This test facility is used to manufacture, characterise and test vehicle components. The lab is used to design and test components for light weighting new and existing components. The facilities support the testing of metals, composites (thermoplastics and thermosets), elastomers, rubbers, honeycomb structures and adhesives.


The lightweight structures and impact lab has state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, which include:

  • 5kN Instron mechanical testing machine with environmental chamber,
  • Digital image correlation system,
  • Tri function split Hopkinson pressure bar,
  • Gas gun,
  • Bespoke drop weight tower impactor,
  • Polymer 3D printer.

Summary of applications

The gas gun impactor is capable of propelling projectiles up to the speed of sound (~340m/s). It is designed with a test chamber, which contains the debris from impacts, and is versatile to mount any form of specimens as targets. We have experience in testing many different projectile materials. Examples include soft body (gelatine) impactors, which are useful for bird strike simulations, ice spheres for hail replication, and a range of other solid materials including steel, aluminium and plastics.

The tri-function split Hopkinson pressure bar (SHPB) machine is unique as it can be set up to run tension, compression or torque tests. The bars are fully instrumented - made of 25mm diameter titanium alloys - which are capable of achieving specimen strain rates of on the order of 102 to 1031/s. Signals are captured using a high speed digital oscilloscope (Tektronix TDS5034B), which comprises four channels rated at 350MHz. The SHPB is useful for characterising a range of materials at high strain rates, which are needed to improve predictive capability during a dynamic impact event.

Using the facility

Our clients include motorsport companies, automotive OEMs and supply chain companies. Eaton, Nissan, McLaren, Jaguar Land Rover, Prodrive and Red Bull Technology have used Cranfield’s lightweight structures and materials related facilities and equipment to support their testing, research and development programmes. Our facilities are also used when we undertake consultancies for clients. Taught master's and research degree students have access in relation to certain modules and when their projects require students to use the facilities.

Our lightweight structures and materials facilities include the Cranfield Impact Centre (CIC). Within CIC, there are facilities which are FIA accredited for motorsport related structural integrity testing. Many of the UK-based F1 teams use CIC. CIC also works with other motorsport companies covering different formulae and engages with automotive OEMs and supply train companies.