is a device used to measure
Measurement is the process or the result of determining the ratio of a physical quantity, such as a length, time, temperature etc., to a unit of measurement, such as the metre, second or degree Celsius...
the distance between two opposing sides of an object. A caliper can be as simple as a compass
A compass or pair of compasses is a technical drawing instrument that can be used for inscribing circles or arcs. As dividers, they can also be used as a tool to measure distances, in particular on maps...
with inward or outward-facing points. The tips of the caliper are adjusted to fit across the points to be measured, the caliper is then removed and the distance read by measuring between the tips with a measuring tool, such as a ruler
A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is an instrument used in geometry, technical drawing, printing and engineering/building to measure distances and/or to rule straight lines...
It is used in many fields such as metalworking
Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills,...
, mechanical engineering
Mechanical engineering is a discipline of engineering that applies the principles of physics and materials science for analysis, design, manufacturing, and maintenance of mechanical systems. It is the branch of engineering that involves the production and usage of heat and mechanical power for the...
A gunsmith is a person who repairs, modifies, designs, or builds firearms. This occupation is different from an armorer. The armorer primarily maintains weapons and limited repairs involving parts replacement and possibly work involving accurization...
Handloading or reloading is the process of loading firearm cartridges or shotgun shells by assembling the individual components , rather than purchasing completely assembled, factory-loaded cartridges...
Woodworking is the process of building, making or carving something using wood.-History:Along with stone, mud, and animal parts, wood was one of the first materials worked by early humans. Microwear analysis of the Mousterian stone tools used by the Neanderthals show that many were used to work wood...
Woodturning is a form of woodworking that is used to create wooden objects on a lathe . Woodturning differs from most other forms of woodworking in that the wood is moving while a stationary tool is used to cut and shape it...
and in medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....
A plurale tantum
A plurale tantum is a noun that appears only in the plural form and does not have a singular variant for referring to a single object...
sense of the word "calipers" coexists in natural usage with the regular noun sense of "caliper". That is, sometimes a caliper is treated cognitively like a pair of glasses or a pair of scissors, resulting in a phrase such as "hand me those calipers" or "those calipers are mine" in reference to one unit. However, this usage is mostly colloquial
A colloquialism is a word or phrase that is common in everyday, unconstrained conversation rather than in formal speech, academic writing, or paralinguistics. Dictionaries often display colloquial words and phrases with the abbreviation colloq. as an identifier...
and the regular noun sense of caliper usually dominates, especially in writing.
Also existing colloquially but not in formal usage is referring to a vernier caliper as a "vernier
Vernier may refer to:Secondary adjustment devices for forms of "fine tuning":*Vernier scale on measuring instruments*Vernier thruster, on spacecraft*Vernier throttle, on aircraft*Vernier sight, on target riflesPeople:...
In machine-shop usage, the term "caliper" is often used in contradistinction to "micrometer", even though outside micrometers are technically a form of caliper. In this usage, "caliper" implies only the form factor
Form factor may refer to:*Form factor or emissivity, the proportion of energy transmitted by that object which can be transferred to another object...
of the vernier or dial caliper (or its modern evolution to a digital scale with sliding linear encoder).
The earliest caliper has been found in the Greek
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...
Isola del Giglio is an island and Italian comune situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the coast of Tuscany, part of the Province of Grosseto.-Geography:...
wreck near the Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...
coast. The ship find dates to the 6th century BC. The wooden piece already featured a fixed and a movable jaw. Although rare finds, caliper remained in use by the Greeks and Romans
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....
By the Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...
(202 BC – 220 AD), the Chinese
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...
also used the sliding caliper, which they made of bronze and manufactured each tool with an inscription of the day, month, and year it was made (according to Chinese era name
A Chinese era name is the regnal year, reign period, or regnal title used when traditionally numbering years in an emperor's reign and naming certain Chinese rulers . Some emperors have several era names, one after another, where each beginning of a new era resets the numbering of the year back...
s and their lunar calendar
The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, incorporating elements of a lunar calendar with those of a solar calendar. It is not exclusive to China, but followed by many other Asian cultures as well...
