Materials Australia

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WA Branch - April Meeting

Visit to Metallurgical Testing Services (LMATS)

10 April 2017 

Visit to Metallurgical Testing Services (LMATS)

Colin Lorrimar, founder

Metallurgical Testing Services (MTS) has recently been acquired by LMATS (Laboratories for Materials Advanced Testing Services). Under its new ownership, it will continue to provide the niche metallurgical services that Colin Lorrimar has developed since he started the operation about ten years ago.

The origin of MTS lay in Colin’s design of a special gripping system for tensile testing of short fasteners (e.g. M20 bolts, just 50 mm long), particularly wedge testing for head soundness. Such fasteners are widely used in the construction industry, but their short length couldn’t be accommodated in conventional testing equipment.

Colin originally set up his testing operation inside a fastener manufacturer’s premises, and although MTS outgrew this space and moved to its current facilities (quite nearby), MTS continues to provide this service to its original client, who, in turn, provides machining facilities for sample preparation for MTS. Bolt and nut testing capacity extends to M64/8.8 bolts.

One major subsequent expansion in the MTS operation has been into testing of flash butt-welded rails from the heavy-haul railways that serve the iron ore industry in WA. Flash butt welding has some unusual features from a quality control perspective. It is very consistent as long as the set-up conditions remain within a fairly small window, but is quite sensitive to variations outside these. Because the consequences of failure are extremely severe, a destructive test is required every 250 welds, and re-qualification of the set-up after any significant change in conditions. The life of 68 kg/m rail can be as short as 15 months on tight bends (longer on straights), so there is a steady demand for this service.

The standard destructive test is three-point bending on a 1200mm length of rail, with failure typically occurring 180 to 220 tonnes load. The steel is slightly hyper-eutectoid and fully pearlitic, and welds normally fail at the fusion line. The laboratory is fully equipped for metallographic examination and automated measurement of two-dimensional Vickers hardness contours around the weld. These examinations are performed on full rail cross sections, with automated diamond polishing being performed on machines originally designed for lapping large valves.

Most of the mechanical testing is done using a 100 tonne and a 300 tonne universal hydraulic machines. Another universal machine is dedicated to non-routine testing, notably fully strain-gauged fatigue testing of rails. The general facilities include water-jet cutting (using entrained garnet) for cutting samples from heavy sections (up to 200 mm carbon steel); this is also used for taking sections for Charpy impact testing. On-site analysis is done using portable OES and XRF equipment.

Colin had remarked in his introduction that his had been a “checkered career”. When pressed to elaborate, Colin explained that after completing school (in Perth) he took over a business re-building small internal combustion engines. Subsequently he worked as an NDT technician offshore, but being of an enquiring mind, became familiar with a wide range of testing procedures. He then partnered with an NDT colleague when he set up a testing service, and based on his mechanical experience, developed that side of the operation. The move into his own bolt testing business drew on his knowledge of what industry needed, his aptitude for mechanical design, and his entrepreneurial spirit. From there MTS has grown, with Colin staying on to manage the transition to LMATS ownership.

The appreciative group of visitors enjoyed the opportunity to inspect the facilities, the hospitality provided, and the privilege of learning a bit more about the background of one of the Branch’s Council Members.