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.


  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.

Durability Insights from the ISA for Tire Tread Compound Development

My last blog post (Getting a Quick Read on Durability with the Intrinsic Strength Analyser) highlighted a one-hour test on the Intrinsic Strength Analyser (ISA) to screen elastomer materials for long-term fatigue performance, with applications in materials R&D and plant mixing quality control. To illustrate the use of this approach for rubber compound development, we recently had the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Nihat Isitman from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio and Dr. Radek Stoček from Polymer Research Laboratory in Zlín, Czech Republic.1 Dr. Isitman led this project and was scheduled to present our research at the Spring 2020 Technical Meeting of the ACS Rubber Division, but the meeting was cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions. Instead, the Rubber Division is offering the content online, and the meeting presentations are available here for a modest fee.

Our study considered model tread compounds based on the well-known green tire formulation, which is a compatible blend of solution styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) and high-cis butadiene rubber (BR) that is reinforced with a silica-silane system for low rolling resistance (improved fuel economy) passenger tires. Additional production compounds used in actual tire treads were also tested, but the proprietary results for these materials were not included in the public presentation. The SBR/BR ratio, silica loading, and crosslink density were all varied in this investigation. For each rubber formulation, the ISA was used to measure the fatigue threshold (T0) and critical tearing energy (tear strength; Tc), which bracket the two ends of the fatigue crack growth curve as shown below.

The established cutting method of Lake and Yeoh2,3 is used for assessing T0 on the ISA, and the one-hour test on this benchtop instrument is concluded with a tearing procedure to measure Tc. The ISA is manufactured by Coesfeld GmbH & Co. in Dortmund, Germany, and distributed in the Americas by Endurica LLC (see photo).

The slide image below summarizes the key findings of this research collaboration. Optimization of T0 and Tc is possible thanks to different sensitivities to the various compounding variables. It is important to measure both fatigue threshold and tear strength to quantify durability potential of rubber materials, and the ISA is an efficient and effective instrument for these measurements. To learn more about this testing equipment for the rubber lab, please contact me at


  1. N. Isitman, R. Stoček, and C. G. Robertson, “Influences of compounding attributes on intrinsic strength and tearing behavior of model tread rubber compounds”, paper scheduled to be presented at the 197th Technical Meeting of the Rubber Division, ACS, Independence, OH, April 28-30, 2020 (online presentation due to meeting cancellation).
  2. G. J. Lake and O. H. Yeoh, “Measurement of Rubber Cutting Resistance in the Absence of Friction”, International Journal of Fracture 14, 509 (1978).
  3. C. G. Robertson, R. Stoček, C. Kipscholl, and W. V. Mars, “Characterizing the Intrinsic Strength (Fatigue Threshold) of Natural Rubber/Butadiene Rubber Blends”, Tire Sci. Technol. 47, 292 (2019).

Getting a Quick Read on Durability with the Intrinsic Strength Analyser

There is now a one-hour test on a benchtop instrument for the rubber lab to screen materials for long-term fatigue performance. Please continue reading to learn more about this commercialization of a classical elastomer characterization methodology.

Rubber products manufacturers and raw materials suppliers seeking improved materials for next-generation applications depend on lab tests to predict end-use performance. These predictive tests should balance accuracy, relevance, and testing time. The testing time component is particularly challenging when the performance characteristic of interest is fatigue lifetime. The image of traditional fatigue testers chattering along for days or weeks comes to mind for those of us with experience in industrial rubber labs. The time consideration is the reason why tensile stress-strain testing (stretching a material to high strains until failure) is the most common physical test for the fracture behavior of rubber, in clear contrast to the most prevalent application condition for rubber products which is cyclic loading (fatigue) at much lower strains.