The modern vernier caliper, reading to thousandths of an inch, was invented by American Joseph R. Brown in 1851. His Brown and Sharpe company inaugurated true precision manufacture in the United States. It was the first practical tool for exact measurements that could be sold at a price within the reach of ordinary machinists.
The inside calipers
are used to measure the internal size of an object.
- The upper caliper in the image (at the right) requires manual adjustment prior to fitting, fine setting of this caliper type is performed by tapping the caliper legs lightly on a handy surface until they will almost pass over the object. A light push against the resistance of the central pivot screw then spreads the legs to the correct dimension and provides the required, consistent feel that ensures a repeatable measurement.
- The lower caliper in the image has an adjusting screw that permits it to be carefully adjusted without removal of the tool from the workpiece.
are used to measure the external size of an object.
The same observations and technique apply to this type of caliper, as for the above inside caliper. With some understanding of their limitations and usage these instruments can provide a high degree of accuracy and repeatability. They are especially useful when measuring over very large distances, consider if the calipers are used to measure a large diameter pipe. A vernier caliper does not have the depth capacity to straddle this large diameter while at the same time reach the outermost points of the pipe's diameter.
In the metalworking field divider calipers
are used in the process of marking out
Marking out or layout is the process of transferring a design or pattern to a workpiece, as the first step in the manufacturing process...
suitable workpieces. The points are sharpened so that they act as scribers, one leg can then be placed in the dimple created by a center or prick punch and the other leg pivoted so that it scribes a line on the workpiece's surface, thus forming an arc or circle.
A divider caliper is also used to measure a distance between two points on a map
A map is a visual representation of an area—a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes....
. The two caliper's ends are brought to the two points whose distance is being measured. The caliper's opening is then either measured on a separate ruler and then converted to the actual distance, or it is measured directly on a scale
The scale of a map is defined as the ratio of a distance on the map to the corresponding distance on the ground.If the region of the map is small enough for the curvature of the Earth to be neglected, then the scale may be taken as a constant ratio over the whole map....
drawn on the map. On a nautical chart
A nautical chart is a graphic representation of a maritime area and adjacent coastal regions. Depending on the scale of the chart, it may show depths of water and heights of land , natural features of the seabed, details of the coastline, navigational hazards, locations of natural and man-made aids...
the distance is often measured on the latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...
scale appearing on the sides of the map: one minute of arc of latitude is approximately one nautical mile
The nautical mile is a unit of length that is about one minute of arc of latitude along any meridian, but is approximately one minute of arc of longitude only at the equator...
or 1852 metre
The metre , symbol m, is the base unit of length in the International System of Units . Originally intended to be one ten-millionth of the distance from the Earth's equator to the North Pole , its definition has been periodically refined to reflect growing knowledge of metrology...
Dividers are also used in the medical profession. An ECG (also EKG) caliper transfers distance on an electrocardiogram
Electrocardiography is a transthoracic interpretation of the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time, as detected by electrodes attached to the outer surface of the skin and recorded by a device external to the body...
; in conjunction with the appropriate scale, the heart rate can be determined. A pocket caliper versions was invented by cardiologist Robert A. Mackin.
, Hermaphrodite calipers
or Oddleg jennys
, as pictured on the left, are generally used to scribe a line a set distance from the edge of a workpiece. The bent leg is used to run along the workpiece edge while the scriber makes its mark at a predetermined distance, this ensures a line parallel to the edge.
In the diagram at left, the uppermost caliper has a slight shoulder in the bent leg allowing it to sit on the edge more securely, the lower caliper lacks this feature but has a renewable scriber that can be adjusted for wear, as well as being replaced when excessively worn.
The vernier, dial, and digital calipers give a direct reading of the distance measured to high accuracy. They are functionally identical, with different ways of reading the result. These calipers comprise a calibrated scale with a fixed jaw, and another jaw, with a pointer, that slides along the scale. The distance between the jaws is then read in different ways for the three types.
