Saturday, April 21, 2018

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Instrument Calibration (Calibration versus Re-Ranging)

Every instrument has at least one input and one output. For a pressure sensor, the input would be some fluid pressure and the output would (most likely) be an electronic signal. For a loop indicator, the input would be a 4-20 mA current signal and the output would be a human-readable display. For a variable-speed motor drive, the input would be an electronic signal and the output would be electric power to the motor.

Calibration and ranging are two tasks associated with establishing an accurate correspondence between any instrument’s input signal and its output signal.


Calibration versus re-ranging

To calibrate an instrument means to check and adjust (if necessary) its response so the output accurately corresponds to its input throughout a specified range. In order to do this, one must expose the instrument to an actual input stimulus of precisely known quantity. For a pressure gauge, indicator, or transmitter, this would mean subjecting the pressure instrument to known fluid pressures and comparing the instrument response against those known pressure quantities. One cannot perform a true calibration without comparing an instrument’s response to known, physical stimuli.

To range an instrument means to set the lower and upper range values so it responds with the desired sensitivity to changes in input. For example, a pressure transmitter set to a range of 0 to 200 PSI (0 PSI = 4 mA output ; 200 PSI = 20 mA output) could be re-ranged to respond on a scale of 0 to 150 PSI (0 PSI = 4 mA ; 150 PSI = 20 mA).

In analog instruments, re-ranging could (usually) only be accomplished by re-calibration, since the same adjustments were used to achieve both purposes. In digital instruments, calibration and ranging are typically separate adjustments (i.e. it is possible to re-range a digital transmitter without having to perform a complete recalibration), so it is important to understand the difference.


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