How to Choose Your In-house Calibration System
More and more OEMs demand that suppliers document their quality efforts from start to finish. We encourage companies to examine their calibration programs, identify their weaknesses and improve wherever possible.
Therefore, calibration systems must offer more than just calibration. As systems are customizable, they can be as simple or as complicated as you need. Generally, companies have various gages and tools, from handhelds to permanent fixtures, which all need calibrating. Tracking and documenting your instruments is equally important.
Historically, calibration has been viewed as a financial headache and a logistics nightmare. The expense of tracking, scheduling, shipping, instrument downtime, and the actual calibration service really adds up. Now, companies who implement some form of in-house calibration are finding that the systems pay for themselves in short order.
Part 1: Self Evaluation
So if you haven’t already, it’s time to start asking yourself some questions…
Are Your Gages Measuring Accurately?…
A gage that doesn’t read accurately or repeat can compromise the integrity of a quality control program. Inaccurate gages destroy confidence in measured results and ultimately can result in the production of nonconforming parts. Gage calibration should be viewed as an investment and is the foundation of a comprehensive Quality Program.
Have You Inspected Your Gages and Assessed Your Calibration Certificates?…
It’s important that you schedule an annual inspection of your measuring instruments and review all of your calibration certificates as part of an effective quality control program. By incorporating this yearly task, you can document all upcoming and future expiration dates as well as work out an annual calibration plan that best fits your production schedule.
How Often Do You Schedule Your Calibration and Repairs?…
There are no rules that globally dictate how often measuring instruments should be inspected. However, calibration should occur at regular intervals; regular is the operative word here. One benefit of regular calibration is that it provides a historical record of performance, in other words, whenever an instrument is calibrated, that data should be compared with the historical data to determine if the calibration interval should be shortened or lengthened.
There are some general calibration interval guidelines. Calibration should occur at intervals determined on the basis of instrument manufacturers’ recommendations, stability, purpose, usage and history of repeatability. Recalibration should also be performed whenever an event occurs that places the accuracy of the instrument in doubt.
Other than the basics of part measurement, setting and calibration of gages…do you have an idea of what capabilities you want from an in-house system?
- Do you need to print your own certificates?
- Do you need to track your gages and retrieve gage history quickly…maybe during an unexpected visit from an auditor or customer?
- Would you like to be reminded of renewals and avoid surprises?
- Are you able to create and maintain a lab environment for the highest accuracy?
For in-house calibration and gage setting, you want accurate, repeatable, reproducible results from a versatile, cost effective, easy-to-use system.
Finding your best fit can be achieved by working through four basic phases.
Phase 1: Inventory Your Instruments. List your instruments that need to be calibrated, along with their type, size and calibration accuracy requirements; then make a similar detailed list of gages that only need setting. Once inventory is taken, consider three major points when choosing your calibration equipment: accuracy, versatility, and environment. Of those, determining your desired level of accuracy is the key. The level of accuracy determines the necessary work environment, operator skill, equipment type, and price.
Phase 2: Review Your Calibration and Setting Requirements. Some instruments need less accurate calibration than others. Calipers and micrometers often need a machine with less accuracy than do ring and plug gages (e.g. 0.0001″ vs. 0.00005″).
If many of your gages need less accuracy or just setting, then consider a basic shop floor system. However, accuracy is not the only requirement. Don’t overlook another significant cost saver- versatility. A versatile system should operate as a gage setting master, which avoids the purchase and storing of expensive standard sets. Not to mention, a linear measurement function is proven to be indispensable.
Phase 3: Consider Your Work Environment and Available Space. If you need a shop floor machine, it should be durable enough to withstand the environmental rigors and increased usage found in a shop. Higher accuracy machines require a more controlled lab environment, e.g. temperature control, air quality, trained operators, and well defined procedures.
No matter what type of environment, equipment size is a consideration. Do you have room for a device with a large footprint? Or does a table-top or mountable unit fit better?
Phase 4: Determine Your Budget and Shop Your Options. Once your evaluation is complete, investigate all available options. Typically, companies with various gages balance their calibration program between in-house, OEM, and third party services.
Part 2: Striking a Balance
Most customers who have a variety of gage types strike a balance in their calibration program by keeping some of the services in-house, contracting some to an independent service and sending the rest to the OEM. The division is determined to a certain extent by cost, but more importantly by the level of instrument accuracy required and the need for specialized calibration.
1. Set up your own calibration laboratory and perform gage calibration in-house.
Establishing an in-house calibration service represents an investment in facilities, equipment and trained personnel but grants you TOTAL control over all of your calibration process as well as saves you time and money over the long term. The Gagemaker In-House MIC TRAC™ 4000 Series Precision Gage Calibration System enables you to inspect parts, calibrate and track a wide variety of gage styles, including ring and plugs. This innovative high precision metrology system with 1.00″ travel guarantees extremely high accuracies to ±.00005 and a resolution of .00001″ (traceable to the NIST appropriate national standard). This system also enables you to track and maintain gage history as well as produces calibration certificates.
