The test and measurement industry is a rapidly growing part of manufacturing and production. The instruments created to calibrate, measure, and examine new products is a natural part of product development and engineering. Companies know the durability and endurance of every product they place on the market, regardless of its complexity and size.
There is a wide array of devices that are designed to collect data and measure the capabilities and performance of products. Some methods are specialized to test a single product, while others are generalized to provide information on several products. Regardless of a testing device‘s design, each has been engineered to give precise and accurate readings.
The largest forms of testing equipment are clean rooms and environmental chambers that are designed to meet the needs of specific products. Clean rooms are used where contamination by bacteria, dirt, and air can ruin the study of a product or influence test results. Very strict and demanding standards are used for clean rooms that have to be precisely obeyed in order for a clean room to meet its classification.
The other form of large testing device is an environmental chamber, which come in tabletop designs or as large as a building. The unique nature of environmental chambers is their ability to produce a variety of climatic conditions in a limited space. These technologically advanced testing devices can produce the cold of winter or the heat of the desert with moisture and humidity to match.
The main reason for clean rooms and environmental chambers is the ability to produce controlled conditions such that external factors will not taint the results of testing. Each of these types of rooms and chambers is built to the specification and the requirements of customers who rely on the data to determine the viability of a product.
Though clean rooms and environmental chambers are the largest forms of testing equipment, there are smaller devices that control temperature, measure processes, and create specific conditions. Each type of equipment has a specialized function that offers data regarding the manufacturing process, the quality of a product, or control conditions to ensure manufacturing quality.
An important thing to consider when investing in testing equipment is the quality of the readings that are given. To ensure accurate and precise readings, manufacturers can purchase calibrating equipment or use a calibration service that will test and adjust equipment. Calibrating services take readings, check output, and compare the results to industry standards, which improves measuring device readings and provides accurate information.
Another method of increasing the preciseness of mechanical processes is a data acquisition system that can take electrical and physical information from a device and convert it into data that can be analyzed by a computer program. Once the data is reformatted, it can be examined such that adjustments and changes can be made to perfect technical operations.
Some of the other types of testing equipment include dynamometers that measure force generated by a machine or engine. They can measure horsepower, rotary speed, and power absorption capabilities. Using transducers, strain gauges, and display screens, a dynamometer can turn torque force into electrical signals that can be displayed as measurements.
A crucial device for industries that use gas as part of their production process is leak detectors. These highly sensitive and accurate devices use sound, visible indicators, flame ionization, or ultrasound to find and isolate leaks in a pipe or joints. They can monitor flow rates and pressure to catch problems or errors.
A valuable part of production processes is load cells that are used as strain gauges. Load cells are designed to monitor forces created by compression, tension, and shearing. They are a transducer that converts mechanical force into measurable electrical signals that can be used for monitoring and testing. The process of a load cell converts the strain of an object into electrical signals.
Machine vision is a testing method that does automatic inspection and analysis of processes that are in progress. They are used to examine the quality of products as they are being produced and take the place of human visual inspectors. Machine vision processes come in several forms and varieties that can be designed to fit any manufacturing process.
Two other forms of testing devices include scales that are used to judge weight and mass and thermocouples that sense heat and control temperature. These two forms of testing are essential to the quality of products and their compliance with industry standards.
Calibrating services are performed to measure the reading, or output, of a device and compare it to accepted standards set by the manufacturer and the industry. Calibration devices use electrical signals to calibrate instruments. Once the margin of error has been determined and verified, the device can be adjusted to values identical with the standard in order to maintain a standard, high-quality output. Learn more about calibration services.
Clean rooms are enclosures designed to facilitate sensitive research, fabrication and other operations that must take place in the absence of dust, moisture and other airborne contaminants. Clean rooms systems were first developed in response to the needs of the aerospace and microtechnology industries in the early 1960s. As those and other high-tech disciplines like bio-technology and medical research developed, and as products and research subjects became smaller, airborne contaminants became increasingly disruptive. The rigidly controlled environments with which these professionals began to surround their work came to be known as clean rooms. Learn more about clean rooms.
Data acquisition systems, shortened to DAS, are systems designed to convert analog waveforms into digital values, so that they can be used for processing. Industries that make use of this technology include aerospace, medicine, wastewater services, and industrial manufacturing. The process involves the sampling and converting of electrical or physical phenomenon or property into data and inputting the data into a computer. Examples of phenomena and properties include voltage, current, sound, fluid flow, gas pressure, force, temperature, and light intensity.
Once the data has been converted into a singular form, it can be accessed and controlled by data acquisition software programs that use a variety of programming languages, such a Pascal, Lisp, BASIC, C++, LabVIEW, and Java. In addition to allowing manufacturers to read data, data acquisition systems allow them to test a wide variety of technical products and make informed process adjustments. Learn more about data acquisition systems.
