Calipers are instruments with adjustable tips that measure length or distance between an object’s opposite sides with a high degree of accuracy. Used in physics labs, machine shops and engineering applications, types include the Vernier caliper and digital caliper, but the principle of measuring remains the same. Some can provide a reading to the nearest 0.02 millimetres.

What are the main features of calipers?

They’re robust and commonly made from stainless steel. Some only measure the inside, outside, depth or step of an object, but many measure all of these. Calipers can display both imperial and metric measurements, with some featuring an anti-glare or satin finish to make them easier to read.

What are the different types of calipers?

Calipers vary by what they measure and how they can be read. The main types are:

Vernier caliper: Named after their inventor the French mathematician Pierre Vernier, Vernier calipers use a fixed main scale and a moving Vernier scale as a visual aid for measuring between two markings on a linear scale. Particularly useful when measuring something round, the main scale is normally in tenths of an inch or millimetres while the Vernier scale measures to the nearest 0.02 millimetres or 0.001 inches.

Dial caliper: These calipers provide the same level of accuracy as Vernier calipers but use a dial to read the final fraction of an inch or millimetre instead of two scales. Dial calipers are easy to read accurately.

Digital caliper: The digital caliper uses linear encoders to measure internal and external distances. This is shown on a digital display and available with metric and imperial conversions to accurately measure objects with ease.

Spring Caliper: The primary purpose of spring calipers is to measure the internal and external diameter of an object. They differentiate by the measuring edges and get their name by the spring joint that loads onto the nut. You can turn the adjuster clockwise or anti-clockwise to adjust the size of the measuring tips.

Find out more in our Complete Guide to Calipers.

Where are calipers used?

Calipers are found in industrial applications from mechanical engineering and metalworking to medicine and science.

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