The Importance of Calibration: A Complete Guide

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Looking to calibrate your electronic product or eager to delve deeper into the world of electronics calibration? Continue reading to discover everything you need to know in this comprehensive guide.

Understanding Calibration

What is Calibration?

There is a fundamental reliance on accuracy and precision in every aspect of technology, from the vital tools used in life-saving medical operations to the sophisticated sensors navigating the most modern vehicles. This dependency is based on a process called calibration, which affects almost every aspect of our modern life but is hardly known outside of specialised disciplines. Calibration is the foundation of confidence in the measurements and data that inform choices, guarantee safety, and uphold industry standards. It is much more than just a periodic check.

Calibration is a precision-driven process where the measurement values produced by a piece of equipment or an instrument are compared against a reference standard of known accuracy. This crucial comparison helps to ensure that the instrument’s results closely match the standard and also highlights any differences in measurement that may exist. Calibration essentially fills in the gaps between “verified accuracy” and “assumed accuracy,” setting the stage for accurate, dependable measurements in a wide range of applications.

Types of Calibration

There are many forms of calibration, each tailored to the unique requirements of different measurement domains. As an example, electrical calibration focuses on measuring voltage, current, resistance and frequency, making sure electronic devices operate within the intended specifications set out by independent organisations. There is also mechanical calibration, which puts emphasis on physical dimensions and forces, playing a crucial role in manufacturing and engineering. Another example is thermal calibration, which guarantees the accuracy of temperature readings and is essential in the food and beverage and aerospace industries. 

What Is the Process of Calibration?

Using a multimeter for calibration

Step 1: Preparation

  • Identify the instrument for calibration: Choose the device that has to be calibrated and collect the necessary calibration methods and operating manuals.
  • Select the appropriate standard: Select a reference standard that is more precise than the calibration tool. Ideally, the standard’s accuracy should be three to four times greater than that of the device under test (DUT), with a known and traceable value.
  • Stabilise the environment: Make sure that the temperature, humidity, and other elements that can affect the measurement are under control in the calibration environment. The standard and the tool need to become used to the new surroundings.

Step 2: Connection and Setup

  • Connect the instrument and standard: As you follow the precise setup instructions provided for the calibration, securely attach the DUT to the calibration standard.
  • Perform initial check: Prior to making any calibration modifications, do a preliminary performance check of the instrument to find any values that are outside of specification.

Step 3: Measurement and Comparison

  • Carry out measurements: Using the calibration standard, take multiple readings at various points within the instrument’s operating range.
  • Compare with standard: Compare these readings to the calibration standard’s known values. This comparison shows the accuracy of the instrument and highlights any inconsistencies.

Step 4: Adjustment 

  • Adjust the instrument: Adjust the instrument in accordance with its calibration method to bring its readings closer to the standard if discrepancies exceed acceptable limits. 
  • Repeat measurement: Measure again after making adjustments to make sure the device now reads within the required accuracy range.

Step 5: Post-calibration and Documentation

  • Record results: Document all findings, including the state of the instrument both before and after calibration, the measurements obtained, the modifications performed, and the calibration status at the end.
  • Calibration certificate: Provide a calibration certificate with all the information about the calibration, such as the date, circumstances, standards used, and signatures of the staff members.
  • Device labelling: A calibration label with the date of the last calibration and the deadline for the next one should be placed on the instrument.
  • Review and implement: Examine the calibration data to see if anything further needs to be done, like fixes or modifications.

Step 6: Quality Control

  • Ensure traceability: Confirm that all reference standards used are traceable to national or international standards.
  • Final quality check: Perform a final quality check to ensure that all steps were conducted according to the calibration procedure and that all documentation is complete and accurate.

The Benefits of Calibration

Testing voltage with a multimeter

Accuracy and Reliability

Frequent calibration ensures that instruments measure as closely as possible to the true value, enhancing the accuracy and reliability of the measurements. This is important for applications like scientific research, engineering, and medical diagnostics, where accuracy is vital. Decision-making, product quality, and safety are all impacted by accuracy. By routinely calibrating equipment, organisations can trust their data, leading to consistent and dependable outcomes.


Many industries operate under strict regulatory frameworks that mandate the calibration of measuring and monitoring instruments. Regular calibration means that companies comply with these regulations, avoiding legal penalties, fines and brand reputational damage. Additionally, it complies with international quality standards like ISO 9001 and IEC 17025, which require precise and traceable measurements, as well as certification criteria. 


