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Metal, plastics, glass, textile, leather, wood: The properties and behaviour of materials are analysed by the Quality Lab, which carries out testing of metal and non-metal materials, operational fluids and surface protections. Silvie Plavecká got to know the lab up close and first-hand and wrote there this article. Take a look at places where she discovered her burning love of chemistry.

1
Human force is not enough to test the tensile strength of seat covers! All testing is done by a tearing machine that determines tensile strength values, as well as deformation limits. I was surprised how it tore a strip of stainless steel as if it were a sheet of paper.

2
Compared with the strength tests, determining hardness is relatively quick and easy. The so-called ‘durometer’ measures the diameter of an imprint in a cast-iron section from a brake drum.

3
The colour composition of all the pink and purple shades exposed by the copper phases under the microscope was quite miraculous. What are we actually analysing here? It is the internal structure of a valve seating made of sintered steel, which we prepared by grinding, polishing, chemically etching, and finally pouring epoxy over it.

4
Like me, you might expect to see test tubes, pipettes and flasks. These are today passé when it comes to determining chemical composition. The instruments and their measurements are in the leading roles nowadays. To illustrate, we tested steel from a gearbox shaft. The machine began recording how electrons are leaping from the atoms, and, by selecting a typical wavelength, it provided us information about the representation of chemical elements in the analysed steel sample.

5
Finally, something I recognize… This must be the laundry room. There’s a tub, washing machines, a sink… Actually, it’s the corrosion chamber, and instead of clothing, car components are being washed here in water or salt mist. This simulation tests the components’ surface resistance.

6
After going through the cold shower, as it were, I needed to warm up again. Where better to do so than in the emission chamber, where emitted substances are measured at 23 °C and 65 °C? In the end, an OCTAVIA was heated by infrared rays to an elevated temperature for five hours.

7
The silence in the lab is broken by a muffled whirring. A machine works relentlessly. Rubbing and rubbing away... using various materials – including even sandpaper – against seat-covering materials. The whirring increases from 5,000 to 50,000 revolutions per minute! The material has to remain undamaged, even under such punishment. To ensure quality will withstand the test of time, time’s passage must here be greatly accelerated.

8
The lab tests all the different types of glass to make sure they are strong and provide the car’s occupants with a clear and undistorted view of the road ahead and the world passing by the windows. They are able to discover deviations and defects invisible to the naked eye.

9
The last stop is at the Screws and Bolts Centre, where the technicians have the very great responsibility of evaluating the tightening and gripping abilities of screws and bolts. After all, no one wants to be driving around with a screw loose, as it were, and the technicians make sure that will never happen. They compare all data against the established standards, determine acceptable tolerances, and simulate the individual phases of the fastening process.

HOW I BECAME A LAB SPECIALIST

At the Material Technology Department, I am concerned with testing the whole car and evaluating the quality of its components made from non-metal materials from the viewpoint of climatic resistance. I’ve been drawn to technology ever since I was little.

I graduated from a secondary technical school and then studied plastics processing at the Technical University in Liberec. I first came to the Quality Laboratory at ŠKODA during a student internship, and the work fascinated me because it was close to my field of study. I then completed two periods of study abroad at the Technical University in Chemnitz, and after finishing my studies I applied for a job at the company.

 

 

DALIBOR KOPÁČ