What Is Calibration

Calibration is a main concern for engineers, quality managers, purchasing agents, and more. It is a necessary process to ensure the accuracy and performance of critical tools and components across numerous industries. Calibration services reduce the risk of creating or delivering out-of-specification products.

What Is Calibration?

For example, in the medical industry, proper calibration could mean the difference between life and death. In most industries calibration is critical to ensure safety and end product or service quality control.

Learn more about what calibration is, what to expect from services, and how to find a trustworthy service provider near you.

Defining Calibration and Calibration Services

Calibration is a measurement science. It is the act of comparing a measurement with one that is known and verified or comparing a measuring instrument/standard to a known standard.

For example, calibrating an oven thermostat would take comparing the piece to a powerful calibrated thermometer to verify that it is either in tolerance or needs to be adjusted.

A known standard is always at least four times more accurate than the device undergoing calibration.

The known standard receives its calibration according to the international system of units (SI), through national standards laboratories. The U.S. national laboratory is the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST requires items to have unbroken chains of traceability to the SI, usually through the appropriate national laboratory. Calibrations must have statements of uncertainty to qualify as traceable to NIST according to NIST’s calibration policy. An uncertainty is an expression of all combinations of error. In other words, calibrated items need documented, traceable measurements with statements of uncertainty to verify each calibration adheres to international standards.

Calibration services are when a professional with special calibrating tools, technologies, and processes compares an item’s measurements with a known standard. Adjusting a measurement tool to produce measurements closer to the standard is considered a repair activity.

All measuring instruments can be calibrated but not all can be adjusted.

Regular calibration services are necessary to ensure accurate measurements. Otherwise, lack of proper calibration could cause serious problems such as incorrectly manufactured products and thousands of dollars wasted.

Calibration services are critical in many industries, assembly, defense, electronics, food, manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals.

Why Calibrate?

Device calibration is an insurance policy. It protects against out-of-tolerance devices that can work incorrectly, resulting in unsafe or unreliable products and wasted costs and resources. Calibration is key to ensuring the quality of a service or accuracy of a device. Without it, a company may create or use devices that do not fulfill accepted quality standards. This could lead to expensive and dangerous system breakdowns and mistakes.

Calibration is not the same as adjustment. An adjustment is a change to the reading of the calibrated device to improve the accuracy of measurements. Calibration, on the other hand, is the assurance that a device measures according to the manufacturer’s specifications and accepted international standards. Many different companies require professional calibration to ensure proper measurements and device performance.

Three Levels of Calibration

During scheduled calibration services, the provider will measure items either on site at the customer’s location, remotely through a mobile station, or through the provider’s accredited laboratory. It is up to the customer to choose which is the most convenient.

Typically, one of three main levels of calibration will meet most customers’ needs:

  1. Calibration without data. The provider checks the device and finds that it is either in or out of tolerance.
  2. Calibration with data. The provider compares the device’s calibration with known standards (sometimes called an ISO 9001 calibration).
  3. Accredited calibration. The provider assesses calibration of a device with data and uncertainties in accordance with ISO/IEC 17025.

The type of calibration will depend on the instrument or tool in question. Coatings and platings, for example, must have the correct thickness. Otherwise, they would cost too much with excess coating or experience equipment failure because of too little coating.

Lack of proper calibration could also lead to incorrect composition of materials. For instance, welding materials require proper ferrite content for safe elasticity of the weld. Lack of calibration, in this case, could mean incorrect ferrite content and an unstable weld – something that may cause death and destruction.

Qualities to Look for in a Calibration Service Provider

When you search for a top-quality calibration service provider in your area, you should search for a company that offers the following benefits:

  • Accreditation with internationally recognized calibration bodies. An example of expert accreditation would be Perry Johnson Registrars.
  • Calibration capabilities that match the devices you need calibration for. For example, Alternate Systems provides calibration services for balances, power supplies, calipers, floor scales, pressure gauges, thermometers, remote sensors, coating thickness measurement, non-destructive testing, and multiple other devices. Check with the provider before you hire them to ensure your needs match their services. Alternately, read the scope statement on the provider’s accreditation certificate.
  • On-site calibration services. You cannot remove all equipment safely for adequate calibration services. The provider should have the ability to perform calibration on-site in your laboratory or workplace for optimal efficiency and safety.
  • Adherence to industry-specific calibration standards. Accreditation bodies along with other industry agencies and organizations set guidelines related to the efficiency, instrument quality, optimization, and technical competency of calibration service providers. These standards ensure you and your equipment remain safe during the calibration process and that the provider performs the calibration correctly.

General Capabilities and Standards at Top-Rated Calibration Service Providers

Whether this is your first-time shopping for calibration services, or you have past experience, you could benefit from recognizing the general capabilities providers lend their customers. Alternate Systems possess the ability to calibrate your item in question, within the timeframe desired.

