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Compression Tests and Compression Testing Machines

A Compression test uses compression testing machines to determine material behavior under constantly increasing compressive loading. Compression tests examine the safety, durability, and integrity of materials and components. Typical applications include compression tests on plastic tubes and plastic pipes, compression test on flexible cellular foam material, compression/crush tests on paper and cardboard, compression spring testing in the metals industry, compression tests in the medical/pharmaceutical field including compression testing of medical implants, stents, syringes or medical packaging, compression and notched compression tests on composites.

A compression testing machine is a universal testing machine (UTM) equipped with application-specific compression test tools or compression platens. The tools are selected and installed in the machine based on criteria such as test type, specimen material and dimensions, test temperature and maximum force values expected.

Compression test Compression testing machines Accessories for compression tests Videos

We are happy to provide you with more information on our wide range of compression testing application examples by industry:

Plastics Paper/cardboard Medical/pharma Composites Metals/springs

Definition of compression test

  • Compression tests are performed to characterize the behavior of a material under compressive loading.
  • During the test, pressure is applied to a specimen using compression platens or special tools mounted on a universal testing machine to determine various properties of the material being tested.
  • The test data delivers results in the form of a stress-strain diagram that displays among other things, the elastic limit, the proportionality limit, the yield point and, in some cases, the compressive strength.

A compression test, in which the specimen is pressed together is basically the opposite of the tensile test, which pulls the specimen apart. Tests can be performed on machined material specimens or on full-size or scale models of actual components. Common types of compression tests include the top-load (crush) test, flexure (bend) test and spring test.

Compression testing machines

A compression testing machine is a universal testing machine (UTM) specially configured to determine a material’s strength and deformation behavior under compressive (pressing) load. A typical machine for compression tests consists of a load cell, a crosshead(s), compression test tools, electronics, and a drive system. It is controlled by testing software used to define machine and safety settings and store test parameters specified by testing standards such as ASTM and ISO. To choose the right compression test equipment, it is important to consider the material to be tested and the standard(s) that must be followed. Measuring the force until a specified load or distance has been reached, or until the specimen cracks or breaks, helps designers and manufacturers predict how a material will perform when implemented for its intended purpose.

ZwickRoell compression testing machines, including the zwickiLine, ProLine, AllroundLine, and drop weight testers, are specifically designed to meet customer requirements based on testing capacity, types of material, applications, and industry standards. In addition to overall system safety and reliability, ZwickRoell designs and builds every part of our machines with a focus on providing:

  • A high level of flexibility through ease of operation
  • Simple adaptations to customer- and standard-specific requirements
  • Future-proof expansion capabilities to grow with your needs

Comparison of ZwickRoell compression testing machines

ModelzwickiLineProLineAllroundLineDrop weight testersHigh-capacity machines
table-top testing machine
table-top testing machine
table-top testing machine
(5 kN – 150 kN)
Floor testing machine (50 kN – 250 kN)
Drop weight testerElectromechanical
Load range0.5 kN – 5 kN5 kN – 100 kN5 kN – 250 kNUp to 2,000 J330 kN - 2,500 kN
Application examples for compression tests, indentation tests, puncture tests
  • Films
  • Foam materials / flexible cellular foam materials
  • Springs
  • Electronic components
  • Dental materials
  • Autoinjectors
  • Prefilled and single-use syringes
  • Microneedles
  • Residual seal force (RSF) on medical vials
  • Texture analysis of food products
  • Thermoplastic pipes
  • Rigid plastics
  • Plastic packaging, e.g. plastic bottles
  • Insulating material
  • Springs
  • Plug and spring contacts in the electrical industry
  • Ring stiffness test
  • Puncture resistance of geotextiles
  • Plastic housing for motors and engines
  • Vehicle suspension components
  • Compression/notched compression tests on composite materials
  • Joining processes of electric motor components
  • Fuel cell stacks
  • Puncture resistance of geotextiles
  • Wood, plastic, composite and corrugated board packing containers
  • Insulating material
  • Vehicle components
  • Aircraft components
  • Tubes/pipes
  • Composite material base plates
  • PMMA covering
  • Safety shoes
  • Helmets
  • Foam, honeycomb structured material and rubber
  • Compression tests on springs
  • Compression tests on aluminum crash boxes
  • Pressing and clinching of components
  • Breaking load determination of chassis components
  • Strength tests on welded seams
  • Large plastic boxes
  • Thermoplastic pipes
  • Battery housing
  • Railroad wheels
  • Ceramic bolts

You can find more information on these and other application examples in the sections that follow.