Calibration is essential in sectors where safety is vital, such as chemical production, aviation, and healthcare. Precise measurements help distinguish between potentially dangerous circumstances and safe operations. Calibration ensures that safety-critical equipment functions correctly, protecting employees, customers, and the environment from the risks associated with inaccurate measurements.

Cost Savings

Regular calibration may maximise process efficiency and minimise waste, which can result in considerable cost savings. Accurate instruments reduce the possibility of mistakes that might lead to expensive rework or product discarding. Ensuring that the equipment functions within its specified boundaries prolongs the lifespan and delays the need for replacements. Additionally, calibration assists in avoiding the expenses related to non-compliance, including fines and lost revenue.

Quality Control and Assurance

Calibration guarantees that goods fulfil the necessary specifications and standards, upholding excellent quality and customer satisfaction. Regular calibration lowers the chance of product recalls, rework, or rejection by identifying measurement inaccuracies before they might cause quality problems. It is necessary to uphold industry standards and keep a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Calibration Considerations

Despite the obvious benefits of regularly calibrating your instruments. There are a few things to consider: 

  • Cost and resource-intensive: Calibration may be very expensive, particularly for smaller businesses. Costly requirements include the necessity for highly accurate reference standards, complex calibration tools, and skilled personnel. Furthermore, the procedure itself takes up a lot of time and resources, from planning to documentation.
  • Keeping up with technological advancements: Keeping up with the rapid speed of technology development is difficult and necessitates constant investment in new tools and training.
  • Global standards and compliance: The process of calibrating becomes more complicated for organisations that operate in numerous countries or provide goods and services to a worldwide market due to the need to comply with a wide range of international norms and laws. The application and interpretation of standards like ISO/IEC 17025, which outline the overall requirements for the competency of testing and calibration laboratories, may differ between nations.

Glossary of Terms for Calibration

A multimeter laying on a diagram

Here are some useful terms that you might come across when calibrating a product: 

  1. Accuracy: The degree to which a measurement conforms to the correct value. It reflects how close a measured value is to the true value or the standard.
  2. Precision: The degree to which repeated measurements under unchanged conditions show the same results. It reflects the consistency of the measurements.
  3. Tolerance: The maximum acceptable deviation between the measured value and the true value. It defines the range within which a measurement is considered accurate.
  4. Traceability: The property of a measurement result whereby the result can be related to a reference through a documented unbroken chain of calibrations, each contributing to the measurement uncertainty.
  5. Calibration interval: The suggested time between an instrument’s calibrations, determined by factors such as stability, usage, and compliance with quality standards or laws.
  6. Reference standard/calibration standard: A standard of known accuracy that is used as a reference point for the calibration of other instruments.
  7. Device under test (DUT): The instrument or device being tested. Also sometimes referred to as unit under test (UUT). 
  8. As found/as left: Terms used to document the condition of the instrument both before starting the calibration process (“as found”) and after the calibration is completed (“as left”).
  9. Drift: The gradual deterioration of an instrument’s measurement accuracy over time, frequently brought on by external influences or regular wear and tear.
  10. Validation: The process of making sure a tool works correctly in the given situation and is appropriate for its intended usage.
  11. Zero adjustment: Ensuring the beginning point of measurements is accurate by setting an instrument to read zero when measuring a quantity that is known to be zero.
  12. Verification: The process of checking that an instrument meets a set of specific requirements, often confused with but distinct from calibration.

The Calibration Service From Distrelec

Distrelec provides a calibration service for new electronic test and measurement devices in partnership with Intertek. This calibration service guarantees that your instruments operate as specified in the datasheet. In order to calibrate a measuring instrument or data recorder, the read results must be compared to the equivalent values of a reference tool that satisfies reference standards. Proof of the measurement mistake is provided by a calibration certificate. If the variation found is excessive compared to the manufacturer’s specifications, your data logger or measuring device will need to be adjusted. The range of this service includes but is not limited to: 

How To Get Your Product Calibrated With Distrelec 

Visit the Distrelec webshop to find instruments that can be calibrated. All measuring devices that can be calibrated will have a “+ CAL” note in the specific product title. To ensure that you receive the product calibrated, you need to select the “+ CAL” version of the product, which will have its own specific item number. The price for the service is included in the final price. For more information on everything you need to know about the calibration service from Distrelec, visit our dedicated page. 

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