Without properly functioning measuring tools, you may not be able to get the job done right, so it’s crucial that you keep your gages in optimal condition. Some of these kinds of tools can be very sensitive, and slight variations in conditions can cause them to malfunction and deliver inaccurate results. It’s essential that you follow proper care and maintenance procedures with all of your measuring tools.
The Importance of Measuring Tool Maintenance
Why is the proper care of measuring tools so important? Some of the benefits include the following.
- Increase accuracy: If measuring tools don’t receive proper care and maintenance, they’re more likely to take inaccurate readings. Some of these tools take exact measurements, so even small changes can impact the accuracy of measurements. Damaged instruments may also be off by relatively large amounts. If you don’t realize your measurements are off, these inaccuracies could get in the way of the success of a job. A wide variety of factors can impact the accuracy of a measuring tool, from improper storage temperature to excessive vibrations to physical damage due to dropping it. Because damage or improper maintenance can affect accuracy, it’s crucial that you’re careful to maintain them properly. Measuring tools also fall out of calibration naturally over time, so regular gage calibration is essential.
- Extend life: Caring for precision tools properly also helps extend their life. With proper care, many measuring instruments can serve you well for a long time. Without adequate maintenance, however, your tools will break sooner, and you’ll have to replace them earlier. Improper care increases the risk of a tool failing in the middle of a job or gradually becoming less effective, reducing the efficiency and accuracy of your work.
- Lower costs: Following the right care and maintenance procedures can help you reduce your costs over the long term. It can help you avoid costly breakdowns, more extensive repairs and downtime. It also means you’ll have to replace your tools less often, meaning you get more out of your investments in quality instruments.
Tips for Maintaining Precision Tools
Every measuring tool has different maintenance needs, and you should receive guidelines in the user manual for each device you purchase. It’s crucial to follow these recommendations to keep your tools in optimal condition. In the following sections, we’ll look at some overarching recommendations for the care of measuring tools, as well as some more specific examples.
Storage is a critical element of measuring tool care, as these devices can spend significant amounts of time in cupboards or cabinets where they may get damaged. Be sure to follow the recommendations for how to store each tool you use. Different types of gages and tools made of different materials often have different storage requirements.
Many measurement devices come in cases, and it’s often a best practice to store your tools in these cases. If your tool didn’t come with a case, purchase one that meets the storage requirements of your instrument. Make sure it’s the right material, size and shape and that it has the right features. Often, these containers will have padding. For some types of gages, you may want to place them on a clean, dry cloth inside a case. Keeping your tools in a case helps to protect them from airborne contaminants and accidental physical damage.
Another crucial measure to take to prevent physical damage is to separate your devices so that they don’t bump into and damage each other. You can separate them using dividers or cases. Don’t stack devices on top of each other unless they’re in cases that will protect them from damaging each other.
It can also be helpful to take time to organize your devices in a cart, tray, inspection station or other location. Doing so can help make it easier to follow proper storage procedures and enable you to access your tools more efficiently.
You also need to ensure that you store your devices in the proper temperature and humidity and that other conditions are suitable for your tools as well. In general, you want to keep gages in a cool, dry place, but some devices may also come with more specific recommendations.
Be sure to keep the storage area at an appropriate temperature and keep your devices away from sources of heat, including sunlight. If your gages get exposed to sunlight or other sources that produce too much heat, they may expand as they heat up and then contract as they cool, potentially damaging them and decreasing their accuracy.
You also need to take steps to keep the humidity of the storage space at a suitable level and to take care of any moisture issues that may arise. Doing so is crucial, since excessive moisture can lead to corrosion. Air conditioning or a dehumidifier can help you control humidity and reduce ambient moisture. Placing silica gel packets in the drawers where you store your tools can help take care of any other excess moisture.
Over time, vibration can cause measuring tools to fall out of calibration, so store your instruments away from any equipment that may cause vibration or movement.
Another essential aspect of gage maintenance is keeping your instruments clean. Like with measuring tool storage, there are different cleaning recommendations for different types of gages and materials. Be sure to follow the guidelines for your specific tools to ensure you thoroughly clean them and avoid damaging them. Conscientiously cleaning your devices is crucial, as any residue that remains on your device may impact the accuracy of your measurements.
The material your device is made of plays a significant role in the cleaning method you should use. If an instrument is mostly aluminum, for example, avoid using alcohol, as it can cause aluminum to deteriorate. For brass, it’s best not to use anything except for a clean cloth that you’ve dampened with distilled water.
Some general cleaning tips include:
- Not leaving your instruments in contact with dirt or oil for long periods, as oils can cause corrosion
- Avoiding touching gages with your bare hands, as skin oils can be damaging
- Using a soft, non-abrasive cloth to clean your instruments and ensuring the cloth is clean before using it
As part of your routine gage maintenance, you should have a regular cleaning schedule in place for your devices. Various factors influence how often you should plan to clean your instruments.
- The environment in which you use it: Some situations may cause measuring tools to require cleaning more often. If you use your tools in a dusty manufacturing environment, for example, you may need to clean them more often than if you work in a relatively controlled lab environment.
- The task for which you use it: The job you use the tool for can also impact how often it requires cleaning. For example, pressure gage maintenance may involve cleaning it more often if you use it with liquids, as opposed to solid items. Also, if the measurements are so precise that small amounts of dirt or residue could throw them off, you’ll need to clean your instruments more frequently.
