Compression Test

A compression test determines behavior of materials under crushing loads. The specimen is compressed and deformation at various loads is recorded. Compressive stress and strain are calculated and plotted as a stress-strain diagram which is used to determine elastic limit, proportional limit, yield point, yield strength and, for some materials, compressive strength.

Compression Test

Why Perform a Compression Test? 

The ASM Handbook®, Volume 8, Mechanical Testing and Evaluation states: "Axial compression testing is a useful procedure for measuring the plastic flow behavior and ductile fracture limits of a material. Measuring the plastic flow behavior requires frictionless (homogenous compression) test conditions, while measuring ductile fracture limits takes advantage of the barrel formation and controlled stress and strain conditions at the equator of the barreled surface when compression is carried out with friction. Variations of the strains during a compression testAxial compression testing is also useful for measurement of elastic and compressive fracture properties of brittle materials or low-ductility materials. In any case, the use of specimens having large L/D ratios should be avoided to prevent buckling and shearing modes of deformation." 

The image below shows variation of the strains during a compression test without friction (homogenous compression) and with progressively higher levels of friction and decreasing aspect ratio L/D (shown as h/d)1

Compression Tests


Modes of Deformation in Compression Testing

The figure below illustrates the modes of deformation in compression testing. (a) Buckling, when L/D > 5. (b) Shearing, when L/D > 2.5. (c) Double barreling, when L/D > 2.0 and friction is present at the contact surfaces. (d) Barreling, when L/D < 2.0 and friction is present at the contact surfaces. (e) Homogenous compression, when L/D < 2.0 and no friction is present at the contact surfaces. (f) Compressive instability due to work-softening material. 

Deformation MOde

Typical Materials 

The following materials are typically subjected to a compression test. 

  • Concrete 
  • Metals 
  • Plastics 
  • Ceramics 
  • Composites 
  • Corrugated 
  • Cardboard


ASM Handbook, Vol. 8, Mechanical Testing and Evaluation, ASM International, Materials Park, OH 44073-0002, fig. 6(b), p. 146; Test Methods, first paragraph only, page 147; fig. 1, page 143; 2 sentences under Flexural Strength Test, page 32.