We take a look at Zurich’s innovative facility in the West Midlands, where a range of materials-testing services are carried out for insurance and inspection customers, as well as directly for businesses.
From tensile testing and hardness surveys, to bend tests, corrosion analysis, impact testing and more, Zurich’s engineering laboratory offers quality-control services required in the process of testing and certifying materials. Experts are on hand to advise customers on how to make their manufacturing processes more efficient, and failure analysis can be provided to determine the cause of breakdown of plant or equipment.
The lab also witnesses, tests and issues a range of welding qualifications for customers who require these services to be provided by government-approved organisations. Turnover at the facility is increasing, and will this year look to exceed £2 million, 80% of which comes from welding procedures and qualifications testing.
On site investigations, on items such as lifts, are carried out by the technical field-based teams, with any failures being shipped to the lab for investigation.
Our gallery focuses on just one element of the lab’s work – welding.
Welding is an essential component for any industry that works with or uses metal, including automotive, construction and aviation. Meeting welding quality standards is an increasing requirement and Zurich’s engineering laboratory provides rigorous quality control for testing welded materials.
“Whether customers are directly welding – for manufacture, repair, or modification – or are responsible for equipment that is welded, they need to ensure compliance with welding regulations and standards,” says John McMullen, Chief Engineer at Zurich.
Zurich’s engineering laboratory, which is based in West Bromwich, holds UKAS accreditation for a wide range of mechanical, metallurgical, corrosion and chemical analyses. Although no welding is actually done on site, the function of Zurich’s laboratory is to carry out testing - for its customers with foundries, or producers or users of metals requiring materials certification as part of their quality assurance – and confirm or certify that the welded materials received have the right mechanical properties and are of the correct chemical analysis.
The first stage in the process sees Zurich receive either a welded material sample and/or the whole product. Lab technicians will then prepare the ‘weldment’ – a unit formed by welding together pieces of metal – into various sizes using a milling machine. The sample pieces are now ready for testing.
Pictured is a close-up of a tensile testing machine. This test reveals how strong a material is, and how it will react under stress, and uses an extensometer to check a test sample’s ultimate tensile strength and yield strength under loading.
Zurich engineers perform a hardness test. A sample is mounted on the machine to the right of the engineers, where a small indentation is made. Computer programs then check to a microscopic level how a test sample performs when it has been deformed.
A Zurich engineer checks the chemical analysis of a test sample using an optical spectrometer. Some materials can be quite complex, and it is Zurich’s job to determine the chemical analysis and percentage of metals used in each test sample. By performing these and other trials, Zurich’s engineering laboratory provides customers with a level of testing to meet exacting quality requirements laid down by end users of products and relevant product standards.
“Zurich’s laboratory service provides a one-stop shop for engineering in service, and welding needs, and gives the confidence that a job will be done right and on time, saving on materials while adding quality and value. And, of course, being accredited by Zurich is widely accepted across all sectors of the industry,” says John.
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