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A comparators works on relative measurements, i.e. to say, it gives only dimensional differences
in relation to a basic dimension. So a comparator has to compare the unknown dimensions of a
part with some standard or master setting which represents the basic size and dimensional
variations from the master setting have to be amplified and measured. The advantages of
comparators are that not much skill is required on the part of operator in its use. Further the
calibration of instrument over full range is of no importance as comparison is done with a
standard end length. Zero error of instrument also does not lead to any problem. Since range of
indication is very small, being the deviation from set value, a high magnification resulting into
great accuracy is possible. The comparators are generally used for linear measurements, and
various comparators available differ principally in the method used for amplifying and recording
the variations measured. According to the principles used for obtaining suitable degrees of
magnification of the indicating device relative to the change in the dimension being measured,
the various comparators may be classified as follows :

(1) Mechanical comparators.

(2) Mechanical-optical comparators.

(3) Electrical and Electronic comparators.

(4) Pneumatic comparators.

(5) Fluid displacement comparators.

(6) Projection comparators.

(7) Multi-check comparators.

(8) Automatic gauging machines.

Characteristics of Comparators:-

Before we discuss the various types of comparators, let us first look into various fundamental
requirements which every comparator must fulfill. These are as follows:

(i) The instrument must be of robust design and construction so as to withstand the effect of
ordinary usage without impairing its measuring accuracy.

(ii) The indicating devices must be such that readings are obtained in least possible time and
for this, magnification system used should be such that the readings are dead beat. The system
should be free from backlash, and wear effects and the inertia, should be minimum possible.

(iii) Provision must be made for maximum compensation for temperature effects.
(iv) The scale must be linear and must have straight line characteristic.

(v) Indicator should be constant in its return to zero.

(vi) Instrument, though very sensitive, must withstand a reasonable ill usage without permanent

(vii) Instrument must have the maximum versatility, i.e., its design must be such that it can be
used for a wide range of operations.

(viii) Measuring pressure should be low and constant.

Uses of Comparators

The various ways in which the comparators can be used are as follows :

(1) In mass production, where components are to be checked at a very fast rate.

(2) As laboratory standards from which working or inspection, gauges are set and correlated.

(3) For inspecting newly purchased gauges.

(4) Attached with some machines, comparators can be used as working gauges to prevent work
spoilage and to maintain required tolerances at all stages of manufacturing.

(5) In selective assembly of parts, where parts are graded in three groups depending upon their
tolerance. And these comparators, magnification is obtained by mechanical linkages and other
mechanical devices.


1. Systems of Displacement Amplification used in Mechanical Comparators

(i) Rack and Pinion. In it the measuring spindle integral with a rack, engages a pinion which
amplifies the movement of plunger through a gear train.

(ii) Cam and gear train. In this case the measuring spindle acts on a cam which transmits the
motion to the amplifying gear train.
(iii) Lever with toothed sector. In this case a lever with a toothed sector at its end engages a
pinion in the hub of a crown gear sector which further meshes with a final pinion to produce

(iv) Compound Levers. Here levers forming a couple with compound action are conneaed
through segments and pinion to produce final pointer movement.

(v) Twisted Taut Strip. The movement of measuring spindle tilts the knee causing
strainingwhich further causes the twisted taut band to rotate proportionally. The motion of strip
is displayed by the Attached pointer.
(vi) Lever combined with band wound around drum. In this case, the movement of the
measuring spindle tilts the hinged block, causing swing of the fork which induces rotation of the

( vii) Reeds combined with optical display. In this case parallelogram reeds are used which
transfer measuring spindle movement to a deflecting reed whose extension carries a target
utilized in optical path.

(viii) Tilting mirror projecting light spots.

