Humans have a long, successful history of adding value to raw materials to turn them into something more useful. Prior to the advent of manufacturing, it’s daunting to think that most products were made by hand. But luckily, the technological changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution dramatically changed our ways of producing goods.
Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line in 1913, for instance, made moves towards efficiently mass-producing an entire automobile. His first assembly line cut the time it took to construct a car from over 12 hours to an impressive one hour and thirty-three minutes!
Today this important innovation has enabled manufacturers to create products in high volume at a remarkable rate, enabling them to take advantage of economies of scale. But manufacturing also requires balancing efficient production and effective quality control measures to create safe, high-quality products.
This is where calibration takes the load off…
Calibration and its role in manufacturing
With the ever-increasing influx of automation, it’s important to ensure that production is repeatedly accurate.
Parts need to be produced within a customer’s required specifications, within a pre-set tolerance for error, which means the highly complex machines that are involved in producing and assembling those parts – at every single step of the manufacturing process – need to be reliable.
Metrology equipment is used by manufacturers to ensure that their products and their parts are accurately and precisely manufactured, measured and assembled. The process that checks the equipment used is delivering accurate results time and time again is calibration.
To ensure that metrology equipment – from torque wrenches to micrometers – are producing the correct measurements, they need to be regularly checked.
This is important as, over a period of time and from constant use, their measurements can shift slightly, which can create differences and product deviations, beyond the famed margin of error.
Instruments used within manufacturing environments are particularly vulnerable to this. Micrometers, for instance, are widely used to assure the quality of parts, but simple changes such as heat from the hands can warm the frame of a micrometer, causing significant measurement errors. Similarly, if it’s been dropped or damaged in any way, it’s important to ensure, through calibration, that the tool is still delivering the correct measurement results.
But it’s not just quality assurance calibration offers manufacturers, it also brings a number of other important benefits:
The benefits of calibrating to manufacturers
- Create confidence in products – During calibration, the results from a measurement device are compared against a traceable reference device with a higher level of accuracy. Any discrepancies found can then be adjusted accordingly. By ensuring accuracy at every level of the manufacturing chain, manufacturers have confidence that their equipment is producing high quality products, which feeds down to trust from their customers.
- Ensure safety and quality – Having accurate measurement results is particularly important when looking at the levels of tension required within critical joints and fastenings on cars, aircraft, and heavy-duty machinery. The measurement of torque is one of the most important aspects during the manufacturing of high-quality products and is required to ensure that the fasteners used in automobiles, for example, are installed securely. The joints need to be bound with absolute tightness, which is critical to safety. Without properly calibrated equipment, it’s impossible to meet quality requirements, such as ISO.
- Reduce costs and manufacturing errors – Small measurement errors can equal big costs, so having accurately calibrated equipment can reduce the risk for product defects and therefore expensive repairs.
How often should equipment be calibrated?
Dimensional equipment such as calipers, are one of the most common hand tools used within manufacturing. Due to their precision accuracy it’s important to calibrate these devices at least once a year. Similarly, torque wrenches should also be calibrated at least once a year due to their high level of use.
Other questions to consider when thinking about the frequency of calibrations are: Is the device dropped or banged constantly? Or are you using the tool in unusually hot, cold, humid or wet conditions? If yes, you might want to consider a more frequent calibration schedule.
Luckily, calibrations don’t need to be laborious …
We’re here to help
If you’re a manufacturer and you’d like some advice on calibrations within your business, reach out to our experts. We offer both ISO standard calibrations and UKAS accredited calibrations across a full range of metrology disciplines in our labs, including torque, temperature, dimensional and electrical equipment. We’d love to hear from you!