Stuart Hawkins at Transmille, the manufacturers of multi-function calibrators and calibration software, looks at the importance of calibration within industry today

Calibration is the checking of an instrument against a known value to determine its performance compared to this known value. An effective calibration uses a standard which is capable of being more precise than the instrument being checked against it, for example checking a clock with hours and minutes against a clock with hours, minutes and seconds.

A calibration laboratory will perform this type of calibration to a known standard including points across the span of a range, and on each range where appropriate to ensure a comprehensive record of measurements made, with traceability of these back to National Standards.

Why is calibration necessary ?

We may not realise this in our day to day life but measurement and calibration are all around us, from the watch on your wrist to the speedometer in our car and we rely on them reading correctly without giving them a second thought – potential consequences of not calibrating include:

• Incorrectly calibrated electricity meters resulting in high readings and excessive charges.

• Missing a train because we did not verify our watch read the right time.

• The consequences of an incorrectly calibrated altimeter in an airplane would be dramatic.

• A car fuel gauge reads incorrectly due to being set up with incorrectly calibrated test equipment.

• A manufacturer produces 100,000 USB connectors all the wrong size due to incorrectly adjusted machinery. The effect of calibration is far reaching, influencing many different industries in a multitude of applications. Calibration is an important part of the process of providing and maintaining these products and services.

Traceability – making measurement meaningful

For a measurement to be meaningful to another person it must be derived from the same source, so my kilogram is the same as your kilogram, so someone, somewhere must keep a single standard and measurements made by your instrument must be traceable back to original source.

This path of measurements and comparisons leading back from the calibration of your instrument to the original master standard is known as traceability. Without traceability a measurement is only a relative to you, and is of no use to anyone else.

It is normally the function of national laboratories to keep the country’s standards and there has been a programme of research for many years to determine the most accurate and stable standards, for example time/frequency from an atomic clock which can be constructed anywhere in the world and produce the same frequency.

In-house calibration

Calibration can be successfully brought in-house using the right test equipment, calibration software and supporting quality system.

Transmille has been at the forefront of calibrator and software design for over a decade, with emphasis on the creation of ready to use ‘out of the box’ systems. Transmille’s products are already used successfully in Ireland by several companies.

Using a company experienced in the running of a precision laboratory to supply a commercial calibration system which comes complete with all the measurement and traceability data required to run a professional in-house calibration facility makes in house calibration a reality. Such a solution, as Transmille can supply, offers a comprehensive approach covering the entire process from goods inwards, through to calibration and despatch including printing of professional certificates and labels.

Key to setting up a calibration system is the ease of use of the calibrators and software, which have been designed to de-skill the calibration of instruments such as multimeters, clamp meters and electricians test tools including RCD and Loop testers. A vital component of any calibration system is easy-to-use software with built-in traceability and quality system support. Complete software solutions are recommended, such as the ProCal/ ProCal-Track suite of calibration and laboratory management packages from Transmille.

In-house calibration benefits

• Reduces outsourcing costs.

• Calibrate on-site/at multiple sites – reduce downtime for your engineers.

• Schedule to suit your workload.

• Create additional revenue by calibrating for clients/partners.