2. Dial Indicator. One of the most commonly used mechanical comparators is essentially of the
same type as a dial indicator. It consists of a robust base whose surface is perfectly flat and a
pillar carrying a bracket in which is incorporated a spindle and indicator. The linear movement of
the spindle is magnified by means of a gear and pinion train into sizable rotation of the pointer
on the dial scale. The indicator is set to zero by the use of slip gauges representing the basic size
of the part. This is generally used for inspection of small precision-machined parts. This type of
comparator can be used with various attachments so that it may be suitable for large number of
works. With a V-block attachment it can be used for checking out-of-roundness of a cylindrical

3. The Johansson Mikrokator. This comparator was made by C.F. Johansson Ltd. and
therefore named so. It is shown diagrammatically in Fig. below. This instrument uses the
simplest and most ingenious method for obtaining the mechanical magnification designed by H.
Abramson which is called Abramson Movement. It works on the principle of a button spinning
on a loop of string. A twisted thin metal strip carries at the centre of its length a very light pointer
made of thin glass. The two halves of the strip from the centre are twisted in opposite directions
so that any pull on the strip will cause the centre to rotate. One end of the strip is fixed to the
adjustable cantilever strip and the other end is anchored to the spring elbow, one arm of which is
carried on the measuring plunger. As the measuring plunger moves either upwards or down-
wards, the elbow acts as a bell crank lever and causes twisted strip to change its length thus
making it further twist or untwist. Thus the pointer at the centre of the twisted strip rotates by an
amount proportional to the change in length of strip and hence proportional to the plunger

The bell crank lever is formed of flexible strips with a diogonal which is relatively stiff. The
length of cantilever can be varied to adjust the magnification of the instrument. Since the centre
line of the strip is straight even when twisted therfore, it is directly stretched by the tension
applied to the strip. Thus in order to prevent excessive stress on the central portion, the strip is
perforated along the centre line by perforations as shown in Fig. below

It can be shown that the amplification of instrument.

d/dl l/w2n

where is the twist of mid-point of strip with respect to the end, l is the length of twisted strip
measured along its netural axis and w is the width of twisted strip and n is the number of turns.

It is thus obvious that in order to increase the amplification of the instrument, a very thin
rectangular strip must be used. Further amplification can be adjusted by the cantilever strip
which also provides anchorage. It increases or decreases effective length of strip. Final setting of
the instrument amplification is made by a simpla adjustment of the free length of cantilever strip.

A slit C washer as shown in Fig. above is used for the lower mounting of plunger. Thus this
instrument has no mechanical points or slides at which wear can take place. The magnification of
the instrument is of the order of X 5000.

4. Reed Type Mechanical Comparator. In mechanical comparator, the gauging head is usually
a sensitive, high quality, dial indicator mounted on a base supported by a sturdy column. Fig.
below shows the reed type mechanical comparator.
The reed mechanism is frictionless device for magnifying small motions of spindle. It consists of
a fixed block A which is rigidly fastened to the gauge head case, and floating block B, which
carries the gauging spindle and is connected horizontally to the fixed block by reeds C. A ver-
tical reed is attached to each block with upper ends joined together. These vertical reeds are
shown in the figure by letter D. Beyond this joint extends a pointer or target. A linear motion of
the spindle moves the free block vertically causing the vertical reed on the floating block to slide
past the vertical reed on the fixed block. However, as spindle these vertical reeds are joined at
the upper end, instead of slip ping, the movement causes both reeds swing through an arc and as
the target is merely an extension of the vertical reeds, it swings through a much wider arc. The
amount of target swing is proportional to the distance the floating block has moved but of course
very much magnified.

The scale may be calibrated by means of gauge block (slip gauges) to indicate any deviation
from an initial setting.

Comparators using this type of linkage have sensitivities of the order of 0.25 micron per scale

The mechanical amplification is usually less than 100, but it is multiplied by the optical lens
system. It is available in amplifications ranging from X 500 to X 1000.
5. The Sigma Comparator. Fig. below shows the constructional details of the Sigma
Mechanical Comparator.

The vertical beam is mounted on flat steel springs A connected to fixed members, which in trun
are screwed to a backplate. The assembly provides a frictionless movement with a restraint from
the springs.

The shank B at the base of the vertical beam is arranged to take a measuring contact, selecting
from the available range.

The stop C is provided to restrict movement at the lower extremity of the scale.

Mounted on the fixed members, is the hinged assembly D carrying the forked arms E. This
assembly incorporates a hardened fulcrum (provided with means for adjustment of controlling
the ratio of transmitted motion) operative on the face of a jewelled insert on the flexible portion
of the assembly.