Compression platens and test tools for compression testing

The compression tools used are in direct contact with the materials to be tested. Therefore they have to be precisely aligned and adapted to the respective applications and requirements. A wide variety of compression test kits are available for all types of tests. These compression tools can be individually adapted to the specific application according to the respective requirements.

Compression test kits normally consist of tow primary components, the upper and lower test tool.compression tool. To use the test tools for as many different tests as possible and with a high level of flexibility, we assembled a wide-ranging, interchangeable and combinable tool portfolio.
The different requirements for individual compression tools and fixtures essentially result from:

  • The specifications defined in international standards
  • The large number of different specimens, materials and components
  • The wide variety of specimen shapes and dimensions
  • The many different types of environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, ...)

Below you will find an excerpt of our comprehensive compression test tool portfolio, which is tailored to the requirements of the various industries we serve.

Compression platens Plastics/foam materials Composites Medical/pharma Paper/cardboard

Compression platens

Compression platens must be selected with the specific test criteria in accordance with the application in question. Knowing the specimen dimensions and the maximum forces to be expected for the test is critical.

Compression platens can be used for tests up to 250 kN. A distinction is made between round and rectangular platens. All compression platens can be used in a temperature range of -70 ... +250°C. The different dimensions of the compression platens are stated as a leading selection criterion for each individual platen.

Specimen sizes required at defined test loads:

Test loadMin. specimen surface area required with permissible surface pressure ofTypical sizes:
Square specimen at
Typical sizes:
Round specimen at
300 N/mm290 N/mm2300 N/mm290 N/mm2300 N/mm290 N/mm2
10 kN30 mm2110 mm2Approx. 6 mmApprox. 11 mmApprox. Ø 7 mmApprox. Ø 12 mm
20 kN70 mm2220 mm2Approx. 8 mmApprox. 15 mmApprox. Ø 9 mmApprox. Ø 17 mm
50 kN170 mm2550 mm2Approx. 13 mmApprox. 24 mmApprox. Ø 15 mmApprox. Ø 27 mm
100 kN330 mm21100 mm2Approx. 18 mmApprox. 34 mmApprox. Ø 20 mmApprox. Ø 36 mm
150 kN500 mm21700 mm2Approx. 23 mmApprox. 41 mmApprox. Ø 25 mmApprox. Ø 46 mm
250 kN830 mm22800 mm2Approx. 29 mmApprox. 53 mmApprox. Ø 33 mmApprox. Ø 60 mm

If you have any questions about compression testing or need help in configuring the right machine for your application, please contact us. We look forward to discussing your needs.


Which standards are used when performing compression tests?

Compression tests examine the safety, durability, and integrity of a wide range of materials and components. The most common ISO and ASTM standards used for compression tests are:

  • ASTM D3574 : Flexible foam indentation hardness (ASTM D3574 Test B) and compression stress value (ASTM D3574 Test C)
  • ISO 844, ASTM D1621 : Compression test on rigid cellular plastics (hard foam)
  • ASTM D695 : Standard test method for compressive properties of rigid plastics and continuous fiber-reinforced composite materials (end loading compression)
  • ASTM F1306 : Standard test method for slow rate penetration resistance of flexible barrier films and laminates
  • ISO 7886-1 : Plunger glide force on sterile hypodermic syringes for single use
  • ASTM F3067: Standard guide for radial loading of balloon-expandable and self-expanding vascular stents

There are other company-specific standards for compression testing, such as Boeing BSS 7260c and Airbus AITM 1-0010 issue 3 for CAI tests that are also commonly used for compression testing in the aerospace industry.