Inspect Parts, Calibrate and Track Gages
- Delivers the highest accuracy in a controlled environment.
- Tracks & retrieves gage history, certifications, calibration dates and renewal information
- Calibrates your ring and plug gages regularly with TDWIN thread calculation software
- Produces computerized digital readouts, calibration reports and certificates
- Avoids calibration service “turnaround times” by having your own system in place
- Offers a huge variety of accessories for unmatched versatility in measurement capabilities
- Accuracies to .00005″ (.508 µ ) traceable to the NIST
- Ultra Precision Scale with 1.00″ Travel and Resolution of .00001″
- Houses Two Precision Optical Glass Scales Enabling its Precision Measuring Capability
- Includes Receiver Pads and Anvils that are Manufactured and Precision Ground to .00001″
- Electronic Adjustable Measurement Master with Ranges from 0″ to 12″ (Units Up to 60″ Ranges)
- Dell Desktop Computer with CERTIFI Calibration Software which Produces Calibration Reports, ReCal Stickers and Gage Usage History
- Adjustable Tilt Support Table to Accommodate Many Applications
- Assortment of Fixtures to Hold Various Types of Gages During Calibration
- Provides Critical Thread Dimensions for Manufacturing & Inspection using TDWIN Software
- Documented Calibration Procedures for Your Lab
- Requires Closely Monitored Environment held at 68°F with relative humidity not to exceed 50%
2. Calibrate certain hand held gages and preset gages in-house.
Employing a versatile bench mounted length measuring system allows you to measure parts, calibrate hand held gages, and preset indicator style gages. The Gagemaker Shop Floor MIC™ TRAC 3000 Series Gage Setting and Part Measurement System sets or zeros most gages with the standard resolution of .00005″, accuracies ranging from ±.0001″ to ±.0004″ (traceable to the NIST), and the digital read out is CE approved. The cost effective Force-Lok feature improves repeatability from operator to operator and is well suited for a variety of environments including the shop floor.
Calibrate Hand Held Gages, and Preset Indicator Style Gages
- Delivers high accuracy in a variety of environments including the shop floor
- Serves as a setting master for gages produced by various manufacturers
- Provides fast, accurate dimensional part measurements
- Ensures measurement repeatability from operator to operator using force lok accessory
- Calibrates hand-held gages in-house for faster turnaround
- Accuracies to .0001″ (2.54µ) traceable to the NIST
- Resolution of .00005″
- State of the Art Assembly of Internal Glass Scale, Precision Linear Bearing and a Set of Precisely Lapped Measuring Blocks
- Electronic Adjustable Measurement Master with Ranges from 0″ to 12″ (Units Up to 60″ Ranges)
- Digital Readout Provides Measurement Reading in Inch or Metric
- Durable Construction Allows Use in Practically Any Environment
- Unique Force Lok feature available if you plan to measure parts. It improves repeatability from operator to operator
3. Return gages to the original manufacturer for calibration.
Returning gages to Gagemaker for calibration services ensures the gage is brought back to manufacturer standards. The level of instrument accuracy required, repairs needed, as well as the need for specialized calibration equipment are the most common factors for choosing this route. However, all gages in need of repair must be returned to the OEM to ensure the gage is returned to its original form and remains within warranty. Gagemaker Professional Calibration and Repair Services inspect, calibrate, repair, track and certify gages as well as your in-house dimensional calibration equipment. Beware of unauthorized repair services as they can alter your gage reliability.
We Inspect, Calibrate, Repair, Track and Certify Gages and Calibration Equipment
- Clean and inspect your equipment for any visual damage
- Generate all necessary calibration certificates
- Inspect equipment following specific procedures developed per instrument
- Verify real accuracy and repeatability of the gage.
- Return equipment to manufacturer specifications to maximize productivity
4. Send gages to commercial calibration services
Using independent calibration services is another common route, but can be costly, depending upon the number and types of gages that must be calibrated, and the turnaround time can be in the 3 to 6 week range. When weighing your calibration options, you may find that implementing your own calibration system may eliminate the need to outsource many common gages – requiring you will only need to send out more specialized gages. Many independent accredited calibration services are available so picking the right one depends upon your particular calibration needs.
By evaluating what equipment you have and what needs to be set, calibrated or measured, Gagemaker can help you build your customized company calibration mix…and work within your budget.
To discuss your plan in more detail, please email Customer Service, or call 713-472-7360.