The metal ribbon F, attached to the forked arms, passes round the spindle G causing it to rotate in
specially designed miniature ball bearings. Damping action to the movement is affected by a
metal disc, mounted on the spindle, rotating in a magnetic field between a permanent magnet and
a steel plate. The indicating pointer H is secured to a boss on the disc.

The trigger J (opposite K) is used to protect the measuring contact. At the upper end of the
vertical beam, an adjusting screw is provided for final zero setting of the scale.

A new patented feature is shown at K. This is a magnetic counter-balance which serves to

neutralise the positive rate of springs reaching on the measuring tip. In this way a constant
pressure over the whole scale range is achieved.
The instrument is available with vertical capacities of 150 mm, 300 mm and 600 mm and
magnifications of 500, 1000,1500,3000 and 5000. The scales are graduated in both English and
Metric systems.

The least count which one division represents is of the order of 0.25 microns.

Advantage : It has got a bold scale and larger indicating pointer.

Disadvantages :

(i) Due to motion of the parts, there is wear in the moving parts.

(ii) It is not as sensitive as optical or other type of comparator due to friction being present in the
moving parts.

6. Diagrammatic sketch showing the movement of sigma comparator. The various

movements in the sigma comparator discussed in Art,will be very clear with the help of Fig.
below which shows the various movements in diagrammatic form.

The plunger in Fig. below is mounted on a pair of slit diaphragms in order to have frictioneless
linear movement. A knife edge is mounted on it and bears upon the face of the moving member
of a cross strip hinge. For details of cross strip hinge refer second Fig below. The cross strip
hinge consists of the moving component and a fixed member which are connected by thin
flexible strips alternately at right angle to each other. Thus if an external force is applied to the
moving member ; it will pivot, as would a hinge, about the line of intersection of the strips.

To the moving member an arm of Y shape and having effective length l is attached. If the
distance of the hinge from the knife edge be a then the magnification of the first stage is l/a.
A phosphor-bronze strip is attached to the two extremities of the Y arm and is passed round a
radius r attached to the pointer spindle. If the length of pointer be R, then R/r is the second stage
of magnification. Thus total magnification is l/a * R/r.

In order to adjust the magnification, distance a must be- changed by slackening and tightening
the two screws attaching the knife edge to the plunger.

Some of the interesting features of the instrument are :

(1) As the knife edge moves away from the moving member of the hinge and is followed by it,
therefore, if too robust movement of the plunger is made due to shock load, that will not be trans-
mitted through the movement.

(2) By mounting a non-ferrous disc on the pointer spindle and making it move in field of a
permanent magnet, dead beat readings can be obtained.

(3) The error due to parallax is avoided by having a reflective strip on the scale.

(4) The constant measuring pressure over the range of the instrument is obtained by the use of
a magnet plunger on the frame and a keeper bar on the top of the plunger. As the plunger is
raised the force required increases but the keeper bar approaches the magnet and the magnetic
attraction between the two increases. Thus as the deflecting force increases, the assistance by the
magnet increases and total force remains constant.

7. Mechanical Comparator. The diagram of a type which is used for comparative measurement
of external surfaces is shown in Fig.(a) below. In this instrument the movement of the measuring
tip attached at the end of the spindle is transmitted to the pointer through a mechanism shown in
Fig. (b) below. The upper end of the spindle bears against a rocking prism (knife-edge). There is
a frame member having two V-slots offset to each other by distance a. The end of the spindle
rests against the first V-slot and its movement is transmitted to this frame through a prism. A
knife edge which is stationary relative to the body of the instrument enters the upper V-slot. The
apex of the upper knife-edge is the centre for all the moving parts of the comparator. The
distance a between the V-slots forms the shorter lever arm of the system, whereas, the longer
lever arm is the distance L from the centre of rotation of the system to the other end of hand,
which moves along the comparator scale. Thus the magnification of the instrument is L/a and is
of the order of 1000. The contact pressure is of the order of 300 to 400 grams and is provided by
a spring. The use of knife-edge pivots in the comparator movement excludes the influence of
possible clearance in the pivots on the accuracy of this instrument.