The simplest method is to read the position of the pointer directly on the scale. When the pointer is between two markings, the user can mentally interpolate
In the mathematical field of numerical analysis, interpolation is a method of constructing new data points within the range of a discrete set of known data points....
to improve the precision of the reading. This would be a simple calibrated caliper; but the addition of a vernier scale
A vernier scale is an additional scale which allows a distance or angle measurement to be read more precisely than directly reading a uniformly-divided straight or circular measurement scale...
allows more accurate interpolation, and is the universal practice; this is the vernier caliper
Vernier, dial, and digital calipers can measure internal dimensions (using the uppermost jaws in the picture at right), external dimensions using the pictured lower jaws, and in many cases depth by the use of a probe that is attached to the movable head and slides along the centre of the body. This probe is slender and can get into deep grooves that may prove difficult for other measuring tools.
The vernier scales may include metric
The metric system is an international decimalised system of measurement. France was first to adopt a metric system, in 1799, and a metric system is now the official system of measurement, used in almost every country in the world...
measurements on the lower part of the scale and inch
An inch is the name of a unit of length in a number of different systems, including Imperial units, and United States customary units. There are 36 inches in a yard and 12 inches in a foot...
measurements on the upper, or vice versa, in countries that use inches. Vernier calipers commonly used in industry provide a precision to 0.01 mm (10 micrometre
A micrometer , is by definition 1×10-6 of a meter .In plain English, it means one-millionth of a meter . Its unit symbol in the International System of Units is μm...
s), or one thousandth of an inch. They are available in sizes that can measure up to 72 in (183 cm).
Instead of using a vernier mechanism, which requires some practice to use, the dial caliper
reads the final fraction of a millimeter or inch on a simple dial.
In this instrument, a small, precise gear
A gear is a rotating machine part having cut teeth, or cogs, which mesh with another toothed part in order to transmit torque. Two or more gears working in tandem are called a transmission and can produce a mechanical advantage through a gear ratio and thus may be considered a simple machine....
rack drives a pointer on a circular dial
A dial is generally a flat surface, circular or rectangular, with numbers or similar markings on it, used for displaying the setting or output of a timepiece, radio, clock, watch, or measuring instrument...
, allowing direct reading without the need to read a vernier scale. Typically, the pointer rotates once every inch, tenth of an inch, or 1 millimeter. This measurement must be added to the coarse whole inches or centimeters read from the slide. The dial is usually arranged to be rotatable beneath the pointer, allowing for "differential" measurements (the measuring of the difference in size between two objects, or the setting of the dial using a master object and subsequently being able to read directly the plus-or-minus variance in size of subsequent objects relative to the master object).
The slide of a dial caliper can usually be locked at a setting using a small lever
In physics, a lever is a rigid object that is used with an appropriate fulcrum or pivot point to either multiply the mechanical force that can be applied to another object or resistance force , or multiply the distance and speed at which the opposite end of the rigid object travels.This leverage...
or screw; this allows simple go/no-go
A Go-NoGo gauge refers to an inspection tool used to check a workpiece against its allowed tolerances. Its name derives from its use: the gauge has two tests; the check involves the workpiece having to pass one test and fail the other .It is an integral part of the quality process that is used...
checks of part sizes.
A refinement now popular is the replacement of the analog dial with an electronic
Electronics is the branch of science, engineering and technology that deals with electrical circuits involving active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes and integrated circuits, and associated passive interconnection technologies...
A display device is an output device for presentation of information in visual or tactile form...
on which the reading is displayed as a single value. Some digital calipers can be switched between centimeters or millimeters, and inches. All provide for zeroing the display at any point along the slide, allowing the same sort of differential measurements as with the dial caliper. Digital calipers may contain some sort of "reading hold" feature, allowing the reading of dimensions even in awkward locations where the display cannot be seen.
Ordinary 6-in/150-mm digital calipers are made of stainless steel, have a rated accuracy of 0.001 in (0.02mm) and resolution of 0.0005 in (0.01 mm).
The same technology is used to make longer 8-in and 12-in calipers; the accuracy for bigger measurements declines to 0.001 in (0.03 mm) for 100-200 mm and 0.0015 in (0.04 mm) for 200-300 mm.
