The Bureau of Weights and Measures defines metrology as “the science of measurement that embraces both theoretical and experimental determinations.”
However, the discipline has transitioned over the years to incorporate practical applications. That is, metrology can now be used to develop and advance industry and national standards for quality control purposes. This means that manufacturers and engineering experts have the benefit of greater accountability and credibility in their work processes.
There are three main subfields of metrology, and these include:
1. Applied metrology
Applied metrology ensures the development and suitability of measurement instruments in industrial or manufacturing settings. The sub-branch oversees the calibration and quality control of these instruments to exact better operative functioning.
Some examples of commercial industries that use applied metrology include the aircraft and automotive sectors. Metrology experts in these fields create laboratory models and tutorials to ensure non-specialists follow strict design and manufacturing quality procedures.
A report published by Verified Market Research demonstrates that the industrial metrology market is expected to exponentially grow over the coming years – with companies such as FARO Technologies, Jenoptik and Nikon Metrology at the forefront of this growth.
This growth in applied metrology can be seen as a response to the rise in additive manufacturing in manufacturing industries. As healthcare, manufacturing, and automotive industries turn to this new form of 3D printing, there’s a need to improve metrology alongside it.
2. Legal metrology
Legal metrology is concerned with the establishment of regulatory requirements and measuring instruments for the protection of fair trade and consumers. This subfield prioritizes measurements that impact economic transactions. Law enforcement uses legal metrology for several purposes, including to:
- Examine procedures for measuring and weighing devices
- Provide technical guidance on issues related to commercial measuring and weighing devices
- Oversee the technical requirements of legal standards and codes
- Create training materials and programs
- Find solutions to complex technical legal metrology issues
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the main body in the United States that focuses on advancing and promoting uniformity in measurement science to enhance economic security through its Legal Metrology Devices Program (LMPD). Recently, the organization improved techniques to identify and count defects in transistors – semiconductor devices that amplify or switch electrical signals and power.
3. Scientific metrology
Scientific metrology forms the basis of all subfields and is concerned with the development and maintenance of scientific measurement methods. It also focuses on transferring measurement standards to users.
Scientific metrology mainly consists of research into new technologies that could improve metrology standards for various industries – including governments commercial businesses, and healthcare.
One advancement in this field is the use of 3D metrology to study physical measurements. This new technique draws on advanced technology to generate accurate and precise 3D measurement data. 3D metrology is expected to grow in the future due to an increased focus on quality control and global demand in the automotive sector. The 3D metrology market had a revenue of $9.60 billion in 2021, yet this is expected to increase to $19.65 billion by 2030.