Road Trip! Metrology Lab

Tour of Metrology Lab, BoeingA group including faculty and workforce deans from Lake Washington Institute of Technology, North Seattle Community College, Olympic College and myself had the privilege of touring Boeing’s Metrology Lab yesterday, Wednesday, December 19th.  What an absolute eye opener in being able to see another side of Boeing production and research! The purpose of the tour was to familiarize the faculty and deans about Metrology, Calibration and Traceability. There will be a need in the next few years to make sure we have qualified people to step in and replace our aging workforce. Many industry sectors use Metrology. Aerospace, Automotive, Marine, Information Technology, Food Processing,  just about everything you can think of in our everyday life.

What is Metrology you ask?  Metrology is the science of measurement and its application. It includes all aspects both theoretical and practical with reference to measurements. Whatever their uncertainty, and in whatever fields of science or technology they occur.   I learned some new terms dealing with Metrology; Calibration & Traceability. Calibration is the process where metrology is applied to measurement equipment and processes to ensure conformity with a known standard of measurement, usually traceable to a national standards board. Good measurement relies on the integrity of the measuring equipment used. No matter how sophisticated measuring equipment is, it degrades with time due to thermal, mechanical, electrical, and environmental effects. This degradation affects the reliability of the measurements and may be offset by a process known as calibration. Calibration is simply the comparison of the measuring instrument or equipment’s performance to a reference standard of known accuracy, to determine the errors and adjustment required. Properly calibrated equipment ensures the quality of the measurements made and provides confidence that the company’s products and services meet customer specifications all over the world. Traceability: The basic concept behind calibration is that the measuring equipment should be tested against a standard of higher accuracy. These calibrations need to be done on a planned, periodic basis with evidence of the comparison results being recorded and maintained. The records must include identification of the specific standards used (which must be within their assigned calibration interval), as well as the methods/conditions used in the calibration process. These records should demonstrate an unbroken chain of comparisons that ends at the agency responsible for maintaining and developing a country’s measurement standards NIST.  This demonstrable linkage to national standards, with known accuracy, is known as traceability.  (Wikipedia)

Why is Metrology important?
Measurements have been carried out for as long as civilization has existed. Metrology is basic to the economic and social development of a country. It is concerned with providing accurate measurements which impact our economy, health, safety and general well-being.
We practically measure everything we encounter – e.g. the weight of our food, the volume of our fuel, the distance between two points, the temperature of the room, the noise at the workplace, and the list goes on and on. Wrong measurement results lead to wrong decisions, which can have serious consequences, costing a lot of money and even lives. Therefore it is important to have accurate and reliable measurements.

How is Metrology used in everyday life?

Using the analogy, without Metrology  life would be very difficult. Imagine doing the following without (Metrology) measurement:

  • Going to the gas station to fill up your vehicle and trying to figure out whether you are getting an exact gallon of gas for the price you paid.
  • The scanners at grocery stores incorrectly reading the bar codes on items you are purchasing.
  • Getting your outsourced parts from one country to find out they do not fit the mating part made in another country.
  • Over filling (a loss to you) or under filling (illegal by trade laws) jars of peanut butter that you buy at the grocery store.
  • Breaking a record at a sporting event by milliseconds and not receiving credit.
  • Administering a lifesaving medication when an overdose can have life threatening implications and an under dose can have no effects.
  • Imagine having vision correction surgery using a laser technique without knowing whether the laser’s power is accurate.

Metrology is significant in building an airplane. Lake Washington Institute of Technology, North Seattle, and Olympic College are all interested in developing curriculum to meet industry’s need.

Needless to say, the tour was fantastic and enjoyed by all!  A big thank you to Boeing especially Jason and Mantz!!



About COEAerospace

The Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing of Washington state is a conduit for collaboration and engagement between industry and K-12 and post secondary higher education. We work to develop the talent pipeline and economic infrastructure to facilitate continuous innovation and growth for aerospace and manufacturing in our state and beyond.
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