Asee peer logo

Metrology: Why Engineers Should Care

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Metrology Laboratories

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.892.1 - 13.892.6



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Helga Alexander Keithley Instruments Inc

visit author page

Helga Alexander is Manager of Metrology Services at Keithley Instruments, Inc. Keithley Instruments, Inc. designs, develops, manufactures and markets complex electronic instruments and systems geared to the specialized needs of electronics manufacturers for high-performance production testing, process monitoring, product development and research.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Metrology: Why Engineers Should Care Abstract

Many engineering graduates are hired by manufacturing companies whose end products are designed to measure some physical quantity, whether it is chemical, electrical, or mechanical in nature. The graduates’ college engineering training prepares them for careers in all kinds of engineering areas, whether it be manufacturing processes, new product design, or testing. As part of their undergraduate or graduate work, they are taught sound engineering principles and receive a thorough foundation in their chosen fields to become the designers of tomorrow’s products. However, although many end up designing measuring and test equipment, their college training never introduced them to metrology, the science of measurement. They are unaware of the importance of traceability to the international system of units or the existence of international standards on the computation of measurement uncertainty. When asked to produce error budgets for their designs, which form the basis for final product specifications and warranty agreements, many of them are inadequately prepared. Furthermore, many will be involved in determining a calibration method for their products, yet they are unaware of the metrology requirements. This paper examines how awareness of metrology principles and their application in early product design of measuring and test equipment will lead to a superior product. Measuring or testing products designed using sound metrological principles can more easily be shown to be traceable to the international system of units (SI) and comply with international standards.


Large numbers of science and engineering graduates are involved in the design, manufacture, and test of products that perform measurements. These products may range from high precision test and measurement equipment to handheld meters, calipers, gauges, and scales used in repair and inspection in various industries. All these products require calibration before they leave the manufacturing facility and, depending on their type and use, will probably require recalibration at certain time intervals. Yet, most engineers graduate from college without ever having been introduced to basic metrology concepts.

What is metrology?

Metrology, the science of measurement, deals with making accurate, repeatable measurements with a known level of uncertainty. Metrology regulations form the basis for national and international trade—we trust that a gallon of gas sold at gas station A is the same quantity as a gallon of gas obtained down the road at gas station B, mainly because we know that legal metrological requirements have to be enforced by the state by law. The same applies to international trade. How else can we be sure that a volt measured with a voltmeter produced in the United States is the same quantity measured by a voltmeter produced in Germany (taking into account the two instruments’ specifications, of course)? The lack of such assurance would be a large obstacle to global trade.

The need for international agreements on measurement units and standards as the basis for effective trade between nations prompted the formation of the Mètre Convention in 1875.

Alexander, H. (2008, June), Metrology: Why Engineers Should Care Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4462

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015