The New ISO 16610 Filter Standard

Are the benefits of upgrading your surface profiling system to this standard worth the costs involved?


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We’ve seen this scenario play out many times in the world of consumer electronics: Apple, Samsung or any tech company releases a new phone or tablet, and there is a rush of early adopters desperate to be the first to obtain this new technology. People are lined up around the block, and there is a huge backlog of online pre-sales. The media have a field day. Sometimes the technology is really earth shattering, and sometimes it’s not. In either case, early adopters are eager to get in on the action.

Fortunately (or not) we don’t see such a buzz when new standards are released for surface profiling systems. There was a big shift in surface finish parameters in the mid-1990s when filtering changed from analog signal handling with 2RC filters to digitally implemented Gaussian filters. In fact, there are many standards related to how filters are to perform—all to ensure that users get the same results from surface systems provided by different manufacturers. This is just one of the reasons standards are written: to ensure similar results for all those using them.

The standard that has been around the longest for Gaussian filters is ISO 11562. Recently, however, a new standard for filtering profiles has been introduced—ISO 16610—which defines different types of filters related to surface finishing. ISO 16610-21 specifies the metrological characteristics of the Gaussian filter for the filtration of profiles. In particular, it specifies how to separate the long and short wave components of a surface profile.

One of the unwritten and often unexplained purposes of part 21 of the ISO 16610 standard was to document the Gaussian filters that have commonly been used. The goal was to do so in such a way that fits in with a bigger picture of the 16610 standard, which also touches upon many different filter documents.

Despite the fact that there isn’t a major buzz about this new standard, should we still jump on the ISO 16610-21 bandwagon and toss aside all the ISO 11562-defined equipment we presently are using? Just as there are early adopters for new consumer electronics, there are also early adopters who will no doubt leap on this new standard and begin using these latest data analysis filters for profiles. But are the changes and the costs involved worth it to the rest of us?

Many companies have been using the ISO 11562 filtering method for a long time and will not, or simply cannot, change to a new standard so quickly. 

Perhaps one could argue that it would be most “correct” to use the ISO 16610-21-defined filtering process because it is the most up-to-date standard. However, while the definitions in the two standards are technically different, the actual differences in the results they produce are very, very small.

So unless there is some extremely unique surface profiling analysis requirement, analyzing data under either ISO 11562 or ISO 16610 will probably provide the same results.

Still, those early adopters will want to have these latest and greatest software features simply because they can. What changes and costs will this entail for them?

For manufacturers of surface profiling systems, it all comes down to software, since this is where the filtering is really done these days. Working in the latest operating system environments, manufacturers can easily add new features to the software and provide the correct analysis in accordance with whatever the latest standards dictate. In fact, it’s not uncommon to include both the old and new filtering options in today’s surface profiling systems so that multiple users can all be on the same page when making their analyses. But getting these features to the enduser may be a little more difficult.

When a surface analysis system is relatively new, a manufacturer may be able to download the newest software that complies with the most recent standard quite easily and inexpensively. On older systems, however, things can get a little complicated, thanks to the way computer operating systems work.

Very often, older surface analysis systems work on a previous version of an operating system, but that operating system may not be compatible with the surface system’s latest version. Updating the operating system may not be as simple as it sounds, and it might even require updating or replacing the computer in order to run a new operating system and the latest version for the surface profiling software. This can be a pretty significant investment to make in order to achieve   a virtually unnoticeable difference in the results of the measurement analysis of the profile.

Thus, it all comes down to the costs and benefits of using the new standards when deciding whether an update is needed. Is it worth it? In most cases, probably not. But if you are into getting a new phone simply because it’s the latest one, now may be the right time for you.