The automotive industry is one of the world’s largest manufacturing sectors, with some 70 million motor vehicles produced worldwide annually. Today vehicles are becoming more complex, with more technology and electric parts involved than ever before. From the era of horseless carriages, we now live in a world where a prototype convertible ‘flying car’ just completed its first test flight. Where there’s a will, there’s a runway.

But before getting the ‘green light’ to appear on the market, motor vehicles, and their components, have to comply with a certain number of regulations, whether local or international.

The importance of calibration within the automotive industry

Quality control is an essential part of manufacturing because it ensures that all products conform to the same standard. It means manufacturers are less likely to face costly recalls and put customers at risk from poorly made products.

For the manufacturing industry, which relies on high end manufacturing and precision, it is an especially vital aspect. But automotive quality control also relies on having accurate tools for the job.

Enter: calibrations.

Calibrations ensure the metrology equipment used to provide measurements within the automotive (or any other) industry, is accurate and provides reliable results.

Choosing the right calibration provider is essential, but not always easy. Luckily, we’ve taken care to ensure you don’t encounter any speed bumps on the way…

Here are the 3 key things automotive manufacturers need to remember when it comes to their metrology equipment calibrations:

  1. The road to least resistance is… getting it right

From torque wrenches to tyre pressure gauges, and micrometres to vernier calipers, dial test indicators and pressure gauges, the various types of measurement equipment used in automotive manufacturing all have one thing in common – they need to be accurate.

Every fastener within a vehicle, for example, has a torque specification assigned by the manufacturer. Too much torque can cause severely over-tightened fasteners, leading to stripping and broken parts. Too little torque can result in pieces separating or becoming loose. A calibrated torque wrench ensures the correct amount of torque is applied, which is vital to ensure overall vehicle safety.

Similarly, with vernier calipers used to measure small parts, calibration is crucial as even the slightest deviation can have an impact further down the production line. Calibration determines any measurement deviations in the instruments and allows any necessary adjustments to be carried out. When it comes to accuracy, it ensures you get it right.

2. Routine calibration is your best path to success

Most of us make sure to check our car tyre pressure regularly (or at least know that we should…) to ensure the safety of our vehicles (car tyres will generally lose up to two pounds of air per month!). In the same way, when using measuring instruments regularly, they also need to be calibrated regularly. This ensures they continue to meet industry-wide standards during the manufacturing process.

The accuracy of measuring instruments will degrade over time from frequent usage and general wear and tear. How often you need to calibrate your metrology equipment depends on the type, how often it’s used and the operating environment.

Standard practice is to calibrate torque wrenches every 5,000 cycles or every 12 months. Similarly, it’s important to calibrate your calipers and gauges at least annually. Having consistent high-accuracy measurements means you can ensure high-quality output, saving you on costs in the long run.

3. Map out your requirements… to ensure you arrive at the right destination

We all know that choosing the right car is an important decision, which is why car buyers take an average of 40.5 days to find the right one! Similarly, with so much information available, it’s important to make sure you understand exactly which standard and type of calibration is right for you.

When it comes to industries such as automotive and aerospace, traceability is very important. In fact, most formal ISO quality management standards will demand traceable calibration certificates. For these industries, where safety is absolutely critical, UKAS accredited calibrations can provide an added level of trust. This is because an accredited calibration laboratory has to be independently audited, therefore can give you the best indication of the quality of a supplier’s calibration services.

Mapping out your requirements is key to finding the best-equipped lab for your calibration needs. Alongside costs and turnaround time, many manufacturers will also need to consider the benefits of having a single supplier looking after all their calibration requirements. While for some, finding an ISO 17025 accredited calibration laboratory that offers onsite calibration services can be a huge convenience.

Finding yourself at a crossroads?…

Calibration Select provides a comprehensive metrology equipment calibration service for the automotive industry. Our team can provide expert calibrations on-site as well as at our calibration lab, which is accredited by UKAS to ISO/IEC 17025:2017.

To learn more about our calibration services for the automotive industry, click here to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

Each instrument should have a unique calibration record which must be maintained for a certain period of time. How often equipment needs to be calibrated will depend on the type of equipment, how often it’s used and its unique conditions, for example, being exposed to high, or low, temperatures.

Did you know that, until 1858, the Apothecaries’ system was the official system of measurement used to weigh out ingredients in medicines (and potions) in the US and Great Britain? Back then – when cocaine toothache drops were prescribed as “patent medicines” and leech therapy was all the rage – apothecaries were using hand scales to prepare and dispense their own medicines.

Prior to the 20th century, medicines were generally produced by small scale manufacturers and there was little regulatory control over manufacturing, or their promise of safety and efficacy.

Today, research and testing labs, manufacturers and other pharma companies are all subject to strict laws and regulations, meaning significant attention has to be paid to safety and compliance. Gone are the days of prescribing mercury, chloroform, and medicinal leeches. Technological advancement has also brought with it many benefits, including highly sophisticated and extremely sensitive measuring equipment.

