Wisconsin Structures and Materials Testing Laboratory

About the lab

The Wisconsin Structures and Materials Testing Laboratory (WSMTL) provides UW students and faculty, as well as industry, access to equipment and technical support for testing of material samples and large-scale structural components. The purpose of WSMTL is to enhance the teaching and research experience of UW students through a variety of hands-on experimental testing techniques.

People who conduct research in the laboratory

As a multi-disciplinary facility, users of WSMTL include faculty from all departments within the College of Engineering. Faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering are primary users of the structural testing equipment. Materials testing capabilities are utilized by faculty in Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Materials Science Engineering, and Engineering Mechanics.



Gustavo Parra-Montesinos- Civil and Environmental Engineering

Associate Director

Matt Allen– Engineering Physics, Mechanical Engineering


Lab Engineer and Manager

Jacob Zeuske



Steven Cramer – Civil and Environmental Engineering

Brock Hedegaard- Civil and Environmental Engineering

Hussain Bahia– Civil and Environmental Engineering, Modified Asphalt Research Center

Robert Rowlands– Mechanical Engineering

Tim Osswald– Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering

Heidi-Lynn Ploeg– Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering

Sindo Kou– Materials Science and Engineering



Mandi Olson– Billing and payment inquiries, financial support

Engineering student organizations such as Concrete Canoe, SAE Vehicle Teams, and Steel Bridge frequently use the testing capabilities within the lab.

As a service, the laboratory provides testing to the public and private organizations. This activity is conducted on a cost-reimbursable basis. In addition to fulfilling a service mission, service testing provides better utilization of test equipment, defrays the cost of maintaining equipment and operating the laboratory, and sometimes provides engineering students the opportunity to learn and practice their testing skills. Please see the Priority Policy Instructions below for more information.

Our capabilities

WSMTL capabilities range from materials and structures testing to sound measurement, fatigue, in-field measurements, large-scale structure testing, and more. If you would like to discuss your testing needs, contact the lab.

Universal testing machines with capacities ranging from 50 lbs up to one million pounds in tension or compression.  Screw-driven MTS load frames for large displacement quasi-static testing as well as high force and high cycle rate servo-hydraulic frames.

Free-standing actuators ranging from 3-kip to 200-kip capacities.  Reinforced strong-floor and strong-wall with lab to accommodate a variety of structures.

Wide variety of accelerometers and state-of-the-art data acquisition equipment.  Electro-dynamic shakers with force capacities ranging from 2 lbs up to 2,200 lbs. Our vibration testing and analysis capabilities include non-contact doppler laser vibrometry, modal analysis, structural monitoring, MIL-SPEC methods, and experience with non-linear structures.

Instrumentation and data acquisition with capabilities in excess of 20 channels. We have a wide variety of load cells and displacement sensors for instrumenting structures under test.

Our lab can provide assistance with transducer gaging, design, and calibration.  We have expertise in mounting gages for materials testing, using gages for numerical and analytical correlation, and teaching students how to mount gages.

Our equipment


The equipment list below identifies current, state-of-the-art compression and tension machines available in the laboratory. The machines have load ranges from a few hundred pounds to one million pounds providing a capability to test a wide variety of materials and structures.


Machine Name Capacity
Southwark Emery Testing Machine 1,000,000 lbs Tension & Compression

18 ft test specimens
BLH Testing Machine 200,000 lbs Tension & Compression
BLH Testing Machine 60,000 lbs Tension & Compression
SATEC MII-400AD 400,000 lbs Compression only
MTS 810 22,000 lbs Tension & Compression

with Hydraulic Grips
MTS 810 22,000 lbs Tension & Compression
Structural Floor Actuators 2,000 lbs

5,000 lbs
22,000 lbs
55,000 lbs
100,000 lbs
200,000 lbs
MTS Test Frame 12,500 lbs with Hydraulic Grips
MTS 812 22,000 lbs with Hydraulic Grips
MTS 810 100,000 lbs with Hydraulic Grips
MTS Fracture System 20,000 lbs


Screw-Driven and Torsion Load Frames


Machine Name Capacity
Instron 1000 1,000 lbs Tension & Compression
Instron 4206 30,000 lbs Tension & Compression
MTS Sintech 10GL 10,000 lbs Tension & Compression
Tinius Olsen Torsion 10,000 in-lb
Hardness Testers Rockwell Scales
Sontag Impact Test Machine Charpy & Izod Standard Specimens
Instron – Dynatup Impact Test 100 ft-lbs
Machine Name Function Capacity
Digital Image Correlation(DIC) System with Dual 5.0 MP Cameras Precision Displacement Measuring Utilizing Dual 5.0 MP Digital Cameras 2 cameras

2 analog inputs
Vishay-Photolastic 3-D Polariscope Optical Stress Analysis
Transducers & Conditioners Force, Strain & Displacement Wide Range
Machine Name Function Capacity
LDS Vibration Exciter Random, Sine & Shock Exciter 220 lb force ,2-inch-displacement
Ling Electronics Modal Analysis Exciter 100 lb force
APS Dynamics 300 Modal Analysis Exciter 5 lb force
VTS-100 Vibration System Modal Analysis Exciter 100 lb force
B&K Vibration Exciter 4809 Modal Analysis Exciter 10 lb force
Data Physics DP550W in Controller LDS Exciter Controller for Sine,
Dwell, Random & Shock
Data Physics DP550W in Controller Modal Exciter Controller for Sine,
Random, with FFT Analyzer
Transducers & Conditioners Dynamic: Load, Acceleration & Wide Range
Displacement Measurement
Computer Data Acquisition Systems High Speed Multi-Channel 16 channels
Data Acquisition

Lab use and policies

The lab is available for instructional, research, and industrial use.

To make a request for instruction, research, or industrial use, please contact the Lab Manager,

The laboratory provides physical testing facilities and technical assistance to students, and faculty engaged in instruction and research. Service testing is also provided to the public and private firms. All laboratory activity and requests for testing assistance are registered and processed through the WSMTL Lab Manager in Room 1313 Engineering Hall or by emailing Advanced reservations are essential to ensure space and equipment will be available. Reservations are encouraged at the time of course planning or proposal submission. We are unable to provide service on demand. Testing assistance and services are rendered with the following priority:
  1. Formal academic instruction (coursework and projects) and formal student organization competitions.
  2. Research
  3. Service Testing
  4. Independent study and un-funded research investigations
Once a request for services is submitted to the laboratory office, resources are assigned, usually within 72 hours of the request.
Service testing provided to public and private firms is provided on a cost-reimbursable basis. All users and visitors to the laboratory must sign a safety acknowledgment form and adhere to the written laboratory safety policy.
Structural and materials testing such as fatigue, fracture, creep, stress analysis, non-destructive testing, earth-structure interaction and fluid-structure interaction are available.