Why Perform a Flexure Test?
A flexure test produces tensile stress in the convex side of the specimen and compression stress in the concave side. This creates an area of shear stress along the midline. To ensure the primary failure comes from tensile or compression stress the shear stress must be minimized. This is done by controlling the span to depth ratio; the length of the outer span divided by the height (depth) of the specimen. For most materials S/d=16 is acceptable. Some materials require S/d=32 to 64 to keep the shear stress low enough.
Types of Flexure Tests
Flexure testing is often done on relatively flexible materials such as polymers, wood and composites. There are two test types; 3-point flex and 4-point flex. In a 3-point test the area of uniform stress is quite small and concentrated under the center loading point. In a 4-point test, the area of uniform stress exists between the inner span loading points (typically half the outer span length).
Wood and Composites
The 4-point flexure test is common for wood and composites. The 4-point test requires a deflectometer to accurately measure specimen deflection at the center of the support span. Test results include flexural strength and flexural modulus.
When a 3-point flexure test is done on a brittle material like ceramic or concrete it is often called modulus of rupture (MOR). This test provides flex strength data only, not stiffness (modulus). The 4-point test can also be used on brittle materials. Alignment of the support and loading anvils is critical with brittle materials. The test fixture for these materials usually has self-aligning anvils.