Metrology is one of the most important fields of study that exist today, despite not being as popular as other scientific fields like astronomy, biology, and chemistry.
Without metrology, not only would other fields of study be impossible to perform or appreciate properly, but many technological and scientific breakthroughs most likely would never have happened at all.
World-changing technological advancements like computer technology would also be impossible to produce or even design, considering the exact measurements and specifications needed to do so. Worse, the lack of metrology can actually put people’s lives at risk – not just through workplace accidents or equipment failures but also when it comes to medicine and life-saving treatments.
What is Metrology?
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To understand the importance of metrology, we have to first understand what it is. Metrology, simply put, is the science that has to do with measurements. It is a field of study that establishes a common and standardized understanding of units on which many (if not all) human activities are based.
Think about the specific units of measurement you encounter every day – the kilometer- or miles-per-hour reading on your car’s speedometer or even just the day’s temperature from the daily weather report. All these and other measurement units came from metrology, along with how they’ve become standardized.
Metrologists use various equipment – more than just rulers and meter sticks and thermometers – to get the measurements that they need. Some of these equipment include dial indicators, force gauges, calipers, and optical laser probes. These machines are made up of components like XYZ linear stages so that each and every millimeter (or even smaller units of measure) can be captured accurately.
Metrology is divided into three specific fields:
- Scientific Metrology. This field of metrology deals with the organization, development, and maintenance of measurement standards (SI units). There are many specialty areas in this particular field, with some examples being mass metrology, volume metrology, chemical metrology, and temperature metrology. Scientific metrology also signifies the highest level of accuracy within the given scope of measurement.
- Industrial Metrology. This field concerns the application of measurement to industrial manufacturing and other similar processes in society. It also involves ensuring the suitability of industrial measurement instruments, their calibration, and their quality control.
- Legal Metrology. This field of metrology involves the regulatory and statutory requirements of measuring instruments for the interests of protecting public health, public safety, and the environment. It also involves measurement enabling taxation as well as fair trade.
Why is Metrology Important?
- Measurements let us know more about the world around us. In all aspects of research, metrology is always present. It allows us to observe objects and phenomenon more accurately and quantifiably, which in turn allows us to share our observations with our peers. It also helps us build the instruments necessary to make the measurements themselves.
- Measurements protect public health and life. Proper measurements can help protect the health of the public as well as save lives. For example, the correct measurement of drug dosages or radiation levels in chemotherapy are crucial for successful patient outcomes. The reliability of measurement instruments in operating theaters and emergency units are critical for survival as well. Other scenarios where measurements can affect life also include mandatory speed limits in public roads to prevent vehicular accidents and pedestrian fatalities, and air/water quality to prevent respiratory diseases and water-borne diseases. Or the measurement of how effective public health policies are, such as how much single-use plastic waste could be prevented if organizations take a look at biodegradable gloves and other green alternatives.
- Measurements allow the accurate and impartial governing of transactions. All transactions made between individuals and companies require proper measurements to facilitate commerce and fair trade. Examples include the dosage of foodstuffs, metering fuel at the fuel pump, retail or bulk weighing of produce or mass-produced products. Besides this, metrology also helps form trusted relationships between customers and service providers/contractors because without measurements, it is impossible to guarantee the amount or quality of service rendered in exchange for money.
- Measurements enable competition and progress. Without measurements, competition and progress cannot exist. For example, measurements are needed to objectively quantify whether a product or service has the ability to meet customer requirements and expectations. Individuals and companies also require measurements in order to compare their performance against each other, as well as to figure out where their current services and/or products are lacking in order to improve them.
Metrology may not be the most popular or well-known of the sciences, but it is clearly one of the most important. Not only does it allow other fields of study to measure and quantify objects, elements, and phenomena in an objective and impartial manner, it also has an undeniable effect on our lives, health, welfare, and commerce.