Examples of compression tests on plastics

Indentation hardness of flexible cellular polymeric materials
ISO 2439 (standard specimens), DIN 53579 (molded foam)
to Indentation hardness of flexible cellular polymeric materials
Compression tests on rigid cellular plastics
ISO 844, ASTM D1621, EN 826
to Compression tests on rigid cellular plastics
Soft foam compression stress value
ISO 3386, ISO 3386-1, ISO 3386-2 and factory regulations
to Soft foam compression stress value
Puncture resistance of films and sheets
EN 14477, ASTM F1306
to Puncture resistance of films and sheets
Initial ring stiffness / ring flexibility plastic pipes
ISO 9969, ASTM D2412, EN 1228, ISO 13968, ISO 13967
to Initial ring stiffness / ring flexibility plastic pipes
Puncture test on plastics
ISO 6603-2, ISO 7765-2, ASTM D3763
to Puncture test on plastics

Compression tests on composite materials

Compression after impact CAI
ASTM D7136, ASTM D7137, ISO 18352, Airbus AITM1-0010, Boeing BSS 7260 type II
CAI is used to characterize damage that can occur to airplanes or vehicles, for example, if hit by rocks or birds, or if damaged in an accident.
to Compression after impact CAI
IPS test (in-plane shear)
can be produced and measured by performing a tensile or compression test at ±45° to the fiber direction.
to IPS test (in-plane shear)

Compression test in the medical industry

Testing on Stents
Stents are subject to heavy loads when inserted and left in blood vessels. These loads must be tested before the stents are used.
to Testing on Stents
Residual seal force (RSF) vial
Referenced in USP Chapter 1207
This compression test on vial lids indirectly provides information on the seal integrity.
to Residual seal force (RSF) vial
Paper and cardboard packaging
Secondary packaging and transport packaging are primarily made of paper and cardboard and must protect the product but also facilitate easy removal.
to Paper and cardboard packaging
Breakaway-/glide-force for syringes and carpules
DIN EN ISO 7886 -1, DIN EN ISO 11499, ISO 11040-4 and ISO 11608-3
The breakaway force and glide force are important parameters used in the selection of suitable syringes. The universal test fixture supports test according to standards DIN EN ISO 7886 -1, DIN EN ISO 11499, ISO 11040-4 and ISO 11608-3.
to Breakaway-/glide-force for syringes and carpules
Plunger glide force
ISO 7886-1; USP-Chapter 1382 and 382
The ZwickRoell testing software is used to record and evaluate plunger travel, breakaway force and the maximum and mean glide force. ISO 7886-1 is referenced in USP (United States Pharmacopeia) Chapter 1382 and 382.
to Plunger glide force

Compression tests on paper and packaging

Compressibility test paper
Determination of runnability and printing properties
to Compressibility test paper
Short-span compression test (SCT) paper
ISO 9895, EN 54518, TAPPI T 826
Compressive strength
to Short-span compression test (SCT) paper
Ring crush test (RCT) paper
ISO 12192, TAPPI T 822
Determination of the ring crush resistance of a ring-shaped strip
to Ring crush test (RCT) paper
Corrugating medium test (CMT) paper
DIN EN ISO 7263, TAPPI T 809
Behavior of a corrugating medium
to Corrugating medium test (CMT) paper
Box crush test / stacking crush test on corrugated boxes & folding cartons
DIN EN ISO 12048, TAPPI T 804
to Box crush test / stacking crush test on corrugated boxes & folding cartons
Edge crush test (ECT) on corrugated board
DIN EN ISO 3037, TAPPI T 811
Strength of the corrugated board
to Edge crush test (ECT) on corrugated board
Flat crush test (FCT) on corrugated board
DIN EN ISO 3035, TAPPI T 825
to Flat crush test (FCT) on corrugated board

Calibrating your compression testing machine

ZwickRoell is your first stop for materials testing machine services. With a worldwide service network, hundreds of service employees, and numerous international accreditations according to EN ISO/IEC 17025 for our calibration laboratories, you are in good hands with ZwickRoell.
ZwickRoell has multiple accreditations. Our calibrations are verifiably independent, efficient and precise.

More information about ZwickRoell calibrations:


Frequently asked questions

A compression testing machine is a universal testing machine (UTM) specially configured to determine a material’s strength and deformation behavior under compressive (pressing) load.

The specimen or component is placed between two compression platens installed in the materials testing machine. The machine crossheads move the platens together with a specified force, speed and/or crosshead travel distance. The required values are measured and recorded.