June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
13.892.1 - 13.892.6
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
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