Advantages of Mechanical Comparators

(i) These are usually cheaper in comparison to other devices of amplifying.

(ii) These do not require any external supply such as electricity or air and as such the
variations in outside supplies do not affect the accuracy.

(iii) Usually the machanical comparators have linear scale which is easily understood.

(iv) These are usually robust and compact and easy to handle.

(v) For ordinary workshop conditions, these are suitable and being portable can be issued from
a store.


(i) The mechanical comparators have got more moving parts than other types. Due to more
moving parts, the friction is more and ultimately the accuracy is less.

(ii) Any slackness in moving parts reduces the accuracy considerably.

(iii) The mechanism has more inertia and this may cause the instruments to be sensitive to

(iv) The range of the instrument is limited as the pointer moves over a fixed scale.

(v) Error due to parallax is possible as the moving pointer moves over a fixed scale.

Advantages of Optical Comparators

(i) It has small number of moving parts and hence a higher accuracy.

(ii) In the optical comparators, the scale can be made to move past a datum line and thus have
high range and no parallax errors.

(iii) It has very high magnification.

(iv) Optical lever is weightless.


(i) As the instrument has high magnification, heat from the lamp, transformer etc. may cause
the setting to drift.

(ii) An electrical supply is necessary.

(iii) The apparatus is usually large and expensive.

(iv) When the scale is projected on a screen, then it is essential to use the instrument in a dark
room in order to take the reading easily.

(v) The instruments in which the scale is viewed through the eyepiece of a microscope are not
convenient for continuous use.

Advantages of Electrical Comparators

(i) The electrical comparators have got small number of moving parts.

(ii) It is possible to have a very high magnification and the same instrument may have two or
more magnifications. Thus the same instrument can be used for various ranges.

(iii) The mechanism carrying the pointer is very light and not sensitive to vibrations.

(iv) As the instrument is usually operated on A.C. supply, the cyclic vibration substantially
reduces errors due to sliding friction.
(v) The measuring unit can be made very small and it is not necessary that the indicating
instrument be close to the measuring unit, rather it can be remote also.


(i)It requires an external agency to operate i.e., the A.C. electrical supply. Thus the variations in
voltage or frequency of electric supply may affect the accuracy.

(ii)Heating of coils in the measuring unit may cause zero drift and alter the calibration.

(iii)If only a fixed scale is used with a moving pointer then with high magnifications a very small
range is obtained.

(iv)This is usually more expensive than mechanical instrument.

Advantages of Pneumatic Comparators

(i) The gauging member does not come into contact with the part to be measured and hence
practically no wear takes place on the gauging member.

(ii) It has usually very small number of moving parts and in some cases none. Thus the
accuracy is more due to less friction and less inertia.

(iii) Measuring pressure is very small and the jet of air helps in cleaning the dust, if any, from
the part to be measured.

(iv) It is possible to have very high magnification.

(v) The indicating instrument can be remote from the measuring unit.

(vi) It is very suitable device for measuring diameter of holes where the diameter is small
compared with the length.

(vii) It is probably the best method for determining the ovality and taperness of the circular


(i) It requires elaborate auxiliary equipment such as accurate pressure regulator.

(ii) The scale is generally not uniform.

(iii) When indicating device is the glass tube, then high magnification is necessary in order to
avoid the meniscus errors.

(iv) The apparatus is not easily portable and is rather elaborate for many industrial applications.
(v) Different gauging heads are required for different dimensions.

Mechanical Optical Comparators

In mechanical optical comparators small displacements of the measuring plunger are amplified
first by a mechanical system consisting of pivoted levers. The amplified mechanical movement is
further amplified by a simple optical system involving the projection of an image. The usual
arrangement employed is such that the mechanical system causes a plane reflector to tilt about an
axis and the image of an index is projected on a scale on the inner surface of a ground-glass
screen. Optical magnification provides high degree of measuring precision due to reduction of
moving members and better wear resistance qualities. Optical magnification is also free from
friction, bending, wear etc.

The whole system could be explained diagrammatically by Fig. below, which gives very simple
arrangement and explains the principle of above comparator.

In this system,

Mechanical amplification= l2/l1

and Optical amplification =

l4/l3 * 2.