Calibrating these instruments properly and regularly is a crucial aspect of ensuring that finished pharmaceutical products meet the right quality standards.

How is instrument calibration performed?

Instrument calibration is the process of comparing results from a measurement device against a traceable standard, i.e., one that has been calibrated to an even higher level standard. Any discrepancies found can then be adjusted within the specified limits, ensuring the equipment being used is producing safe and accurate results. For pharma companies, it is an important part of justifying the processes of Qualification and Validation – part of the 3 principles to achieving high quality.

Instrument calibration can be performed in-house or by sending equipment to a calibration laboratory. While calibrating in-house can mean reduced downtime, enlisting the services of a nationally or internationally accredited calibration laboratory, who offer proven accuracy standards, appropriate equipment and the right controlled environments, can give you extra confidence in the traceability of your device.

The role of metrology equipment in pharmaceutical production

There are many types of metrology equipment used in pharmaceutical production, each instrument that comes into contact with the pharmaceutical supply chain needs to meet stringent quality standards, as the measurements taken from these instruments have a direct effect on the quality of the end product.

Flow – Flow meters are used to measure the flow of various liquids and gases. However, even high precision flow meters can easily deter from calibration, and the performance of these instruments will reduce over time. Routine calibration ensures these results are consistently accurate.

Temperature – Similarly, even slight variations in temperature can affect product quality. Thermometers, thermocouples and other temperature monitoring equipment are sensitive and prone to damage during use, meaning they have to be checked and calibrated regularly. The calibration of temperature sensors is also critical to ensure that labs stay within optimal temperatures for the safe production of pharmaceutical products.  

Pipettes – Pipettes are crucial in measuring and transferring the accurate amount of fluid into a product. However, the smallest variation to a recipe could have harmful consequences for consumers. Some volatile liquids and chemicals can also corrode the pipette, throwing off calibration, while air temperature and humidity in a lab can affect its accuracy. With regular pipette calibration, you can significantly reduce these risks and liabilities.

Pressure – A variety of pressure measuring and monitoring devices are used within pharma production, for example, to ensure the pressure within cleanrooms stay at optimal levels. Calibration ensures that they comply with industry and regulatory standards regarding precision, sanitation, and safety – ensuring better conditions for researching, developing, and producing medicines.

How often does equipment have to be calibrated?

Pharmaceutical producers need to implement a routine instrument calibration schedule to ensure compliance with FDA guidelines or to maintain CGMP and other quality control standards.

Each instrument should have a unique calibration record which must be maintained for a certain period of time. How often equipment needs to be calibrated will depend on the type of equipment, how often it’s used and its unique conditions, for example, being exposed to high, or low, temperatures.

Most pipettes, for instance, can be calibrated every six months, but based on the strict regulations of the pharmaceutical industry, the CSLI recommends that your pipettes be calibrated every 3 – 6 months. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for minimum calibration intervals. You can also consult an accredited lab for help with devising an appropriate calibration schedule.

Why use an accredited lab?

The aim of calibration is to establish the accuracy of the equipment used within production – preventing costly recalls, damage to reputation and safety risks to consumers. At the same time, pharmaceutical companies and laboratories need to have confidence in the performance and results of the instruments used to calibrate their measuring equipment.

This is where accredited calibration labs add value. These labs ensure that the equipment used by pharmaceutical companies is calibrated as per the required standards and can produce products that match the pharmaceutical quality as set by the MHRA or FDA.

Labs without accreditation can also provide good service and traceability; however, companies will need to verify these on their own. An accredited lab can demonstrate compliance with ISO 17025, which they can only receive if they meet all the requirements for quality and traceability.

Accredited labs can also provide the appropriate calibration certifications for each instrument. This is a critical part of pharmaceutical regulations – it means companies can avoid problems during regulatory inspections, alongside fines, penalties and even product recalls.

Calibration Select is accredited by UKAS to ISO 17025:2017. We offer pharmaceutical equipment calibrations on-site and at our state-of-the-art labs. For more information about our calibration services for pharmaceutical companies, please get in touch here. We’d love to hear from you!

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!

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.

Why calibrate?

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

Metrology has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the ancient world, a time where measurement standards were based on body measures such as fingers, palms and hands… the flood level of the Nile in approximately 3000 B.C. was given as six cubits and one palm.

But man truly is the measure of all things. Luckily, today we have more precise instruments to measure dimensions, while our palms have been freed to carry much more reliable hand tools. Back then, it is said that the standard measure of length was the body of a country’s literal ‘ruler’. Today we have the benefit of traceable calibrations linking back to a known standard (or a different kind of pyramid).

Fast forward 5000 years and it goes without saying that the worlds of the manufacturing, aerospace and automotive industries go hand-in-hand with high precision. Dimensional equipment such as micrometers, calipers, and gauges play an instrumental part in manufacturing high quality products and to perform their job to the highest standards these devices require maximum precision.

