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R&D Testing and The Helical Market

by Ryan Beck

April 2021

As many manufacturer’s seek new industries to venture in or continuing to expand in the current helical market, there is a need for new products and designs that will require testing to better understand the behavior of the product along with the capacity. CTL (www.ctlthompson.com/testing) has seen an influx of Research and Development (R & D) testing involving non-standard pipe material from 2.375” and 4.5” O.D., varying wall thicknesses and yield strengths, to new coupler designs and underpinning brackets.  It is not just new sizes, but ever-increasing complexity also.  It isn’t just about obtaining the very highest capacity number to take to market.  We see a variety of unique coupler ideas that are intended for faster field installation, and modular brackets for tight confines., We also see some off-the-wall ideas that may not always work, but they sometimes spur the idea that became so much more.

 Typically our clients seek CTL’s R & D testing services trying to validate the new technology or design that will take that manufacturer to the next level of the helical industry.  R & D is the path they follow to identify and rule out the less effective ideas from the real game changers. The process of R & D can be tedious, frustrating and time consuming. Generally, products can go through several rounds of revisions and often involve some seriously complex calculations to generate results for a single product or even version of a product.  As the design complexity increases, that conventional design calculation or even 3-D modeling starts to look more like a guess than a real answer.  A time comes when it is much simpler to just break a few than continue fighting a model that may not have the right answer anyway.

A second aspect of calculations and modeling that we regularly see limit potential capacity is the mandatory safety factors that must be applied to the calculated capacity of a product.  The required design methods will generally follow a conservative track, stacking factors of safety upon other reduction factors.  That may work fine for an approval submittal package, but it may not be the right way to obtain the true values to make that product shine in the market.

CTL Thompson has been at the forefront of R & D testing to assist with clarifying true strength, capacity, behavior and developing the best ways to test, fixture and produce accurate test results. We can help our clients to either, define or prove calculations, and/or potentially produce results that are greater than calculated values. Relying only on calculations and stringent safety factors can quite often limit the marketable capacity of that next great design, thus letting your competitor have an advantage in the industry. As an accredited laboratory that has been in existence since the inception of AC358, we understand your need for growth and expansion. We have a wide variety of innovative, unique and clever testing frames, machines and equipment, many of which were designed, fabricated, wired and constructed by CTL engineers., To our knowledge, many of these items are the only ones like them in the world.  In an effort to stay ahead of your needs, we added a 400,000-pound Universal Testing Machine (UTM) to our laboratory that has the capability to do compression and tension samples up to 12-ft in length.  For helical products, bracketry, strapping, posts, tie-downs and more, we can now test the full-size product and not some partial component like those other testing providers must do.

As a third-party laboratory, we can report clear and accurate results with quick turnaround. Our ability to resolve problems with custom fixturing and creating a feasible test program for products is unique.  We maintain and continue to expand our fabrication and machining abilities to keep pace with the fixturing needs of our clients, as well as maintain critical relationships with a variety of outside fabrication and machining experts.  We are committed to providing the testing you are seeking regardless of the complexity.

Manufacturers are always looking to “one-up” their competitors, and that requires thinking outside the box. R & D is a huge part of expanding a company’s ability, and we are here to help get to the next level of development in a reasonable and productive manner. Testing provides results that you can put to use and be confident marketing your product. At CTL Thompson, R & D is the exciting part of testing.