The Great Instron Migration

The last few months have seen an almost unbelievable brightening in the light at the end of my PhD tunnel. Why? WE MOVED A MACHINE.

Yep. And you thought I was going to explain some insanely cool data I’d collected.

The triumph this month was relocating our Instron apparatus (which I highlighted in a recent post) to our new and improved Ice Lab. It’s something I’ve relentlessly coordinated (= was an interminable squeaky wheel to the people with the means and power to actually make this happen) over the last few years, and at times it seemed like the Instron would remain in purgatory across the street. First, we needed a place to put it. Then a lab space opened up, but we had to wait almost a year for the outgoing professor to take all of his equipment off to his new job (to be fair to him, though, he did let me use his lab equipment while it was still around).  The room needed a paint job, deep cleaning, and a new power outlet to accept the machine. Finally, at the beginning of my fourth year at Brown, the Instron began its journey.

In other words, instant activation of Mother Hen Mode occurred as the means of accomplishing my PhD research rose into the air, balancing on a 4×4 on a forklift.

First motion of the Instron!
First motion of the Instron!

What surprised – and scared – me was that the forklift/4×4 combo was lifting the machine by its crosshead (the big, tan bar at the top). Nobody had discussed the fact that the clamps holding that crosshead onto the machine, which were now supporting the entire weight of the machine, were meant to resist only the force of the machine itself pushing on a test specimen. Would they now hold up the entire 1,200 lbs of very expensive apparatus? I didn’t know, nobody had checked in advance, and the legs of the Instron were gently swaying with every turn of the forklift. It was too late now! I closed my eyes, then turned away to find something to distract me while the forklift driver expertly navigated a maze of equipment between our machine and the exit.

I let out a huge sigh of relief when those legs once again met the ground outside. Thank you, Instron, for designing good clamps!

From there, a few “simple” steps got the Instron across the street and into our nice, new lab.

Step 1: Tip the machine on its side.


Step 2: Drive it onto a truck.


Step 3: Drive it from the truck onto the loading dock at GeoChem.


The conversation here went like this:

Rigger: “Are you sure those loading dock plates can support the weight of the forklift?”

Bill (guy in the photo): “Yeah, they’re 100 lbs of steel apiece.”

Forklift starts driving…

Bill: “Stop! Stop! The plates are bending!”

Fortunately, we were able to move the Instron onto a dolly and roll it into the loading bay without the forklift!

Step 4: Fit the Instron into…

a) the elevator


b) a tiny doorway into the lab.

20150921_100535     20150921_100651Fortunately, we tested this procedure in advance with an incredibly high-fidelity INSTRON SIMULATOR.

Instron Simulator
The extreme high-fidelity Instron simulator. Yes, I got to spend a day doing crafts! These are skills I learned while working at NASA.

At long last, the Instron is in the Ice Lab.


Now I can get started with the last phase of my research! You’ll be the first to know when that incredibly cool data comes out.


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