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Self and Datum Referenced Form Measurements

George Schuetz, Mahr Federal Inc.

Form or geometry gages are generally divided into two categories depending on what form
parameters they are designed to measure. While there is no formal designation to
differentiate these two categories, sometimes they are simply referred to as roundness
gages or cylindricity gages. Their difference is primarily based on their ability to make self-
referenced or datum-referenced measurements.

The basic form parameters of roundness, concentricity, circular runout, circular flatness,
perpendicularity, plane runout, face runout, circular parallelism and coaxiality are all self-
referenced measurements and are done with a basic roundness gage. This type of gage
stages the workpiece on a precision rotary table and provides a means of positioning the
gaging transducer against the part. As the turntable rotates, the gaging transducer senses
and measures the deviation from the reference circle provided by the spindle. These gages
also incorporate a simple, rigid support post for the gaging transducer.

The parameters measured on roundness gages have datums that are self-referenced. Self-
referenced measurements do not require any datum be established on the part independent
from the feature being checked. Hence, parameters such as flatness and roundness require
only one measurement. With the roundness check, after the workpiece has been centered
on the precision rotary table and the gage generates a centered polar trace, the report
indicates ideal roundness and also calculates roundness deviation from the reference circle.
There are four different standardized methods to mathematically establish the reference
circle: Radial separations, Least squares, Maximum and Minimum inscribed circles. Based on
the method chosen, readings can vary up to 15%. The method is often determined by how
the part is used and its interaction with other mating parts.

A step up from the basic roundness gage is the cylindricity gage. Cylindricity gages have the
gaging transducer supported by a precision vertical slide that also serves as a vertical
reference with known straightness and linear positioning accuracy. Besides being capable of
measuring the parameters noted above, this category of gage allows measurement of
datum-referenced parameters such as concentricity, cylindricity, total runout, vertical
straightness and parallelism.

With datum referenced measurements, one or more setup measurements are required to
establish a datum on the part. This must be done before features such as concentricity or
coaxiality can be measured. To gage single plane concentricity of a bearing ring, the ID
must be measured first to establish a center datum; the OD is measured and its center
established. Eccentricity is the distance between those two centers while concentricity is
double that amount.

Concentricity at different planes requires some more thought. This is because an axis must
be established as the datum, as opposed to a center point. To do this, at least two
roundness measurements are required to establish the reference axis, or datum. Finally, a
third measurement is made on the part feature in question to establish the location of its
center relative to the established datum.
Cylindricity, which can be thought of as the concentricity of cylinders, is yet more complex.
Gaging software is needed to lead operators through this measuring process, instructing
them to measure diameter 1, then diameter 2, and finally the feature in question. The one
important thing the computer software does not do is tell the user where to make the
datum measurements. This is something that the Quality or Process engineer must decide.

What is the best way to establish a datum? It depends on the part configuration and how
the part is to be used. On a shaft with a journal on each end where you need to establish
concentricity of the center journal, the datum could be set up using the two journals—
assuming these two journals are coaxial to each other. Another method would be to make
two measurements on one of the journals to set up the datum. This can be a little risky with
long parts, since any angular error is magnified along the length of the part, and its build-up
could be significant.

No matter what your requirements or type of gage you need, you will find geometry gages
have become more attractive both in price and ease of use. This allows these types of gages
to be used closer and closer to the point of manufacture, and allows use by operators
without a lot of special training.