What Is Instrument Calibration and What Does It Do?
Instrument calibration is one of the primary processes used to maintain instrument accuracy. Calibration is the process of configuring an instrument to provide a result for a sample within an acceptable range. Eliminating or minimizing factors that cause inaccurate measurements is a fundamental aspect of instrumentation design.
Although the exact procedure may vary from product to product, the calibration process generally involves using the instrument to test samples of one or more known values called “calibrators.” The results are used to establish a relationship between the measurement technique used by the instrument and the known values. The process in essence “teaches” the instrument to produce results that are more accurate than those that would occur otherwise. The instrument can then provide more accurate results when samples of unknown values are tested in the normal usage of the product.
Calibrations are performed using only a few calibrators to establish the correlation at specific points within the instrument’s operating range. While it might be desirable to use a large number of calibrators to establish the calibration relationship, or “curve”, the time and labor associated with preparing and testing a large number of calibrators might outweigh the resulting level of performance. From a practical standpoint, a tradeoff must be made between the desired level of product performance and the effort associated with accomplishing the calibration. The instrument will provide the best performance when the intermediate points provided in the manufacturer’s performance specifications are used for calibration; the specified process essentially eliminates, or “zeroes out”, the inherent instrument error at these points.