Many Chinese-made digital calipers are inexpensive and perform reasonably well. One point worth noting is battery current when they are turned off. Many calipers do not stop drawing power when the switch is in the off position; they shut down the display but continue drawing nearly as much current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...
. The current may be as much as 20 microamperes, which is much higher than many established brands. Sometimes calipers may not work properly when the battery voltage has dropped relatively little; silver cells, preferably selected from a datasheet to have a constant voltage for most of their life, may give a much longer usable life than alkaline button cell
A watch battery or button cell is a small single cell battery shaped as a squat cylinder typically 5 to 12 mm in diameter and 1 to 6 mm high—like a button on a garment, hence the name. Button cells are used to power small portable electronics devices such as wrist watches, pocket...
s (e.g., SR44 instead of LR44).
Increasingly, digital calipers offer a serial data output to allow them to be interfaced with a dedicated recorder or a personal computer
A personal computer is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer operator...
. The digital interface significantly decreases the time to make and record a series of measurements, and it also improves the reliability of the records. A suitable device to convert the serial data output to common computer interfaces such as RS-232
In telecommunications, RS-232 is the traditional name for a series of standards for serial binary single-ended data and control signals connecting between a DTE and a DCE . It is commonly used in computer serial ports...
, Universal Serial Bus
USB is an industry standard developed in the mid-1990s that defines the cables, connectors and protocols used in a bus for connection, communication and power supply between computers and electronic devices....
, or wireless can be built or purchased. With such a converter, measurements can be directly entered into a spreadsheet
A spreadsheet is a computer application that simulates a paper accounting worksheet. It displays multiple cells usually in a two-dimensional matrix or grid consisting of rows and columns. Each cell contains alphanumeric text, numeric values or formulas...
, a Statistical Process Control
Statistical process control is the application of statistical methods to the monitoring and control of a process to ensure that it operates at its full potential to produce conforming product. Under SPC, a process behaves predictably to produce as much conforming product as possible with the least...
program, or similar software.
The serial digital output varies among manufacturers. Common options are
- Mitutoyo's Digimatic interface. This is the dominant name brand interface. Format is 52-bits arranged as 13 nibbles.
- Sylvac interface. This is the common protocol for inexpensive, non-name brand, calipers. Format is 24 bit 90 kHz synchronous.
- Brown & Sharpe
- Mahr (appears to offer Digimatic, RS232, and USB)
- Aldi. Format is 7 BCD digits.
Like dial calipers, the slide of a digital caliper can usually be locked using a lever or thumb-screw.
Some digital calipers contain a capacitive linear encoder. A pattern of bars is etched directly on the printed circuit board
A printed circuit board, or PCB, is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate. It is also referred to as printed wiring board or etched wiring...
in the slider. Under the scale of the caliper another printed circuit board also contains an etched pattern of lines. The combination of these printed circuit boards forms two variable capacitor
A capacitor is a passive two-terminal electrical component used to store energy in an electric field. The forms of practical capacitors vary widely, but all contain at least two electrical conductors separated by a dielectric ; for example, one common construction consists of metal foils separated...
s. The two capacitances are out of phase. As the slider moves the capacitance changes in a linear fashion and in a repeating pattern. The circuitry built into the slider counts the bars as the slider moves and does a linear interpolation based on the magnitudes of the capacitors to find the precise position of the slider. Other digital calipers contain an inductive linear encoder, which allows robust performance in the presence of contamination such as coolants http://www.mitutoyo.com/pdf/ABS1813-293.pdf
. Magnetic linear encoders are used in yet other digital calipers.
A caliper using a calibrated screw
A screw, or bolt, is a type of fastener characterized by a helical ridge, known as an external thread or just thread, wrapped around a cylinder. Some screw threads are designed to mate with a complementary thread, known as an internal thread, often in the form of a nut or an object that has the...
for measurement, rather than a slide, is called a micrometer caliper
or, more often, simply a micrometer
. (Sometimes the term caliper
, referring to any other type in this article, is held in contradistinction to micrometer
Each of the above types of calipers have their relative merits and faults.