- Legal requirements: In certain industries, rules and regulations may require you to clean tools more often. For example, food-related businesses must adhere to higher cleanliness standards than many other industries.
It’s a smart rule of thumb to inspect and, if needed, clean instruments before each use. Before using a device, look for foreign matter on it, as this material could affect the readings.
At times, you may need to do some maintenance beyond your typical scheduled gage cleaning. This type of upkeep is spot cleaning, and is a more vigorous method you use when your routine maintenance doesn’t remove all foreign matter. Spot cleaning may involve using stronger cleaners, repeating cleaning processes until you remove all contaminants or other techniques.
Another critical element of precision instrument care is handling measuring instruments correctly during use. Taking care to avoid accidental damage and use your tools correctly can help to extend their life and ensure accurate readings.
When using a measuring tool, it doesn’t have the protection of its case or storage space, so it’s especially crucial to handle it carefully. Take care to avoid sudden shocks or rough treatment such as dropping, throwing or banging the device against hard surfaces. Placing rubber mats in workspaces can help protect tools from damage should someone accidentally drop them.
It’s also essential that you only use your instruments for their intended purposes. Never use measuring tools as hammers or to pry open other objects. Calipers, for instance, have ID jaws that come to sharp points. They appear to be ideal for cutting open boxes, but using calipers in this way cause burrs to form on the jaws. Even though these burrs may be too small to see with the naked eye, they can still affect the accuracy of the instrument.
As mentioned earlier, you may also want to avoid touching instruments that are especially sensitive with your bare hands, as the oils on your skin can cause corrosion. For some tools, minimizing the time you spend holding it or only touching it at certain points may be enough. For the most sensitive instruments or those you need to handle more frequently, you can use lint-free gloves or accessories, such as tweezers, lifters and forks, made specifically to handle sensitive instruments.
Another reason to avoid handling measuring tools for long periods is the heat your body produces. Holding an instrument for an extended period can cause it to heat up, potentially throwing off the accuracy of the unit. You should also avoid setting it on hot or cold sources and keep it away from sources of cold air or heat. Throughout the entire process of using the instrument, be careful to keep it at the proper temperature.
Training is vital for ensuring the proper handling of measuring equipment at all times. Employees should receive sufficient training for each type of instrument they will use, so they know how to take accurate measurements without damaging the tools.
You will also need to periodically conduct preventive gage maintenance, including regular lubrication and calibration. It’s helpful to create a schedule for when you will perform maintenance so you can ensure the necessary tasks get done. You may also want to create a system for keeping track of what maintenance tasks you complete at which times and the conditions of your various instruments. You may want to do some upkeep yourself and outsource other assignments to third parties.
One essential aspect of gage maintenance is lubrication, as it will prevent damage caused by corrosion and oxidation. It’s crucial that you lubricate each device as frequently as is recommended for each device and that you use the right lubricants in the right amounts. For many types of precision measuring tools, lightly oil them after each use. Be sure to remove any excess oil from the surfaces of the instrument using a clean, dry cloth. If a device is visibly wet with oil, it may attract particles that can cause internal wear of certain parts.
Be sure to use the right types of oils, and don’t use penetrating oils or other substances made for purposes besides light lubrication. WD-40, for example, may leave a film on your instrument that can affect its calibration. Even a thin layer can throw off the accuracy of some sensitive instruments.
Calibration is another crucial part of proper gage maintenance. Many types of measuring devices require regular calibration to ensure they perform correctly and take accurate measurements. Calibration involves comparing a measurement made by your instrument with the value of the same measurement, as defined by an accepted standard. This comparison serves to check the accuracy of the tool. If the device’s measurement differs from the standard to a significant degree, you will need to repair the instrument so it is accurate. For some devices, you may want to work with a professional calibration company that can ensure your devices have the correct calibration.
You should calibrate your instruments according to the schedule recommended for each device. All measurement devices drift out of calibration over time, so it’s vital to recalibrate them regularly. In addition to your scheduled recalibrations, you may also need to recalibrate your instruments in certain other situations, such as:
- When it’s undergone a shock such as a fall
- When it’s experienced harsh conditions
- When it’s producing readings that seem incorrect
Ensure Accurate Calibration With MicronPA
To ensure proper care and maintenance of your measuring tools, it’s crucial to work with partners who can provide the maintenance-related services you need. One such partner is MicronPA.
We can perform calibrations to help you ensure your equipment is taking accurate measurements. We have received accreditation from the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation and are ISO/IEC 17025:2005(E) registered, and we are fully qualified to provide calibration services to organizations across a range of industries. We offer in-house and on-site calibration services, and our technicians will make necessary minor repairs and adjustments to bring your devices into spec at no extra charge. For every calibration, we provide a calibration label that identifies the equipment number, calibration date, the due date of next gage calibration, the identity of our laboratory and the person who conducted the calibration. Additionally, we’ll provide a long-form certificate that documents and validates all work, and we also offer online reporting and storage of calibration records.
We also offer a quick turnaround time, pickup and delivery options and calibration training. We have a wide range of calibration capabilities, including mechanical and electronic calibration, and we base all our calibration procedures on ANSI, ASTM, ASME or NAVAIR procedures.
To learn more about measuring tool care and maintenance and the calibration services we offer, contact us today.