Going To Extremes

When most of us think about measurement environments, what generally comes to mind are pleasant laboratories with temperatures controlled to 68°F/20°C—plus or minus a degree or two. Or in the worst case, we picture a gaging shop with swings of temperature between 65° and 90° F.

Columns From: 1/3/2000 Modern Machine Shop,

When most of us think about measurement environments, what generally comes to mind are pleasant laboratories with temperatures controlled to 68°F/20°C—plus or minus a degree or two. Or in the worst case, we picture a gaging shop with swings of temperature between 65° and 90° F.

Unfortunately, there are also gaging situations where measurements must be made in temperature environments well outside of the inspector's comfort zone. But it does not have to be outside the gage's.

Here are some of the considerations that go into making a dial indicator worthy of high temperature applications:

Crystal. Most crystals today are made from plastic blends or alloys that can withstand temperatures up to 170°F. To meet the 250°F temperature requirement, a glass crystal may be substituted.

Bezel. Bezels are typically made of plastic or zinc. For extreme high-temperature gaging, a steel bezel is the likely choice.



°F 200 250 300 400 600
°C 79 107 135 190 245
Required Modifications          
Remove All Oil X X X X X
Lube With Molycote X X X X X
Glass Crystal X X X X X
Remove Paint   X X X X
Steel Bezel     X X X
Metal Dial       X X
Steel Back       X X
Polish Gear Pivots       X X
Open Rack Bushing       X X
Steel Hair Spring         X
Steel P.B. Spring         X

Paints and Coatings. Another consideration is the paint on the indicator and dial. We might consider a special temperature-resistant coating or, for the most extreme applications, none at all.

Lubricant. Technically speaking, indicators are not lubricated. However, a small amount of watch oil is applied to the jewel bearings. At high temperatures, a special Molycote can maintain lubricity when other coatings would break down.

Thermal Expansion Differentials. In dial indicators, there are some very tight clearances. Various materials used in making the indicator will expand and contract at different rates. So it's important for the manufacturer to use materials and clearances that will ensure performance of the gage over the entire operating temperature range of the test.

The expansion characteristics of the high temperature dial indicator should be provided to the user, making it possible to mathematically adjust measurements to compensate for different rates of expansion in the gage and the part.

Spring Performance. High temperatures may also diminish the force generated by take up and pull back springs within the dial indicators. As a result, better grades of steel and larger diameter wire may be needed to ensure sustained performance of the gage. These types of customizations can accommodate for measuring applications in high temperature environments up to 600°F.

Sometimes measurements must be taken in environments that are mercilessly cold. The same thought processes are used to determine modifications that will keep the gage, but not the user, from numbing out.

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