Fatigue crack growth is a key element of elastomer behavior that must be determined in order to predict durability, as illustrated below. For example, fatigue crack growth (FCG) testing provides the FCG rate law that is essential for predicting when and where cracks will show up in rubber products using Endurica’s elastomer fatigue software for finite element analysis []. Endurica has developed a finitely scoped, reduced variability measurement approach1 which is used in our Fatigue Property Mapping testing services and is available on the Coesfeld Tear and Fatigue Analyser (TFA). Our standard FCG measurement protocol takes 20 hours of continuous testing. This testing time is very efficient for characterizing best candidate materials in the development process, but a faster test is needed for narrowing down, for example, 20 initial materials to 5 best candidates or for use in a plant lab to monitor quality of rubber compounding processes.

The Intrinsic Strength Analyser (ISA) is a recent addition to the durability testing solutions for elastomers. The ISA was developed through a partnership between Coesfeld GmbH & Co. (Dortmund, Germany) and Endurica LLC (Findlay, OH, USA), and this benchtop instrument employs a testing protocol based on the long-established cutting method of Lake and Yeoh.3,4 Endurica’s president, Dr. Will Mars, discusses the importance of measuring intrinsic strength (fatigue threshold) in this video on our YouTube channel which also shows some footage of the ISA in operation:

The fatigue crack growth curve of rubbery materials is bounded by the fatigue threshold, T0, on the low tearing energy (T) side and by the critical tearing energy (tear strength), Tc, at the high-T end. This is depicted in the generalized figure below. A streamlined one-hour procedure on the ISA can measure both T0 and Tc which can then be used to estimate the slope (F) of the intermediate FCG power law response that correlates well with the actual F from rigorous FCG testing using the TFA (see figure). More information about this quick ISA approach to characterizing rubber crack growth behavior for materials development and quality control can be found in the Annual Review 2019 issue of Tire Technology International (open access).2

The fatigue crack growth slope, F, from the ISA should be considered an approximate value that is useful for comparing the relative FCG behavior of materials. However, the determination of T0 on the ISA is highly quantitative and the only realistic option for assessing this parameter, since the near-threshold crack growth testing on the TFA needed to define T0 would take about a month. The implementation areas for the ISA and TFA are compared in the following table. A very conservative approach to product development for elastomer durability is to create a combination of material behavior and component design that places the final operation of the rubber product below the fatigue threshold. If this is your company’s approach to engineering for durability, then the ISA is the testing instrument you need.

Crack precursor size is another key characteristic of elastomers that needs to be quantified in order to predict durability. In combination with a standard tensile stress-strain test, the critical tearing energy (Tc) from the ISA can also be used to assess crack precursor size, as we showed recently in an open access publication.5

Endurica is the exclusive Americas distributor of the Coesfeld ISA and TFA instruments. Endurica’s efficient and effective testing protocols are provided on these high-quality instruments for the rubber laboratory. To learn more about how to add these testing capabilities to your lab, please contact me at


  1. J. R. Goossens and W. V. Mars, “Finitely Scoped, High Reliability Fatigue Crack Growth Measurements”, Rubber Chem. Technol. 91, 644 (2018).
  2. C. G. Robertson, R. Stoček, R. Kipscholl, and W. V. Mars, “Characterizing Durability of Rubber for Tires”, Tire Technology International, Annual Review 2019, pp. 78-82.
  3. G. J. Lake and O. H. Yeoh, “Measurement of Rubber Cutting Resistance in the Absence of Friction”, International Journal of Fracture 14, 509 (1978).
  4. C. G. Robertson, R. Stoček, C. Kipscholl, and W. V. Mars, “Characterizing the Intrinsic Strength (Fatigue Threshold) of Natural Rubber/Butadiene Rubber Blends”, Tire Sci. Technol. 47, 292 (2019).
  5. C. G. Robertson, L. B. Tunnicliffe, L. Maciag, M. A. Bauman, K. Miller, C. R. Herd, and W. V. Mars, “Characterizing Distributions of Tensile Strength and Crack Precursor Size to Evaluate Filler Dispersion Effects and Reliability of Rubber”, Polymers 12, 203 (2020).
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