“Calibration is all about confidence in the measurement results you’re getting. Calibration assures you that your measurements are accurate within the specification limits that led you to select the instrument in the first place.”Tektronix

What is calibration?

Calibration describes the process in which measurements of unknown accuracy, also known as Units Under Test (or UUTs), are compared against standards of greater accuracy. In other words, it allows you to ensure that a manufacturer’s specification is up to standard – as a general rule, an acceptable ratio of accuracy would be 4:1. Calibration is vitally important to maintaining the accuracy of your instruments as over time they become less accurate.

Why is it important to calibrate your tools properly?

You may not even be aware that your instruments are diminishing in their precision through everyday wear and tear. For example, vibrations caused by sudden movement (like accidentally dropping your instrument) or changes in the temperature (like leaving it in a cold van overnight) can cause it’s PCB to drift out of specification. You could be risking more than just an inaccurate reading by not taking care of your instruments as you or someone else may be reliant on the accuracy of your readings to set-up equipment. With an uncalibrated instrument you could even be risking someone’s life. Regular and routine calibrations will ensure the health and performance of your instruments but your business too! For some more great reasons to stay on top of your equipment maintenance check out this post.

How often should I calibrate my instruments?

Just how a yearly MOT of your vehicle ensures that your vehicle is fit for the road, regular calibration is essential to make sure your instruments are taking accurate measurements. Tracklink’s experts (as well as other leading calibration professionals ) recommend that you calibrate all your instruments annually, just as you would with your car’s MOT.

Unfortunately some companies prefer to cut costs and only have their instruments calibrated once every two years or worse still, stick their own calibration stickers over the original calibration certificate to make them appear to last longer. These are extremely dangerous practices that could lead to unnecessary risks being taken in your working environment. Never trust labels that have been stuck over the top of original certificates, as you can never be certain how long an instrument has been lying around in a drawer or shelf. Always make sure to check for the original calibration certificate which should indicate the exact date the instrument was verified. For examples of calibration certificates from around the world, including the UK, take a look at this handy list.

Can I calibrate my own instruments?

Simply put, any experienced technician should be able to calibrate their own instruments. But don’t be fooled, the process is neither simple nor cheap. Our experienced staff recommend you budget a minimum of £40,000 to get set-up to calibrate your own equipment.

You’ll first need to start by purchasing this list of essentials:

  • a calibrator
  • metrology software
  • connection leads/devices (including a separate IEEE lead if you intend to control the UUT automatically)
  • a computer
  • a printer 

For electrical instruments, like Insulation Testers, you’ll need another type of calibrator which will cost an additional £15,000. As with your instruments, your calibrator(s) will also require calibrating once a year which again will be a costly exercise. You will need to budget a minimum of £2,000 for the yearly calibration plus additional charges for shipping and insurance to cover a 30kg calibrator which will need to be away for approximately 2-3 weeks. The last cost consideration is for any technical help you may require with your calibrator and unsurprisingly calibration technicians are also very expensive.

Where can I can my instruments calibrated?

If you’d rather not take the risk and calibrate your own equipment why not take a look at Tracklink’s extensive range of calibration services. As a leading brand in the Railway industry, thousands of people trust Tracklink to calibrate their instruments every year and with our ‘no-compromise’ policy you can be sure that you’ll be getting the highest quality service from our qualified team of experts. If you still need help or advice with any of your calibration needs, feel free to contact a member of our team who would be happy to give you open and honest advice tailored to your requirements.

Tracklink’s Top Calibration Tips:

  1. Make sure your instrument has been calibrated within the last 12 months.
  2. Always check for the original calibration certificate.            
  3. Avoid using equipment that you know is likely to be out of date.
  4. Make sure that any company you work for has the capability to adequately calibrate the tools you are using.
  5. Being UKAS accredited does not guarantee that your instruments have been tested properly
  6. If you are going to invest in a calibrator to test your own equipment, make sure you factor in all the costs – and that you know what you’re doing