Vernier calipers are rugged and have long lasting accuracy, are coolant proof, are not affected by magnetic fields, and are largely shock proof. They may have both centimeter and inch scales. However, vernier calipers require good eyesight or a magnifying glass
A magnifying glass is a convex lens that is used to produce a magnified image of an object. The lens is usually mounted in a frame with a handle ....
to read and can be difficult to read from a distance or from awkward angles. It is relatively easy to misread the last digit. In production environments, reading vernier calipers all day long is error-prone and is annoying to the workers.
Dial calipers are comparatively easy to read, especially when seeking exact center by rocking and observing the needle movement. They can be set to 0 at any point for comparisons. They are usually fairly susceptible to shock damage. They are also very prone to getting dirt in the gears, which can cause accuracy problems.
Digital calipers switch easily between centimeter and inch systems.They can be set to 0 easily at any point with full count in either direction, and can take measurements even if the display is completely hidden, either by using a "hold" key, or by zeroing the display and closing the jaws, showing the correct measurement, but negative. They can be mechanically and electronically fragile. Most also require batteries, and do not resist coolant well. They are also only moderately shockproof, and can be vulnerable to dirt.
Calipers may read to a resolution of 0.01 mm or 0.0005 in, but accuracy may not be better than about ±0.02 mm or 0.001 in for 150 mm (6 in) calipers, and worse for longer ones.
A caliper must be properly applied against the part in order to take the desired measurement. For example, when measuring the thickness of a plate a vernier caliper must be held at right angles to the piece. Some practice may be needed to measure round or irregular objects correctly.
Accuracy of measurement when using a caliper is highly dependent on the skill of the operator. Regardless of type, a caliper's jaws must be forced into contact with the part being measured. As both part and caliper are always to some extent elastic
In physics, elasticity is the physical property of a material that returns to its original shape after the stress that made it deform or distort is removed. The relative amount of deformation is called the strain....
, the amount of force used affects the indication. A consistent, firm touch is correct. Too much force results in an underindication as part and tool distort; too little force gives insufficient contact and an overindication. This is a greater problem with a caliper incorporating a wheel, which lends mechanical advantage
Mechanical advantage is a measure of the force amplification achieved by using a tool, mechanical device or machine system. Ideally, the device preserves the input power and simply trades off forces against movement to obtain a desired amplification in the output force...
. This is especially the case with digital calipers, calipers out of adjustment, or calipers with a poor quality beam.
Simple calipers are uncalibrated; the measurement taken must be compared against a scale. Whether the scale is part of the caliper or not, all analog calipers—verniers and dials—require good eyesight in order to achieve the highest precision. Digital calipers have the advantage in this area.
Calibrated calipers may be mishandled, leading to loss of zero
Calibration is a comparison between measurements – one of known magnitude or correctness made or set with one device and another measurement made in as similar a way as possible with a second device....
. When a calipers' jaws are fully closed, it should of course indicate zero. If it does not, it must be recalibrated or repaired. It might seem that a vernier caliper cannot get out of calibration but a drop or knock can be enough. Digital calipers have zero set buttons.
Vernier, dial and digital calipers can be used with accessories that extend their usefulness. Examples are a base that extends their usefulness as a depth gauge and a jaw attachment that allows measuring the center distance between holes. Since the 1970s a clever modification of the moveable jaw on the back side of any caliper allows for step or depth measurements in addition to external caliper measurements, in similar fashion to a universal micrometer (e.g., Starrett Mul-T-Anvil or Mitutoyo Uni-Mike).
The method to use a vernier scale or caliper with zero error is to use the formula
'actual reading = main scale + vernier scale - (zero error)'.
Zero error may arise due to knocks that cause the calibration at the 0.00 mm when the jaws are perfectly closed or just touching each other.
Positive zero error refers to the fact that when the jaws of the vernier caliper are just closed, the reading is a positive reading away from the actual reading of 0.00mm. If the reading is 0.10mm, the zero error is referred to as +0.10mm.
Negative zero error refers to the fact that when the jaws of the vernier caliper are just closed, the reading is a negative reading away from the actual reading of 0.00mm. If the reading is -0.08mm, the zero error is referred to as -0.08mm.