Structural Testing Facility

University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
What the facility does

Large-scale structural testing under static and highly dynamic loading

Areas of expertise

The Structural Testing Facility in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto is among the top few such centres in North America. The facility houses unique testing frames (Shell Element Tester, Blast Generator, Shaking Table) as well as a large array of standard testing frames, actuators and data acquisition equipment. Combined with two Strong Floor areas and an associated Strong Wall, this laboratory has the capability to test numerous small and large-scale structural element under static or dynamic loading conditions. Access to a multi-core computing cluster housed in the same building enables hybrid testing of whole buildings, as well as advanced modeling capabilities.

Research services

Testing of materials (tensile coupons, compression testing, Charpy toughness testing, concrete material testing, rock testing, wood testing), testing of structural elements (columns, beams, connections and connectors, under static and dynamic loading), testing of structural assemblies (bridges, frames, trusses, under multiple types of loading).

Sectors of application
  • Construction (including building, civil engineering, specialty trades)
  • Defence and security industries
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
Shell Element Tester

The Shell Element Tester (SET) is utilized to study the behaviour of very large reinforced concrete elements subjected to in-plane and out-of-plane forces. It is the only facility of its kind capable of testing full-scale shell elements subjected to all eight possible force components.


This piece of equipment houses 60 hydraulic jacks, 40 in-plane, which have a capacity of 1000 kN, and 20 out-of-plane, which have a capacity of 500 kN. Specimens up to 1.5 m square by 0.4 m thick can be accommodated. The SET can be used to apply bending, shear and torsional loading to regular and high-strength reinforced concrete elements, and has been used to test components of nuclear power plants and concrete offshore structures. The Shell Element Tester achieves strain rate levels representative of what the majority of a structure is subjected to, during an extreme load event.

Shear Panel TesterThe Shear Panel Tester is used to apply arbitrary in-plane stresses to thin reinforced (or pre-stressed) concrete panels in order to determine realistic constitutive models, which can later be used by non-linear finite element programs.  This tester includes 38 x 10,000 psi hydraulic jacks and its own control apparatus.
Blast generatorThe “Blast Generator” or Impactor is a servo-hydraulically powered actuator capable of applying impulsive loads to structural elements. A 243-kg mass is propelled at velocities of up to 25 m/s. A “programmer” (polymer cushion) is attached to the mass to vary the impulse. The system is capable of producing impulses of 0.5 m/s to 5 m/s duration and can emulate blast pressures.
Six-DOF shaking tableThe six-DOF shaking table is equipped with three 2 x 9kN actuators in the horizontal direction and 3 x 13kN actuators in the vertical direction. The equipment is used to understand the effect of multi-axial vibration on the dynamic response of structures. In addition, the equipment also can be used as a static, multi-axial loading apparatus.
2000 kN static and dynamic actuatorThe 2000 kN static and dynamic actuator can apply realistic forces at low and high velocities to large-scale experiments. The actuator has a maximum stroke length of 500 mm with a peak velocity of 1,000 mm/s. Possible swivel angles of +90° and -30° and tilt angles of ± 8° allow for a wide range of test set-ups.
1000 kN static and dynamic actuatorsThe two 1000 kN actuators can develop a peak velocity of 1,200 mm/s at full force under a pulse-like triangular excitation over the maximum stroke of the actuator (750 mm). They can also develop a peak velocity of 1000 mm/s under a single sinusoidal wave at +/- 300 mm and a peak velocity of 700 mm/s within a frequency range of 0.5 to 10 Hz under sustained sinusoidal loading.
Small MTS portable actuatorsTwo 350 kN-capacity and 2 x 250 kN capacity portable actuators can be used in either of the two laboratories for a variety of specialized applications.  They are normally used in conjunction with the “Meccano” loading frames and/or the Strong Wall and Strong Floor in the SF Structures Laboratory.  The 1,000 kN actuator from the Column Test Frame can also be dismounted and used in this manner.
Baldwin Universal Testing MachineThis large-scale universal testing machine can apply tension / compression loads up to 5,400 kN, on specimens up to 6.5 metres high, and 18.3 metres long. This testing machine can be used to carry out a diverse range of tests on materials and assemblies such as cables, columns, beams and trusses.
MTS Mobile Testing MachineThis large-scale universal testing machine can apply tension / compression loads up to 2,650 kN, on specimens up to 3 metres high. It is capable of being moved around using a series of air pads and can be bolted to the strong floor at any location.  When coupled with the Strong Wall and various portable actuators, large, "three-dimensional", structural sub-assemblies can be tested.
MTS 1000 kN Universal Testing MachineThis universal testing machine can apply tension / compression loads up to 1,000 kN, on specimens up to 1.8 metres high. It is capable of being moved around using a 10-tonne overhead crane.
MTS Stiff Frame Testing MachineThis high-stiffness testing machine has a capacity of 4,500 kN in compression.  It can be used for tests on specimens such as high- strength concrete and rock samples requiring a machine with high stiffness capable of capturing post peak behaviour.
Column Testing FrameThis specially constructed frame houses a 4500 kN hydraulic jack for the application of axial loads and a 1000 kN servo-controlled actuator for the application of transverse loads.  This frame is capable of testing specimens that are up to 4 m long while the transverse dimensions are limited by laboratory space and the strength of the materials used in the specimen.  A major upgrade of this frame is currently under way which will increase the axial load capacity to 9,000 kN.
Charpy V-notch MachineThe pendulum impact tester can be easily changed from a Charpy configuration to an Izod configuration. The tester determines the Charpy impact toughness of metals and is compliant with the specifications outlined in ASTM E23, BS EN ISO 148-3 and BS EN ISO 148-2.
Strong Floor / Reaction WallThe Structural Testing Facility houses two strong floors, one with an associated reaction wall (in the SF Structures Laboratory). These items, when combined with a diverse range of moveable steel reaction frames, beams, columns and various hydraulic jacks and actuators, provide for systems capable of loading large two- and three-dimensional structural sub-assemblies in infinitely variable formats. Examples of test capabilities include full-scale steel trusses up to 12m long, two-storey reinforced concrete frames, precast concrete slabs, hollow structural section (HSS) steel connections, and transmission pole tests.
Full-Scale Meccano SetThe Meccano system is a set of moveable steel reaction frames, beams, columns, braces, etc., that can be assembled in almost limitless configurations and used in conjunction with other testing apparatus to apply loads to almost any structural component or subassembly.


  • École Polytechnique de Montréal
  • McGill University
  • The University of British Columbia
  • University of Waterloo
  • University of Patras
  • Greece
  • Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
  • Ministry of Transportation of Ontario
  • Hydro One
  • Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • Candu Energy Inc.
  • Canadian Institute of Steel Construction
  • American Institute of Steel Construction
  • Korea Concrete Institute
  • Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd.
  • Hatch Ltd.
  • Bull Moose Tube Company
  • Atlas Tube Canada ULC
  • NCK Engineering Ltd.
  • Tower Solutions Inc.
  • Explora Security Ltd.
  • Explora Foundation
  • Cast Connex Corporation
  • Kinetica
Prof. Evan Bentz on our Structural Testing Facilities
CAST CONNEX Scorpion Yielding Connectors, on Discovery Channel's Daily Planet