CASE RESISTANCE TESTED by the Polytechnic University of Milan… with interesting results!

February 5, 2016 at 05:54 PM · On January 28, in the first part of the Cases Secure in Movement Project, organized by the Department of Musicology and Cultural Heritage of the University of Pavia in the person of Dr. Fabio Perrone, in collaboration with Musafia Cremona Italy, four professional-quality violin cases of different manufacturers but with the same general characteristics (oblong shape, wood laminate shell) were tested for crush resistance.

Testing was performed by the Laboratory for Transport Safety (La.S.T.) of the Polytechnic University of Milan (POLIMI), partner in this project – and the only lab outside of the U.S.A. certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Although closed to the public, the event was televised, in part live, by Cremona Studio1.

In this first test, cases first were measured to determine the space between the bridge of the violin inside and the inside of the lid above it. Then the cases were subjected, with the violin removed, to increasing pressure on the lid above the bridge via a computer-monitored hydraulic press until the lid was deformed by that same measurement, in order to determine the maximum load bearing capacity of each case without involving the instrument inside.

The four cases, despite their similarities, produced quite different results with only two offering a load-bearing capacity similar to that of the average human weight (76 kg. - BMI Quetelet Formula). Of those two, one case weighed 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) and the other a whopping 4.0 kg. (8.8 lbs.), suggesting that weight by itself is not a deciding factor in crush resistance.

The next scheduled testing will perform the same resistance test again on professional quality cases, but with shells made of different materials: carbon fiber, high-density foam, thermo-formed plastics and other such materials currently used for violin case manufacture, and heavily advertised for their alleged qualities.

The other partners of this project are AXA Art (multinational insurers); CSQA Certificazioni (certification agency); Institute of Superior Education “Antonio Stradivari” - International Violin Making School of Cremona; Arvedi Laboratory of Non-Invasive Diagnostics (University of Pavia).

Once this crush resistance testing is completed on all the cases, the results will be published, and research will continue into the next phase.

I’m posting this to keep v.comers aware of what’s going on at a scientific level in the field of safety and instrument cases!

Replies (22)

February 5, 2016 at 07:10 PM · How can I submit my custom-made case made entirely of depleted uranium?

February 5, 2016 at 07:11 PM · There is a possible flaw in the experimental concept:

They are assuming that deforming until contact with the bridge is the end of the performance envelope of the case.

However, depending on the amount of suspension (or lack thereof), or cushion that is supporting the backside of the instrument would provide a certain amount of "give" that may make pressure on the bridge either more or less detrimental.

February 5, 2016 at 08:58 PM · not to mention the flexes, constant contact from hydraulic system doesn't account for shocks absorption/depression. CF would absorb more, but will get more depressed, therefore damage to the violin would be greater without a hard and/or dense layer. Wood would be less absorbing, but gets depressed less, until it breaks.

Often it's better to break than absorbing, which is why they now make car fuselage with plastic bases rather than metal, because as plastic breaks, the force from shock get scattered into small pieces. I think unfortunately this kind of crush test to a case is similar to crush testing a car, instead of crash testing. I mean, how useful is it to know how much weight I can put on top of a case?

Crush test would only be useful, if you're expecting to have things stacked on top of it(during transportation, useful for airlines? Now they have a certified-specified amount of weight they can put on top of your instrument?).

There's a huge difference in between pressing down on the case than dropping it, or having someone hit it.

February 5, 2016 at 09:41 PM · Wow Steven, you've nailed it. A violin case with crumple zones!

The other thing that matters is how quickly force is applied.

February 5, 2016 at 09:59 PM · How much force is applied by knocking some guy's bike into a nearby canal?


February 5, 2016 at 10:33 PM · enough to snap the case in two pieces(hinges, zippers and locking slide all broke). The bow side(top side) of the case was in 3 pieces. Surprisingly without too much damage to the bow.

February 5, 2016 at 10:39 PM · Paul, if you'd like me to crush test some depleted Uranium, you can bring it up to my lab, and I'll put it through a lot of tests, I'll even throw in some x-ray diffraction, High voltage and explosive gas testing in while I'm at it.

