Machine calibration is important to any business, but especially in the laboratory environment. No matter what kind of lab you manage, equipment calibration is integral to achieving accurate experimentation results. But how often should you calibrate your lab equipment? If you’ve been pondering this very question, keep reading for the answer, the benefits of regular calibration, and more.
What Is Equipment Calibration?
The term calibration means different things to different businesses. In terms of the laboratory setting, calibrating your equipment means making adjustments to ensure that your measurements are as accurate as possible. It may also entail resetting or standardizing your equipment to avoid miscalculations. To break down the process, calibration takes the standard measurement used in a lab setting and compares it to the measurement your equipment produces. In most cases, the two measurements will be different, as this margin of error is hard to avoid in even the most controlled lab spaces.
What Equipment Needs Calibration?
Calibration works differently for each instrument or tool you use. There are different types of calibration, and each tool falls into a different category. The various types of calibration include:
- Pressure: Pressure equipment is held to national and international standards. Some of the equipment types that require pressure calibration include digital pressure gauges, analog pressure gauges, transmitters, barometers, test gauges, transducers, and digital indicators.
- Temperature (Humidity, etc.): Equipment undergoes this type of calibration if it measures or works in conditions of fluctuating temperature and humidity. These instruments include thermometers, infrared meters, thermal cameras, chambers, furnaces, and thermistors.
- Electrical: Electrical calibration tests any equipment that measures voltage, current, resistance, frequency, and more electrical measures. Some examples of such equipment include electrical meters, data loggers, oscilloscopes, frequency counters, insulation testers, and more.
- Mechanical: Mechanical calibration involves testing things like force, mass, dimension, weight, volume, angle, and other measurements. Tools that achieve these measurements typically tend to drift and lose accuracy over time and repeated use. Calibrating these tools is a natural solution. Some examples of tools that undergo mechanical calibration include scales, force gauges, torque wrenches, screwdrivers, accelerometers, micrometers, height gauges, and more.
- Pipette: Pipette calibration is integral to laboratories that employ this equipment often. For precise piping and measurements, all types of pipettes should undergo calibration regularly, including single-channel, multi-channel, manual, and electronic.
Importance of Tool Calibration
It’s crucial in a laboratory setting to regularly calibrate equipment, especially tools that you use daily. With more frequent use, any kind of tool will experience wear and tear and even take damage. Wear and tear often lead to drifting in manual tools and inaccuracies in electronic ones. Maintaining accuracy is the first and most important reason to have your tools regularly calibrated. In the lab, where data and experiments come down to the smallest numeral, accuracy is extremely important. Calibration helps lower the potential for error in an experiment and takes questioning and manual adjustments out of your measurements.
How Often Should You Calibrate?
There are certain periods and events that you will want to watch out for when it comes to tuning up your equipment. Certain tools have specifications that require them to be calibrated as often as every month. More often, you’ll likely want to recalibrate your equipment quarterly or semiannually. As for the equipment you don’t use as often, you may even be able to calibrate once a year. These are just the regular periods to watch out for—you'll also want to pay attention to your schedule and any major lab events in the future.
Some of the major events that you may want to schedule an extra equipment tune up for include things like major experimentation or measuring projects. If your lab is collaborating with another to cross-reference findings, you may also want to prepare with another calibration session. A worst-case scenario that may require recalibration would be the event of a storm, earthquake, or other physical event that may have led to damage to your equipment. Overall, the best way to know how often to adjust your tools is to reference the manufacturer or user's manual. You can also perform tests in your own lab to determine the accuracy of your tools.
Benefits Of Calibration
There are many benefits to regularly calibrating your equipment, beyond the accuracy component. Here are a few more examples of how calibration can benefit your lab.
Helps Save Money
Keeping your tools aligned can help your lab save money in the long run. Incorrect measurements can lead to failed experiments and wasted materials. If you put off recalibrating your tools for too long, you’re essentially wasting time and money by conducting these experiments. Don’t waste materials on inaccurate results when you could guarantee proper results by simply keeping up with calibration.
Depending on the types of materials you use in the lab, calibrating your equipment can also help ensure employee safety. Some chemical and biological materials can become unstable if used in the incorrect dosages, and you certainly wouldn’t want to combine incorrectly measured materials. Since you can ensure accurate measurements through recalibration, this process promotes the safety factors of working with such materials.
Sometimes it’s easy to mistake an inaccurate tool with a tool that is unusable and needs replacing. Recalibration helps you extend the life of your equipment by offering a reset button, restoring this equipment back to its proper settings and helping to provide intended results once more. Though, if you find that you are recalibrating a tool very often to achieve this effect, it might be time to invest in new equipment. USA Lab Equipment offers an easy way to browse and buy lab equipment online, so check us out if your equipment is reaching the end of the road.
We hope this guide has helped answer the question of how often you should calibrate your lab equipment. Not only that, but hopefully this guide has revealed the importance of calibrating your lab equipment regularly and which equipment may require it. Calibration helps ensure that your findings stay accurate, and it can even help benefit your laboratory as a business, saving you money and more.