Expert’s outlook

Quality Canada speaks with L.S. Starrett’s Scott Robinson about developments and where gauges are heading

Comments Off September 1, 2010 at 7:52 am by

Quality Canada: How do you define a handheld gauge for manufacturing operations?
Well let’s start with defining what exactly a handheld gauge is. You have to remember that handheld instruments are basically divided into two groups, the tools capable of linear measuring and those that are attribute style or really go/no go.

When I think of handheld gauges, especially when tied to the word quality, I naturally think of micrometers and slide or electronic calipers. The reason I think of these is that they can give you a reading because they incorporate a sliding or rotating precision mechanism and a stationary anvil, and also give an actual dimension. There are a limited number of dial type tools that incorporate this stop but most dial indicators are open ended.

With attribute gauges, handheld devices are the radius gauge, the thread gauge, the feeler gauge, etc. They may not be as noticeable as the tools previously mentioned, but we can’t forget them as they still play a big part in measurement.

QC: What have been the top three developments in handheld gauges?
There have been several changes in the last few years, but [they have not been] the introduction of revolutionary new instruments. It’s been more of a step back, with more advances in electronics and improvements to existing products. My case in point is electronic micrometers and calipers that are now I.P rated. When these tools were first introduced 20 years ago they were miracles. The ability to change from metric readings to imperial, hold readings, set limits and send findings to a computer or printer with just a push of a button was unbelievable. The fact that if they got wet or filled with dust and stopped working was accepted. Now these same tools can be submerged and sprayed with coolant and continue to function. The tools have been hardened but accuracy has not changed, and they’re still at the mercy of environmental factors. They still must be held in the hand and used in areas where heat, cold and humidity are not controllable. So asking the tools to measure accurately to tolerances greater than one ten thousandths I just don’t see happening.

Second, there has also been a tremendous influx of offshore hand tools. You can find calipers for sale as you walk down the aisle of supermarkets. These tools vary greatly in capability, quality and accuracy and I worry about products being produced using these devices as their inspection medium.

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