What is Instrument Calibration?

Whether it’s in a science classroom or in the field, it’s always important to calibrate one’s instruments. The simple reason is because an instrument that isn’t accurate is worse than useless because it gives misleading or incorrect information that someone will then act on. For instance, a scale that is five pounds underweight used to measure out components that have to be as exact as possible could lead to a disaster, especially if it’s being used with volatile mixtures. That’s just one example, and it’s why instrument calibration needs to be a part of every engineer or scientist’s routine before taking so much as a single measurement.

Calibration is Simple

A huge variety of instruments, ranging from scales to gas detectors, need to be properly calibrated before they can be used. In fact, anything more complex than a measuring glass or a pipette should be calibrated just to make certain that the instrument in question is giving adequate and correct measurements. All someone has to do is take a known quantity, such as a five pound weight, and measure it. If the results of the measurement don’t match what the individual knows is the proper weight, then the calibration is off. Once that’s been adjusted for, then it’s possible to carry on and get the proper measurements.

What Could Go Wrong?

If an instrument isn’t properly calibrated then it’s like a gun with mis-aligned sights. Where an individual thinks he or she is aiming is in fact up, down, left or right of center. Sometimes that isn’t a big deal, such as when a person’s at-home scale is a few pounds off. However, when measuring out atomic compounds at a power plant, calibration is key. In fact, it’s often important for instruments involved in processes like that to be more exact than instruments used in less dangerous processes. So, getting an incorrect weight count for an individual is the one end of the spectrum, adding too much or too little of a necessary chemical into a powerful reaction is on the other end.

Always Worth the Cost

Some instruments can be calibrated with relative ease. Others can’t be calibrated except by an expert who knows how the machines work. It is important that someone who needs properly calibrated instruments always fix those that he or she can, and replace those that they can’t in order to get the proper measurements.

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