Air gaging has many advantages as an inspection method. It is quick and easy to use, requiring little skill on the part of the operator. It is highly adaptable to measuring special features for both dimensional and geometric tolerances, ranging from simple IDs and ODs to taper, flatness, and runout. With different tooling readily installed on the gage display unit, it can be highly economical. And as a non-contact form of measurement (in the sense that there are no hard contacts), air gaging is useful for measuring delicate or flexible surfaces, and for monitoring the stability of continuous processes such as drawing and extruding.
Once the decision has been made to use air, the user can choose between three basic types of gages, each operating on a different principle. These are: the flow system; the differential pressure or balanced system; and the back-pressure system. Section K 8 In older flow-type gages, air flows upward through a graduated glass column containing a float. Exiting the column, it flows through a tube to the tooling, where it exits through precision orifices or jets. Flow increases with clearance between the jets and the workpiece. When clearance is large, air flows freely through the column and the float rises. When clearance is small, air flow decreases and the float descends. Flow systems are not very popular in production environments, because they do not readily provide high magnification, and tend to be sensitive to clogging.
Differential systems offer linear response over a relatively long range: a single master is therefore sufficient to establish the zero point and still assure excellent accuracy on both the plus and minus sides. Both differential and back-pressure systems are very well suited to production gaging applications, for different reasons. Differential systems are capable of higher magnification and discrimination; are easier to use because of greater tool-to-part clearance and the requirement for only one master; and are more stable. Back-pressure systems offer lower cost, adjustable magnification, and greater interchangeability of tooling between manufacturers. See the table for a summary of benefits associated with these gages.
Written by George Schuetz, Director of Precision Gages, Mahr Federal Inc.