Proper tear testing of elastomers: Why you should tear up the Die C tear test

I spent an interesting and rewarding part of my career helping to lead an elastomer technical college in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. One of the rubber technology words that was challenging for the Saudis to say in English was ‘tear’. They initially pronounced it like the heteronym related to crying. It might be a stretch to say that tears will come to your eyes if you don’t get tear testing of elastomers right, but proper measurement of critical tearing energy (tear strength) is essential for effective materials development for durability.

The fatigue threshold (intrinsic strength; T0) is the lower limit of the fatigue crack growth curve shown in the figure below, and we recently reviewed this material parameter including the various measurement options.1 The upper limit is the tear strength, TC. If loads in your elastomer component are near or above TC, then it is not a fatigue problem anymore but rather a critical tearing issue with imminent product failure. It is therefore important to accurately characterize this durability performance characteristic of your materials.

Endurica uses the planar tension (pure shear) geometry for measuring TC in our Fatigue Property Mapping testing services due to the simple relationship between the strain energy density (W) and the energy release rate (tearing energy, T).2,3 The TC is equal to the W at tearing multiplied by the initial specimen height, h. You can see this geometry below along with other tear testing specimens employed in the rubber industry and specified in the ASTM standard.4

We sometimes get questions from folks with technical backgrounds in metals or plastics about whether rubber tear properties will be different when tested in distinct testing modes (mode I, mode II, etc.). It turns out that the extensibility of rubber causes the deformation to be predominately tension in the tearing region, irrespective of how the crack is opened, such that TC values are similar for rubber evaluated in different testing modes.2,3 Therefore, trouser tear testing is an alternative to the planar tension testing, as long as any stretching of the legs is accounted for in the data analysis.3,5 With no stretching of the legs, TC is simply given by 2F/t where F is the measured force to propagate the tear and t is the thickness of the specimen. The factor of 2 is surprisingly omitted in the ASTM standard4 even though it is mentioned in the appendix. The image below shows how to convert the ASTM trouser tear strength to TC.

A proper tear test includes an initial macroscopic cut/crack in the specimen. This is not the case for Die C tear described in the tear testing standard.4 Die C is thus not a tear test at all but rather is a crack nucleation experiment akin to normal tensile testing of rubber. Because the strange Die C geometry forces failure in a small region in the center of the specimen, it is actually less useful than tensile strength testing of a dumbbell sample which probes the entire gauge region. The Die C test can also have substantial experimental variability related to the sharpness of the die used to punch out the samples. Unfortunately, the Die C “tear” test is the most popular method in the rubber industry to (incorrectly) assess the tear strength of elastomers, and this reality was a key motivator for writing this post. We look forward to seeing the rubber industry shift away from the Die C test, and we hope that the information provided here will help in that path to #GetDurabilityRight.

References

  1. Robertson, C.G.; Stoček, R.; Mars, W.V. The Fatigue Threshold of Rubber and its Characterization Using the Cutting Method. Advances in Polymer Science, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2020, pp. 1-27.
  2. Lake, G.J. Fatigue and Fracture of Elastomers. Rubber Chem. Technol. 1995, 68, 435-460.
  3. Rivlin, R.S.; Thomas, A.G. Rupture of rubber. I. Characteristic energy for tearing. J. Polym. Sci. 1953, 10, 291–318.
  4. Standard Test Method for Tear Strength of Conventional Vulcanized Rubber and Thermoplastic Elastomers. Designation: ASTM D 624-00, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, USA, 2020; pp. 1-9.
  5. Mars, W.V.; Fatemi, A. A literature survey on fatigue analysis approaches for rubber. Int. J. Fatigue 2002, 24, 949–961.
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