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This paper provides objective guidance on the conversion of existing manual triaxial testing equipment to computer control. An approach called adaptable automation is introduced to facilitate the conversion process. This approach consists of modifying the four basic building blocks of the triaxial system for integration into a computer-automated system and adding components needed for automation which were not part of the manual system. Recommendations are made on necessary changes to the triaxial building blocks, and examples are given from the actual conversion of a largely manual triaxial apparatus. New components required for the automated system are an analog-to-digital conversion device, digital-to-mechanical hardware, and a personal computer with test control software. Performance guidelines for selecting equipment are reviewed as are considerations when developing the software. Methods are described for evaluating the converted system's performance, and typical evaluation results are shown. The paper concludes that, while development of a prototype converted system can be costly and require considerable knowledge of system components, cost savings will be realized as additional prototype-based systems are brought online and system capabilities expanded. More importantly, the converted system allows existing customized testing procedures and hardware to remain in place.
Assistant professor, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
Principal research associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
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