Dynamometers, which are also known as dynomometers, dynometers and dynos, are devices that measure the force generated by something, usually an engine. They can also be used to determine horsepower, maximum rotary speed and maximum power absorption. They are sometimes called motor testers when used for these purposes, though the term "motor tester" is frequently used in reference to electric motor diagnostic equipment.
Dynamometers use a variety of devices to take measurements. For example, many dynamometers use small instruments made only of a transducer, strain gauge and display screen. These devices turn torque force into an electrical signal that they can amplify, convert and display as a measurement. Other dynos use motor testers, which work by using voltage and current probes bound to motor input wires to connect the system to internal voltmeters, ammeters and ohmmeters. Motor testers may be used to determine direction, torque, voltage, power, current, cut-out speed and efficiency. Still others use a non-contact speed sensor that can measure motor shaft speed and thereby ascertain its number of rotations per minute. Learn more about dynamometers.
Environmental test chambers reproduce environmental conditions within a contained space for the purposes of evaluating the long-term effects of specific changes upon objects such as industrial products and materials, electronic products and other components. These conditions simulate those which a product will typically encounter in the span of its useful life. Test results can show the process of product decay and degradation and help predict the potential lifespan of a product or material.
For manufacturers, environmental chambers allow for the evaluation of product quality and reliability while also highlighting product flaws or weaknesses before the product is released to the public. There are many different kinds of test chambers which simulate various environmental conditions, and many chambers can control several different conditions at once. Some commonly tested conditions include: extreme temperatures, sudden temperature variations, humidity, moisture, and varying levels of salt water. These can be tested in temperature chambers, humidity chambers, and salt spray chambers, but there are many other kinds of test chambers like AGREE chambers, altitude chambers, thermal shock chambers, and vacuum test chambers. Learn more about environmental test chambers.
Leak detectors are equipment designed to identify and locate liquid or gas system leaks and determine the amount and composition of a leak, using sound, visible indicators, flame ionization or ultrasonic waves. They indicate changes in pressure, flow rates and/or locate excess fluids or gas. Learn more about leak detectors.
Load cells are measuring devices that monitor and gauge forces of compression, tension and shear. They are a type of transducer that converts sensed mechanical force into electrical signals for measurement used in mechanical testing, ongoing system monitoring and as components in devices such as industrial scales.
Both compression and tension loadcells often use strain gauges; strain gauges are very small devices that measure the strain of an object by converting internal deformation into electrical signals, precisely measuring weight, force or strain. Force gauges use strain gauges in push-pull testing and flow measurement. While most load cells measure and test with strain gages, some use piezoelectric sensors, which utilize piezoelectric crystals to measure weight, strain, movement and vibrations. Learn more about load cells.
Machine vision systems are technical systems designed to mimic human vision. In industrial settings, machine vision (MV) refers to the computer "vision" used to control automated manufacturing equipment. In systems engineering, machine vision is separate from computer vision, which they instead see as a type of computer science. Learn more about machine visions.
Used in a wide variety of consumer, industrial, and commercial settings, scales are tools used to judge weight or calculate mass. They are used in doctors' offices and hospitals, laboratories, roadside truck stops and weigh stations, restaurants, and manufacturing plants alike. To serve this diverse set of applications, scale manufacturers produce many types of industrial scales.
One of the numerous ways that industrial scales can be categorized is by the mechanism or technique they use to weigh a load. Any given scale may use springs, load cells, balance, hydraulics, or a combination therein to determine weight. Some common industrial scale types include: hanging scales, platform scales, and balance scales.
Hanging scales vary in size from pocket-sized luggage scales to crane scales. A type of spring scale, hanging scales suspend the load they are weighing from a hook or chain, while sensors above the load take measurements. Technically, crane scales can be categorized as hanging scales, but commonly, instead of using a spring, or along with a spring, they work using hydraulic power. In addition, as crane scales, which can also be used to weigh luggage and determine the weight of caught fish, become available in smaller sizes, the hanging aspect becomes less prevalent. Learn more about scales.
Thermocouple assemblies, also called thermocouples, temperature sensors or temperature probes, instruments that both sense heat and control temperature. Consisting of two connected, dissimilar metal wires, their operation is based on the Seebeck Effect, which theorizes that a voltage is always created between two dissimilar metals, and that said voltage changes in proportion to exterior temperature changes. Thermocouple assemblies are used for industrial, residential and commercial purposes alike. Systems and devices that use them include: water tanks, plastic extrusion machines, heat exchangers, parts washers, kilns, ovens, water heaters, furnaces, pressure chambers and thermostats.
A basic thermocouple consists of two metals connected at their bases and connected again at their tips with a bead. From here, there are a few different types of thermocouples. The most universal thermocouple type, for example, is the Type K, which consists of two alloy wires, alumel (aluminum and nickel) and chromel (chromium and nickel). Type K's have a high temperature resistance to be used with everyday devices. Type K thermocouple assemblies are part of a larger group called noble metal thermocouples, of which all measure up to 2000°C. Learn more about thermocouples.