Explosive Testing

Sequence Shot of and Explosive Test

Challenge

As an example of the value of ARA explosive testing, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) had a need to develop and validate an improved laminated glazing model capable of predicting the response of window glazing that contains thick laminates. Thick laminates had long been used in hurricane regions, but limited quantitative data was available to validate its effectiveness in a blast environment with standard commercial window systems, such as those used in GSA facilities.

Solution

As part of this research and development effort, GSA contracted ARA to perform four large-scale, open-air, high-explosive arena tests at one of ARA’s explosive test sites. Thirteen thick laminate window lay-ups were evaluated in the test series for model development and validation.  The explosive tests were performed by ARA in accordance with the GSA standard test protocol (GSA-TS01-2003).  All window lay-ups were mounted in ARA’s enclosed concrete reaction structures, which were situated at varying distances from the explosive charge to achieve the tiered load combinations outlined in the test matrix (developed by ARA and reviewed/approved by GSA). The tests were fully-instrumented to capture all data needed for development and validation of the model. The developed and validated thick laminated model was ultimately incorporated by ARA into WINGARD 5.5.

The explosive test bed has long been a ‘proving ground’ for evaluating newly-developed hazard mitigation technologies and project-specific designs, as well as providing a source of valuable real-world data for improved analytical methods and software validation. Since the company’s founding in 1979, ARA has performed literally thousands of large-scale arena explosive tests for a wide variety of clientele including government agencies, as well as corporations (both large and small) spanning various industries. Among the explosive tests of building systems that ARA has conducted, ARA engineers have explosively tested well over 250 independent window systems to evaluate the required levels of protection for the federal government and commercial clients.


Over the years, ARA’s test programs of protective design systems have included systems tested against a wide variety of threats, including munitions (mortars, rockets, etc.), shaped-charged weapons, vehicle-borne explosives, vehicle impact, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), pipe bombs and other fragmenting devices, and large-scale air blast testing routinely using charge sizes ranging into the thousands of pounds TNT equivalent.  Our engineers specialize in assessing and measuring both structural and human response factors during these tests, and developing design criteria based on both testing and validated analytical models, as well as compliance with standard explosive test protocols.

Impact

Historically, the majority of building occupants seriously injured or killed in blast events sustained these injuries due to flying glass fragments from the building’s exterior window systems. Explosive testing of blast mitigation products and designs can reveal deficiencies in new technologies and design techniques, long before they are approved for use in the field. This has prompted many Federal agencies to mandate explosive testing to pre-quality window systems prior to being installed in their facilities.

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