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CTL Thompson Takes Delivery of a 400,000 Lb. Capacity Compression & Tension Testing System

by Chip Leadbetter

November 2019

The Accredited Testing team at the Fort Collins, Colorado, location of CTL|Thompson has taken a big step forward in capability.   In November of this year, the laboratory took delivery of a Universal Testing Machine (UTM) to perform high capacity compression and tension testing.  The test frame incorporates state-of-the-industry hydraulics and sensing systems with a capacity of 400,000 lbs in both compression and tension.  This system is unique in that it can accommodate a test sample up to 12 feet in length, surpassing nearly all other testing providers.

“While the load capacity is a great benefit, the biggest advantage is the sample length” explained Chip Leadbetter, Laboratory Director at the Fort Collins office.  “We are watching Acceptance Criteria requirements become more complex with greater expectations.  We realized some of our clients are going to be limited in the size of their products they could produce simply because we couldn’t arrange sufficiently large test frames to perform the testing necessary to fulfill the ever more stringent testing requirements.  The last thing we want is a client having to reduce a product length simply because sufficient testing is unavailable.”

As a result, CTL|Thompson tracked down the UTM and arranged the refurbishment.  Not only was the UTM refurbished, but the facility in Fort Collins had to be altered to accept a machine of this size.  “It was much too big to fit through the door, so we had to cut open the roof and drop it in with a crane” described Ryan Beck, Technical Manager at the CTL|Thompson laboratory.  “The machine is about 28 feet tall, so we installed a pit in the floor for the foundation and to bring the height of the test surface to more reasonable working level.

Even with that we had to extend the roof up around the top of the machine.”  An electrical transformer also had to be added to the laboratory to provide sufficient power to run the machine.

The new equipment is a great complement to the torsion testing capability already on hand at CTL|Thompson.  Ten years ago, the laboratory acquired a 1 million inch-pound (83,000 ft-lb) torsion testing machine, capable of twist testing various large, stout items.  

Once solely focused on supporting the helical pile industry, the laboratory is now involved in testing a wide variety of foundation products and has begun stepping out into other industries.  Laboratory technicians Brandon and Tucker touted “You make it, we break it”.  While that may seem a bit unpolished, when you consider that the only way to accurately quantify the strength of an item is to destructively test it, maybe the concise statement is just about right.

“We are certainly excited about the new equipment” Chip Leadbetter explained.  “Having this in our laboratory will enable CTL|Thompson to generally provide tension and compression testing on much larger products.  In addition, our testing service now will be more competitively priced and more efficiently completed than we were previously able to do.”

Accredited as a 17025 testing laboratory in 2008 by the International Accreditation Service, the accredited testing laboratory team at CTL|Thompson has been actively involved supporting the helical pile, push pile, ground screw and pin pile industries.  With their full complement of testing laboratory and full-service, full-scale field installation and testing combined with an experienced engineering design support staff, CTL|Thompson is unmatched in the testing industry.  

For more information on CTL|Thompson’s accredited testing and inspection services, please visit their website at

CTL I Thompson, Inc

400 North Link Lane

Fort Collins, Colorado 80524

Ph # 970-206-9455

The Accredited Testing Team (L-R): Ryan, Tucker, Brandon and Chip