Tensile testing characterizes the forming and structural behavior of sheet metals. The test involves loading a sample with a well-defined shape along the axis in tension, generally to fracture, and recording the resultant load and displacement to calculate several mechanical properties. Global standardsI-7, A-24, D-19, J-15 prescribe the conditions under which tests must occur.

Sample Size and Shape

Full-size samples for tensile testing of metal sheets have a rectangular section at the edges for gripping by the test machine. Reducing the width in the central area promotes fracture in the monitored region. These geometrical features result in a sample shape which resembles a dogbone, leading to a descriptive term applied to test samples.

Dimensions of the dogbone samples are associated with tensile test standard from which they apply. ISO I, II, and III (described in Citation I-7) corresponds to the ASTMA-24, DIND-19, and JISJ-15 shapes, respectively. Figure 1 shows the dogbone shapes, highlighting the critical dimensions of width and gauge length. Refer to the Test Standards for other dimensions, tolerances, and other requirements.

Figure 1: Full-size tensile sample shapes for ISO I (ASTM), ISO II (DIN), and ISO III (JIS) standards.

Figure 1: Full-size tensile sample shapes for ISO I (ASTM), ISO II (DIN), and ISO III (JIS) standards.I-7, A-24, D-19, J-15


Significant differences exist in the width and gauge length of these tensile bar shapes. Although the ASTM and JIS bars have similar gauge length, the width of the JIS bar is twice that the ASTM bar. The ASTM and DIN bars have a 4:1 ratio of gauge length to width, where the JIS bar has a 2:1 ratio.

These shape differences mean that the calculated elongation changes depending on the test-sample standard used, even when testing identical material. With the combination of the shortest gauge length and widest sample, elongation from JIS bars typically are higher than what would be generated from the other shapes.

Yield strength and tensile strength are not a function of the shape of the tensile bar. Strength is defined as the load divided by the cross-sectional area. Even though each of the bars specify a different sample width (and therefore different cross-section), the load is normalized by this value, which negates differences from sample shape.

Shearing or punching during sample preparation may work-harden the edges of the tensile bar, which may lead to generating an inaccurate representation of the mechanical properties of the sheet metal. Test Standards require subsequent machining or other methods to remove edge damage created during sample preparation. Milling or grinding the dogbone samples minimizes the effects sample preparation may have on the results.


Tensile Test Procedure

The gauge length is the reference length used in the elongation calculations. Depending on the test standard, the gauge length is either 2 inches, 80 mm, or 50 mm. Multiplying the width and thickness within the gauge length determines the initial cross-sectional area before testing.

Grips tightly clamp the edges of the sample at opposite ends. As the test progresses, the grips move away from each other at a prescribed rate or in response to the restraining load. A load cell within the grips or load frame monitors force. An extensometer tracks displacement within the gauge length. Samples are typically tested until fracture.

During the tensile test, the sample width and thickness shrink as the length of the test sample increases. However, these dimensional changes are not considered in determining the engineering stress, which is determined by dividing the load at any time during the test by the starting cross-sectional area. Engineering strain is the increase in length within the gauge length relative to the starting gauge length. (Incorporating the dimensional changes occurring during testing requires calculating true stress and strain. The differences between engineering and true stress/strain are covered elsewhere (hyperlink to

A graph showing stress on the vertical axis and strain on the horizontal axis is the familiar engineering stress-strain curve, Figure 2. From the stress-strain curve, numerous parameters important for sheet metal forming appear, including:

Figure 2: Engineering stress-strain curve from which mechanical properties are derived.

Figure 2: Engineering stress-strain curve from which mechanical properties are derived.


Influence of Test Speed

Conventional tensile testing is done at strain rates slow enough to be called “quasi-static.” These rates are several orders of magnitude slower than the deformation rates during stamping, which itself is several orders of magnitude slower than what is experienced during a crash event.

Stress-strain curves change with test speed, typically getting stronger as the speed increases. The magnitude of these changes varies with grade. Significant challenges exist when attempting to characterize the tensile response at higher strain rates. Improved equipment and data collection capabilities are among the required upgrades.


Influence of Tensile Test Equipment

Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS) may challenge older test equipment. The load and displacement response must reflect only the contributions of the sheet metal, and not be influenced by the load frame and other testing equipment. In much the same way that insufficiently stiff press crowns deflect when stamping AHSS parts, tensile test load frames may similarly deflect, resulting in inaccuracies in the load-displacement measurements.

Grip strength also becomes critical when testing AHSS samples. The high strength of the metal sheets requires more grip pressure to prevent sample slippage through the grips. Pneumatic grips and even some mechanical grips may not generate the necessary pressure. Hydraulically actuated grips may be necessary as the strength increases.


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