Electronic calipers may seem like simple measuring devices. But when contaminants in the work environment cause calipers to fail, their importance can quickly become clear.

That point was driven home recently at the U.S. operations of Nukabe Inc., a Japanese-based company with machining operations in Wellsboro, PA, and Effingham, IL. These plants produce a variety of components for the automotive industry including front and lower control arms, oil pump brackets and alternator brackets. Customers include Ford, Honda, Nissan and Subaru.

Nukabe workers make extensive use of calipers in various production cells, where the instrument adjustments can be hampered by moisture and contaminants such as oil, chips and shavings from the machining process. Nukabe was experiencing problems with caliper failure, says Ron Kemp, quality coordinator at the Effingham plant.

"When the contaminants got inside, the calipers would no longer read, and would go blank because of all the oil and coolant," Kemp says. "We would take them apart and clean them with alcohol, but they were difficult to disassemble." Nukabe has seen significant improvements since it replaced its old calipers with new 6- and 8-inch, water- and oil-resistant electronic calipers supplied by Fred V. Fowler Co. Inc. (Newton, MA). Called the Sylvac Ultra-Cal IV, these Swiss-made calipers have a resolution and repeatability of 0.0005-inch, direct RS232 output, maximum measuring speed of 60 inches per second and a battery life of 3,000 continuous hours.

Five minutes
"Using the new Ultra-Cal IV calipers has shown us that we were spending twice as much time as necessary for both making measurements and keeping the old calipers clean," Kemp explains. "Though cleaning is not often necessary, it takes five minutes or less to disassemble the new instruments. In fact, the old ones often couldn't be fully disassembled for cleaning because of their inferior design."

Nukabe initially purchased one 6-inch model of the new caliper and tested it on one of its most contaminated lines. The success of those tests convinced Nukabe to order several additional sets, and the company now has more than 20 of the calipers in use. "We're so pleased with them that we'd like to see more types of measuring instruments made coolant- and moisture-resistant," says Kemp.

Fred V. Fowler Co. Inc.
(800) 788-2353