It is wise to research the company or arrange a consultation to make sure it has the capabilities you seek. Although they may vary from company to company, most providers offer at least the following:

  • General capabilities:
    • On-site
    • In-house
  • Calibration methods:
    • Physical
    • Electrical
    • Dimensional
    • Chemical
  • Lead times:
    • Quoted from job to job
    • Five to ten days depending on calibration method
    • Emergency/rush services available upon request
  • Standards:
    • Calibrators
    • Capacitance decades and standards
    • Inductance decades and standards
    • Resistance decades and standards
    • Current shunts
    • Dividers
    • Multipliers
    • Spring testers
    • Portable standards
    • Precision power supplies
    • Thermometers
    • Dry Well Temperature calibrators
  • Examples of instruments/gauges calibrated:
    • Micrometers
    • Multimeters
    • Thermometers
    • Hygrometers
    • HiPot Testers
    • Process Controls
    • Ovens
    • Refrigerators
    • Freezers
    • Conductivity meters
    • Chart recorders
    • Electronic timers
    • Electronic gauges
    • Ground testers
    • Inductors
    • Frequency counters
    • Thermometers
    • Levels
    • Oscilloscopes
    • Pin gauges
    • Scales
    • Tape measures
    • Stopwatches and timers
    • Pyrometers
    • Amplifiers
    • Q Meters
  • Industries served:
    • Assembly
    • Automotive
    • Construction
    • Defense
    • Electronics
    • Energy
    • Food production
    • Government
    • HVAC
    • Machinery
    • Material handling and processing
    • Manufacturing
    • Medical/medical devices
    • Military
    • Natural gas/oil and gas
    • Packaging
    • Printed Circuit Board Fabrication
    • Pharmaceutical
    • Plating and Surface Finishing
    • Research
    • Robotics
    • Telecommunication
    • Transportation

The capabilities your calibration services provider has can determine whether it is the right choice for you. Search for a company that handles a broad range of industries and instruments. Most top calibrators offer accurate and affordable calibration programs that satisfy strict industry regulations.

The laboratory you trust should be able to handle instruments such as electrical tools, thermodynamics and pressure sensors, dimensional tools, pH and conductivity testers, mechanical meters and gauges, time and frequency measuring equipment, vision and optical equipment, high-voltage systems, and more. Otherwise, it may not have the capabilities of calibrating all of your items, and you may end up needing to find a second provider.

Certifications Your Provider Should Possess

The science of calibration comes with certain standards relating to the industry. When shopping for your calibration services, look for specific industry-accepted capabilities, calibration methods, instruments, and monitors. Check into the company’s minimum lead times, or look for rush services if you need faster or emergency calibrations. You do not need to know all the exact specifications if you partner with a company you can trust for high-quality services. The calibration services provider you choose should have certifications for quality management system standard: ISO 9001 and ISO 17025 Accreditation.

Alternate Systems calibration service has these certifications, the knowledge, and resources to correctly perform tasks according to international standards. This will save you from learning specifications yourself.

Ask any potential provider about its certifications. It should have this information readily available for customers. If not, look elsewhere for support.

How to Find an Accredited Calibration Service Provider

Calibration is not something a company should “DIY.” Do-it-yourself calibration could lead to ineffectual calibrations and serious issues. It is safer and more cost-effective to employ an independent third party for calibration.

Engineers and managers should seek calibration services through an accredited service provider. An “accredited” provider is one with validation from a higher institution, ensuring the provider’s quality and experience. Alternate Systems is one such provider with a proven track record.

Alternate Systems helps clients obtain better measurements through the following guarantees:

Choosing a calibration services provider requires looking for a brand with the right international qualifications and accreditations. Verify the background of your service provider before engaging in professional calibration. Alternate Systems complies with requirements for uncertainties, proficiency testing, risk management, and training. Customers that require ISO 9001 or ISO/IEC 17025 can count on Alternate Systems for high-quality calibration.

About Alternate Systems

Alternate Systems is an accredited calibration services provider. We can calibrate electronic test and measurement instruments, thermometers, scales, balances, X-ray fluorescence coating thickness gauges, torque tools, alloy conductivity, ferrite measuring instruments, and more. We have the resources for calibration services for many items used across several industries, including:

  • Defense
  • Automotive
  • Electronics Packaging and Assembly
  • Food
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Plating & Surface Finishing
  • PCB Fabrication
  • Assembly
  • Oil & Machine

Alternate Systems can provide mobile, onsite, or in-lab calibration services as needed across many different disciplines. The list of devices Alternate Systems can calibrate is extensive, and chances are that we can fulfill your calibration needs. Get in touch with us to schedule calibration services at your location or our fully-equipped lab. We believe in better measurements for a better ™.