Metrology Matters: What is Metrology Anyway?

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It’s an important first question to understanding the field, and one perhaps too many mechanical engineering students don’t stop to ask.

Jack Clark, Senior Principal Scientist at Woodward, and Chris Evans, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Center for Precision Metrology, said the answer isn’t easy, but understanding what metrology is can open many doors.

“By definition, metrology is the science of measurement, but it’s also, I think, foundational to many things from fundamental research – without the science of measurement, we never would’ve been able to recently prove that gravity waves exist,” Evans said. “It’s foundational to us being able to have this conversation. Without metrology, the semiconductor industry would absolutely not function. It’s foundational to commerce. If you don’t have internationally agreed standards on what length is, what volume is – you can’t make components that will assemble.”

Despite so much being built upon metrology, there is currently little attention being paid to it by many educators, even in some of the nation’s top engineering schools.

Partnerships with companies can be critical for students to begin understanding that aspect of the engineering and design world.

“They generally have little knowledge of (metrology),” Clark said of students doing internships or projects with companies like Woodward. “If they’re involved in any kind of design when they’re introduced to the company, if they’re involved in any troubleshooting, they may be brought into remanufacturing in the company.

“They have to start understanding what the metrology role is in all those different things and how it is different when you start looking at all the aspects of manufacturing and remanufacturing parts.”

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