How Automated Geotechnical Testing Can Help in Today’s Laboratories

Commercial and academic geotechnical testing labs traditionally have required considerable time and effort to manually apply and monitor loads and pressures, adjust valves and regulators, and record data on paper (Figure 1A). Each of these time-consuming steps is prone to human error and operator subjectivity (not to mention some very late nights/early mornings in the lab) yet can all be solved with automation. New and established technologies are available to allow geotechnical engineers, teachers and researchers to achieve faster, more accurate results without a big budget. Fully automated systems (Figure 1B) are more beneficial than ever to perform tests to determine consolidation, permeability, shear strength and dynamic properties of soils.

Figure 1A: Traditional Method (3 manual test stations) Figure 1B: Modern Method (1 automated station replaces 5 manual stations)

Considering much has changed over the last 20-30 years in terms of project expectations and modern learning, the benefit of automated systems is clear. Simply put, projects now demand rapid results and students are adapted to modern electronics and quick feedback. Fast, high quality laboratories become big players in design/build teams with increasing demand for quick results in order to move projects forward. Increasingly complex designs require more detailed models and input parameters which is increasing demand for higher volumes of quality results. Reliable and on time data also plays an important role in protecting against claims, legal action, and answering public demand for minimal negative impact from construction.

In university labs, professors can have students spend valuable time concentrating on soil behavior, understanding basic principles of geotechnical engineering, and learning more about the current real-world application of sensor technology, electronics and software.  For today‚Äôs students living in a world tuned to limited attention span, this is crucial for maintaining their interest rather than spending hours reading dials and manually adjusting loads and pressures.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted operations of labs across the globe. Many universities have transitioned to remote learning and commercial labs are dealing with safe work environment constraints and social distancing guidelines. As labs continue to evolve and adapt to what many expect will be permanent changes, automated lab testing systems for soil, rock and geosynthetics offer a broad range of benefits. Modern geotechnical lab equipment can perform tests unsupervised and be controlled remotely by internet connection. This reduces the number of people in the lab at one time, allows amazing flexibility for technicians to monitor & adjust parameters and helps keep students learning interactively from a distance. Moreover, researchers who may now not have consistent access to labs can confidently run multiple tests in less time to more comprehensively assess theories and produce publications.

Here are my top takeaways on using automated geotechnical laboratory equipment:

  1. Faster, more reliable data that reduces risk, increases client satisfaction, and enhances research.
  2. Allows 24/7 testing and access to ongoing tests and results from anywhere.
  3. Offers students a modern learning approach and experience with state-of-the-art technology.
  4. Affords users and employers a safe and highly productive environment.
  5. Instant, electronic reports of data are quick and easy to distribute to clients or analyze in class.

If you have any questions about product capabilities, please reach out to me for more information. At Geocomp, we manufacture and sell our fully automated, versatile testing systems and offer advanced test services in-house at our geotechnical testing laboratory, (GeoTesting Express). Our lab operates over 100 fully automated units producing thousands of tests per year with only 2 primary technicians.  Modern equipment can have a major positive impact on your lab and the people in it.  Strongly consider it as you look for ways to enhance your university lab or grow your business.

Brian Jones is our Global Products Sales Manager, having joined Geocomp in 2018 with an extensive background in geological and geophysical consulting along with 11 years of sales experience in high-tech equipment for engineering applications. He has a B.S. degree in Geoscience from Boston College and is a member of various industry associations and societies. Brian leads and executes the strategic growth of our product sales by managing our domestic sales team and network of international partners, implementing marketing & communication projects, exploring new markets, client engagement, and developing competitive strategies.

Published by Geocomp Blog

Geocomp is a company of people dedicated to delivering best-value services and solutions to help clients identify and manage risks to natural and built environments using innovative applications of science and technology.

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