With items requiring such a high degree of accuracy it’s no surprise the calibration process itself needs to maintain strict standards. In a process where even the tiniest change in environmental conditions can affect the results of a calibration, the dimensional calibration process really is fascinating (although maybe we’re slightly biased).

Read on to find out how the dimensional equipment calibration process works and why it’s important to calibrate your dimensional equipment on a regular basis.

The Goldilocks of calibration conditions

Dimensional equipment calibrations are usually carried out by dedicated laboratories equipped with highly-skilled technicians using documented procedures, and conducted using a range of state-of-the-art testing tools.

Part of the ISO 17025 standard used by accredited laboratories ensures that key environmental conditions (such as ambient temperature and humidity) are controlled in calibration labs.

Consider temperature as one of those key factors. Labs need to ensure they maintain a consistent temperature – not only of the equipment or parts to be calibrated – but also that of the measuring equipment and the temperature of the calibration environment itself. The Goldilocks principle is very much a cornerstone of dimensional calibration. The temperature has to be ‘just right’.

The main reason for this? Metal can expand or shrink due to the temperatures it’s exposed to. A small difference in temperature can make all the difference to dimensional tools, especially when working with such small increments of measurement. 

To ensure the environment is consistent, measurements are taken in a 20°C temperature-controlled room or by making temperature corrections if the measurements are taken at a different temperature.

But ensuring that the temperature of dimensional equipment is kept consistent during calibration is not a simple process. It involves a number of additional steps; including strict temperature control within the lab, wearing gloves to prevent heat transferring from the hands to the item, and allowing the item to acclimatise to the temperature within the lab before calibration.  

Gauge blocks are the master dimensional standard used in most calibration laboratories. These are sets of individual blocks where two opposing faces have been precisely ground flat and parallel so that the faces are an exact distance apart, giving a length accuracy of as low as a few micro-inches. They are calibrated to be accurate at 20 °C and kept at this temperature when taking measurements of dimensional tools to mitigate the effects of thermal expansion.

Quality control and safety

It’s also important to remember that calibrating your dimensional equipment isn’t a one-off. You should be using calibrations to monitor the capability of your dimensional equipment over time to ensure it’s performing at its optimal best.

Regular calibration ensures that dimensional equipment retains its capability and traceability. Take dimensional gauges, they are often used on a daily basis across many industries and their results are depended upon to ensure quality and safety, however if the gauge was dropped and damaged then it could easily provide the wrong results. In the automotive industry, for instance, which relies on the accuracy of manufacturing parts, quality is vital. Regular gauge calibration is important to ensure control points are correct and to establish the foundation of the vehicle.

In the aerospace engineering field, micrometers are one of the most fundamental measuring tools. They have the ability to take accurate readings to extremely small measurements with a standard accuracy up to the one thousandth of an inch, to check the width of extremely small parts – which has a huge bearing on safety.

Interested in learning more?

Our team of metrology calibration specialists are experienced in of calibrating your micrometers, calipers, gauge blocks and many more types of dimensional measuring equipment. They can also answer any questions you have around dimensional equipment calibrations.  

For more information, please click here, or leave us a question in the comments.

We are delighted to announce that Calibration Select has extended its service offering once more to include dimensional equipment calibrations alongside our existing metrology equipment calibration services.  

As one of the UK’s leading metrology calibration providers – with 130 years of expertise in delivering calibrations to a range of industries – we are excited to grow our comprehensive portfolio of metrology equipment calibration services to continue to meet our customers’ requirements for a single source calibration partner.

From our state-of-the-art laboratory in Birmingham our team of highly-skilled technicians are now able to perform traceable calibrations on a range of dimensional equipment, including internal micrometers, digital indicators, levels and gauge blocks. All calibrations are performed using the latest tools and testing procedures to give our customers the peace of mind that their devices meet the relevant safety and compliance standards.

As with our existing portfolio of metrology equipment calibrations, dimensional calibrations are also backed by our industry leading turnaround time which guarantees items are collected from customer sites, calibrated and returned, all within five working days. While our bespoke, online system provides direct access to calibration certificates and asset details – all brought together to simplify our customer’s calibration processes.

Andy Fox, Compliance Business Unit Manager, Avery Weigh-Tronix, commented:

“With a long-established history in the industry, we have always been committed to developing innovative, market-focused solutions for our customers.

Many of our customers are looking to consolidate their suppliers, and with the addition of dimensional equipment calibrations to our service portfolio, we are even better placed to be one of the only suppliers on the market to offer such a wide range of weighing and metrology equipment calibration services through Calibration Select and our parent company, Avery Weigh-Tronix. 

As our company celebrates this important milestone, we are pleased to announce that our team is also expanding, with the addition of three new dimensional calibration experts to support growing demand from our customers and strengthen our knowledge base in this area.”

Click here to find out more about our full range of our dimensional equipment calibration services.