February 6, 2016 at 07:57 AM · @ Seraphim Protos: the suspension pads were duly taken into consideration. The problem is that they represent a variable. Some manufacturers make "pads" that are hard and do not "give" at all, others are deep and plush allowing for considerable travel, while still other cases are so poorly designed that the back of the violin rests against the bottom of the case despite the pads.

For this reason, the cases were measured with the violin pressed downwards until the hard place was reached, whether that was a little or a lot.

February 6, 2016 at 08:04 AM · @ Steven Lee: you are quite correct in pointing out that this crush test shows only one aspect of case design. That is why this is only the first phase of the research: one must start somewhere.

In the program there are eight testing procedures, including 2 crush resistance tests and 6 crash tests, in which the case in motion hits an undeformable surface. We're still at the beginning of this research project.

This first test however already points out some silly and misleading advertising. Once case manufacturer claims that their case resists over 200kg. (440 lbs) of pressure on the lid, and that afterwards the case is as good as new. They neglect however to mention that the case lid buckled inwards over two inches (but you can read it on the graph they supply): since the bridge-lid clearance in a violin case is rarely over 20mm, any violin inside would have been reduced to firewood!

February 6, 2016 at 03:08 PM · Hello Mr. Musafia, it's becoming much clearer now, I was definitely misled by

"The next scheduled testing will perform the same resistance test again on professional quality cases, but with shells made of different materials: carbon fiber, high-density foam, thermo-formed plastics and other such materials currently used for violin case manufacture, and heavily advertised for their alleged qualities."

If the testing involves series of different methods/approaches, I feel somewhat relieved that they are doing proper resistance test to the cases.

February 6, 2016 at 03:26 PM · Thanks for the clarification, Dimitri!

February 6, 2016 at 05:51 PM · Has anybody heard of IKA cases from the Czech Republic (not to be confused with Ikea furniture) or one of their distributers, Blue Danube Violins, from Vienna Austria? I have a cautionary tale about both, which is currently pending, if anyone is interested.

February 6, 2016 at 06:47 PM · Hi Dimitri

I just bought one of your Momentum cases three weeks ago (# 15682).I love how function and art blend perfectly with your products. The only minor gripe I have is that the accessory compartment's cloth loop opener gets stuck in the zipper the odd time.Perhaps it should be moved back a centimetre or so.Besides that, I am thoroughly impressed with the incredible attention to detail in the case and how it puts my mind to rest knowing my equipment is being protected by such a superior product.Thank you Dimitri!

February 6, 2016 at 08:01 PM · Are the air bags coming anytime soon?

February 6, 2016 at 08:28 PM · I agree with Peter, same case and same minor problem. Apart from that,wonderful case.

February 8, 2016 at 07:15 AM · Thank you, Peter and Jose, it's a small detail indeed but one that can be annoying nonetheless. We're working on it..!

February 8, 2016 at 07:28 AM · No airbags yet, Rocky :-) but the suspension pads themselvs work on the same principle (if they are correctly designed, placed, and dimensioned).

The number of similarities between automotive passive safety protection and what goes into a well-designed case is surprising. Both are in fact rigid structures that have to protect delicate cargo in case of accident. And yes, it includes crumple zones!

February 9, 2016 at 05:39 AM · as far as they don't crush test a fine car...

February 10, 2016 at 02:36 AM · I'd be leary of the case air-bags. Many in cars recently have been known to shoot out shrapnel when deployed.

February 10, 2016 at 12:27 PM · Well, to me, the cushions for what is now the commonly used suspension system are like permanently deployed - but safe - air bags. And the neck restraint is like a seat belt.

February 10, 2016 at 12:33 PM · Exactly, Raphael.

February 12, 2016 at 12:11 AM · I have progressively customised my cases:

- ensuring the empty case does'nt tip back when open; or open so much that the hinges are strained;

- ensuring that neither the scroll nor the centre of the back ever touch the case shell;

- ensuring that the neck, depite its retaniing strap, is not held rigidly;

- sideways or lengthwise motion of the violin must not get the neck or bridge into trouble.

I guess the best shell materials are 5-ply wood, and Gewa's the good old thermo-formed plastics, neither of which seem to split easily? Wood ages better, though: plastics stiffen and get brittle.

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