It’s safe to say, as humans we have always been fascinated by the intricacies of flight.

In 1678, a French locksmith named Besnier tried to fly with wings modelled after the webbed feet of a duck. Luckily, he survived the attempt. And 300 years before that, kites were seen carrying humans in China. Luckily, we have come a long way since then…

During the last century the aerospace industry celebrated a number of milestones. From the Wright brothers achieving the first successful airplane flight in 1903, to the Vostok capsule carrying the first person into space.

But not one to rest on its laurels the industry is constantly developing new technologies, and today the prospect of potentially moving to Mars isn’t too alien a concept(!), while the emergence of new advanced materials like graphene and carbon nanotubes are helping to make airplane wings more efficient by reducing weight and fuel consumption.

Weight is hugely important when it comes to designing air and spacecraft. Lighter machines can travel faster on less fuel, and even the slightest changes can make a huge difference. Weight and balance also have a significant impact on the ability to operate aircrafts safely.

So, fasten your seatbelts as we journey into why this makes the calibration of measuring equipment highly critical…

First stop: Quality and safety

The aerospace industry is subject to strictly tight quality controls for safety, meaning high quality production is needed at every stage.

Equipment or component failures on an aircraft can cost from tens of thousands to millions of pounds, while failures in flight present another enormous risk in the loss of lives.

To guarantee the structural safety of an aircraft, every element needs to be manufactured to the highest quality. This is particularly important as the industry relies on hundreds of tiny parts to build their products using high precision processes.

Dimensional measurement plays a crucial role in ensuring that these parts, including aircraft frames and stringers, meet exacting quality standards.

Without proper, regular and well-documented instrument calibration, there is simply no way to ensure safety, quality and performance – all of which are critical to the aerospace industry.

Accuracy and precision

High value satellites are launched with the requirement that they can operate for a number of decades without maintenance or repair. This makes it incredibly important to get it right the first time. But this can only be delivered through rigorous testing and validation carried out on every single component, ensuring it can survive the extremely harsh space environment.

Measurement lies at the heart of this.

In September of 1999, after almost 10 months of travel to Mars, NASA’s $125million Mars Climate Orbiter burned and broke into pieces – purely because the wrong type of measurement unit was used during the manufacturing process. Thankfully today we have the globally recognised SI units system of measurement to avoid such incidences…

Besides checking the accuracy of metrology equipment, calibration also helps to determine the traceability of the measurement.

During calibration, equipment such as micrometers, gauges and calipers are tested against an even higher-level standard, which ensures the results the tools provide are correct, and parts can be produced to the right specs.

Calibration is not a one-time mission

Calibrations have to be carried out at regular intervals. The accuracy of all measuring devices degrades over time, and calibration processes ensure that any deviations in measurement can be corrected so the device performs consistently.  

The aerospace industry in particular has specialised accuracy and reliability specifications for its equipment, and all measurement data and results need to incite an extreme level of confidence.

This means manufacturers need to employ a metrology system that can measure equipment efficiently while consistently attaining high levels of accuracy, which can be as tight as 0.01 mm.

Regular calibration ensures that equipment maintains its stated accuracy, minimising safety risks and bringing you one giant step towards better quality.

Talk to us

Our Calibration Select laboratory in Birmingham follows strict standards and processes which enable us to carry out metrology equipment calibrations for the aerospace industry.

We offer our customers the choice of either traceable or UKAS calibrations. If you want to find out which option is right for you, or if you’d like to know more about the calibration of your metrology equipment our experts are on hand to offer some friendly advice. We’d love to hear from you!

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