An increasing interest in lightweight metallic foams for automotive, aerospace, and other applications has been observed in recent years. This is mainly due to the weight reduction that can be achieved using foams and for their mechanical energy absorption and acoustic damping capabilities. An accurate knowledge of the mechanical behavior of these materials, especially under dynamic loadings, is thus necessary. Unfortunately, metal foams and in general “soft” materials exhibit a series of peculiarities that make difficult the adoption of standard testing techniques for their high strain-rate characterization. This paper presents an innovative apparatus, where high strain-rate tests of metal foams or other soft materials can be performed by exploiting the operating principle of the Hopkinson bar methods. Using the pre-stress method to generate directly a long compression pulse (compared with traditional SHPB), a displacement of about 20 mm can be applied to the specimen with a single propagating wave, suitable for evaluating the whole stress-strain curve of medium-sized cell foams (pores of about 1–2 mm). The potential of this testing rig is shown in the characterization of a closed-cell aluminum foam, where all the above features are amply demonstrated.
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