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Why Can Scientific Instruments be Inaccurate?

Even though scientific instruments have been designed to produce accurate, reliable results, errors do sometimes occur. These can lead to potentially harmful results for both operators – leading to faulty test or research findings – and, on rare occasions, consumers or patients. Sometimes the problem is not detected until after a product, such as a medicine or foodstuff, has been made available to the general public.

Here leading calibration company Arena Instrumentation examine some of the key reasons why science equipment can occasionally malfunction and how we can help ensure that all your devices – whether they measure temperature, pressure, flow, volume, speed or time – can be correctly calibrated to nationally-recognised standards.

The Problem of Drift

The commonest cause of instrument inaccuracy is known as drift. This is defined as ‘the change in an instrument’s reading or set point value over a period of time’ and how it deviates from a known standard (an ‘accurate’ reading). There are a number of reasons why drift can occur in scientific instruments, including:

Environmental Changes – Some instruments perform differently if the environment has changed. For example, when colleges or research institutions undergo a lab relocation, they may find their equipment produces different results, even if everything else involved in the process or experiment is unchanged. This may be because the temperature or the humidity in the new laboratory is different to the old one.

A Hazardous Environment – In some production facilities and research labs, scientific equipment may be less likely to work accurately because of their harsh environment. This can happen because the instruments are being used in extremely high or low temperatures, such as freezers or ovens, or because they are exposed to hazardous substances, such as oils or corrosive materials.

Power Outages – Instruments can be damaged, or left in an unstable condition, if they are connected to a mains power supply and there is a sudden, unexpected power cut (although having a back-up power source such as a generator will help to lessen the risk). Mechanical shocks or vibrations can also cause problems.

Over-Use or Age – Sometimes equipment doesn’t function properly because it’s too old, or because it has been used far more extensively than the manufacturer recommended.

Human Error – Sometimes the fault is not with the equipment but the people using it. Errors can occur in several different ways – staff could be guilty of mishandling an item (such as accidentally dropping it), neglecting it (failing to clean it or maintain it properly) or misusing it (using it in an inappropriate environment or for something other than its intended purpose). Staff could also make a mistake in recording or transcribing results or readings.


How Calibration Company Arena Instrumentation Can Help

The principal way of ensuring that your equipment is functioning accurately is to ensure that it is regularly calibrated to check for any errors or drift. Calibration company Arena Instrumentation holds a UKAS accreditation, which means that we can check a huge variety of instruments – including data loggers, pressure gauges, temperature controllers, flow meters and regulator valves – to an officially recognised standard.

We can work on-site, which we appreciate is particularly important for our commercial customers, and we also have our own UKAS-accredited calibration laboratory. Using a mixture of precision digital equipment and comparators, plus calibration software, we can also carry out running repairs. Our calibration services are available either as part of a planned service programme or after a lab relocation, which is another of our core services.

If you would like to know more, you can click here or contact us on 0151 355 1314.