiating sequence, including keyed activations, to ensure a safe operating environment for the use of the machine. The barrel draws a front-loaded cylindrical bar via a specialised vacuum valve, which limits the operator requirements in front of the barrel.
Realised performance accuracy As Jaco de Beer, project engineer, Tectra Automation, explains, “Our theoretical calculations in the design and conceptualisation of the unit were remarkably close to the physical performance measurements we determined once the impactor was assembled.” As illustrated in diagram 1, programmer input speeds of 15, 30, 50 and 60 m/s produced actual corresponding speeds of 11.8, 30.9, 46.4 and 57.1 m/s.
“As a unique engineering assignment for Tectra Automation – which started from ground-level process research – the fact that we could design and develop the hi-tech device to client specifications was a proud accomplishment for the project team.”
Tectra Automation will provide maintenance and additional component supply for any future developments the CSIR may wish to implement to the impactor.