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Compression Tests and Compression Testing Machines

Compression tests use compression testing machines to determine material behavior under constantly increasing compressive loading.

What is a compression testing machine?

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 compression tester consists of a load cell, 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

What is a 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.

What is the purpose of a compression test?

Compression tests examine the safety, durability, and integrity of materials and components. Common applications include plastics, ceramics, fiber-reinforced composites, metals and concrete. These types of tests are often performed on components and finished products such as foam, tubes, water bottles, mattresses, springs, automotive parts, cardboard, medical implants, and more.

Which standards are used when performing compression tests?

These are the most common ISO and ASTM standards used for compression tests:

  • ASTM D3574-17: Standard Compression Test Methods for Flexible Cellular Materials – Slab, Bonded, and Molded Urethane Foams
  • ASTM D695-15: Standard Test Method for Compressive Properties of Rigid Plastics
  • ASTM D3846-08 (2015): In-Plane Shear Strength of Reinforced Plastics
  • ASTM D575-91 (2018): Compression Test on Rubber: Method A Rubber Properties in Compression
  • ASTM F1306-21: Standard Test Method for Slow Rate Penetration Resistance of Flexible Barrier Films and Laminates
  • ISO 7886-1:2017: Sterile hypodermic syringes for single use – Part 1: Syringes for manual use
  • ISO 844:2014: Rigid cellular plastics – Determination of the compression properties

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

Examples for compression test applications by material or industry

Indentation hardness on cellular foams and plastics
ISO 2439, DIN 53577, DIN 53579-1, ASTM D 3574, ASTM D 3579
to Indentation hardness on cellular foams and plastics
Compression tests on hard foam
ISO 844, ASTM D1621, EN 826
to Compression tests on hard foam
Compressive stress value of cellular foams and plastics
ISO 3386, ASTM D3574-C and factory regulations
to Compressive stress value of cellular foams and plastics
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
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)
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
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

Ready to take a closer look at ZwickRoell compression testing machines?

  • A universal testing machine (UTM) equipped with a compression test tool—together also referred to as compression testing machine—is used to perform the test. The test tool must fit the specific test criteria of the application and take the specimen’s dimensions and expected maximum test forces into account.
  • Lighter compression platens are used for compression tests up to a maximum load of 20 kN and heavier compression platens are best suited for tests up to 250 kN. ZwickRoell offers various types of compression platens, including round and square platens, as well as scored and smooth platens.

Compression testing machines

Do you perform compression tests?

Do you need assistance in specifying the right compression testing machine for your needs?

Get in contact with our product and industry experts.
We look forward to discussing your needs.


Test tools for compression tests

Compression tests are used to determine material behavior under uniformly increasing compressive loading. The specimen is compressed until break, until crack, or up to a specified compression value.

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 range of compression test equipment is available for all types of tests. It is very important to know the specimen dimensions and the maximum forces to be expected for the test. Whether you use test dies, compression platens or a complete compression test kit, they can be individually adapted to the specific application according to the respective requirements.

Test die for soft foam


Name Type Size Download
  • Product Information: Complete Compression Test Kits PDF 586 KB