Located in the heart of the Canadian capital city, the Comparative Evolutionary Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Ottawa is a teaching and research lab for biomechanics and comparative physiology and anatomy. Its focus is to understand how animal behavior and evolutionary processes are constrained by functional morphology. In simple terms, the research team at this bilingual public research university studies how evolutionary changes in animals adapt to the forces they encounter in their environments.
To gain greater insight into the material properties of the skeleton and scales of a polypterus senegalus fish, Dr. Emily Standen and her team needed a low-force testing machine that could perform bending and torsional tests, as well as accommodate their own 3D-printed tooling.
“Our research requires a testing machine that can handle very tiny samples and be fitted with a wide range of tooling we design ourselves. And we also need torsion capabilities, which are critical to our analysis of the change in length when a torsional force is applied,” explains Standen.
After consulting with ZwickRoell, Standen and her team chose a 5 kN zwickiLine single-column testing system equipped with a torsion drive. “The zwickiLine is an extremely flexible and expandable testing system that can be customized to meet the requirements of almost any low-force application,” confirms Mehdi Dargahi, Regional Sales Manager for Canada at ZwickRoell in North America. “And it was clear from the start that this lab needed flexibility above all else.”
Once installed by ZwickRoell Services and Support, the research team had their test up and running in a matter of a few hours. “The machine is easy to use and the integrated testing software, testXpert III, is extremely intuitive. We love it,” says Standen. With the System Configuration Builder feature, the team set up their test environment only once by presetting and saving all the relevant testing system and safety settings such as crosshead position, fixture separation and sensor configuration. Before each test, the saved system configuration checks the connected sensors, and the test starts only after the parameters match the requirements. Saved configurations can be restored quickly even if a different test arrangement is selected. This means it is possible to run tests with identical settings, ensuring reproducible test conditions. With the System Configuration Builder, user errors are minimized when the operator switches from one test environment to another and safe operation for the machine, user, and specimen is ensured.
Dr. Standen and her team have only just begun to explore the many testing possibilities their zwickiLine offers. The laboratory’s work is significant from a comparative and evolutionary biomechanics perspective and provides opportunities for looking at how performance changes as anatomy evolves. Future testing plans include modeling changes in material properties that impact the flight mechanics of animals and analyzing how they, in return, impact the survival of the animal.