It is multiplied by 2, because if mirror is tilted by an angle , then image will be tilted by 2 *


Thus overall magnification of this system=2*l2/l1 * l4/l3.

Thus it is obvious that optical comparators are capable of giving a high degree of measuring
precision owing to high magnification and the reduction of moving members to minimum.
Further these possess better wear resistance qualities as the only wearing members are the
plunger and its guide and the mirror pivot bearing. Another advantage of the optical comparators
is that provision of an illuminated scale enables readings to be taken without regard to the room
lighting conditions. The point of importance in optical comparator is that mirror used must be of
front reflection type and not of normal back reflection type. In normal back reflection type there
are two reflected images, one each from front and back. Thus the reflected image is not well
defined one, as one bright and other blurred image are observed. If front reflection type of mirror
is used, then it requires considerable care in its use to avoid damage to the reflecting surfaces.

1. Zeiss Ultra-optimeter. The optical system of this instrument involves double reflection of
light and thus gives higher degree of magnification.

A lamp sends light rays to green filter, which filters all but green light, which is less fatiguing to
the eye. The green light then passes to a condenser which via an index mark projects it on to a
movable mirror M1, whence it is reflected to another fixed mirror M2, and then back again to the
first moveable mirror. The second objective lens brings the reflected beam from the first mirror
to a focus at a transparent graticule containing a precise scale which
is viewed by the eye-piece. The projected image of index line on the graticule can be adjusted by
means of screw in order to set the zero. When correctly adjusted, the image of the index line is
seen against that of the graticule scale. The special end of the contact plunger rests against the
outer end of the first movable mirror so that any vertical movement of the plunger will tilt the
mirror. The extreme sensitivity of this instrument necessitates special precautions in its operation
to avoid temperature effects.

2. Zeiss Optotest Comparator. This is the commercial measuring instrument. This utilises a
plunger titled mirror, objective lens, prism and observing eye-piece to provide a high degree of
magnification. The mirror is mounted on a knife-edge and it can be tilted about the fulcrum by
any linear vertical movement of the contact plunger. A beam of light passes through a graticule
suitably engraved with a linear scale and the movement of mirror causes this scale to move up or
down past a translucent screen inside the observing hood of the instrument. The eye placed near
the eye-piece views the image of a small scale engraved on glass after reflection from the
plunger actuated mirror and the prism in the plan view in Fig. below.

In the focal plane of the eye-piece, a fine reference line (Index) is provided and the system of
lenses is so arranged that the image of the scale is projected in the same focal plane. Thus with
movement of scale the image can be measured with reference to the fixed line. The division of
the scale image opposite the index line indicates the amount of movement of contact plunger.
The image of the scale and the index line could also be viewed through a

projection system. The overall magnification of the comparator is given by 2f/d * Eye-piece
magnification, where f is the focal length of the lens and d is the distance between the knife-
edge and the plunger.
3. Newall OMS Horizontal Optimeter

The comparator is designed for very high magnification. It can measure very accurately with
great precision in horizontal direction. It is very useful for measuring the internal and external
dimensions of cylindrical gauges, screw gauges and thickness gauges.

The instrument consists of a cast iron base with three leveling screws and a spirit level for setting
instrument horizontal. Two brackets are mounted on a transverse bar carried through the base.
The brackets are kept in alignment by a keyway and a spline, and carry an optical measuring
head and a tailstock respectively. The transverse bar is spiral grooved to allow easy and quick
lengthwise adjustment of bracket. There are other attachments also on the base for various
works. A vertically adjustable with both titling and lengthwise movements is also housed in the
base. Interchangeable heavy and light duty contact arms are provided for internal measuring and
a centre cradle for male cylindrical work.

4. Eden-Rolt Millionth Comparator. This comparator utilises both mechanical and optical
magnifications and thus is highly sensitive one. Its design is simple and economical. The
mechanical amplifying device utilises a parallel strip support, consisting of a fixed and a moving
block connected together by parallel thin strips. The ends of fixed and moving strips through two
pointer strips are connected to a pointer arm which carries at its end a ring across which is
stretched a spider web. A reference gauge is placed between a fixed anvil and movable
measuring block. The slight movement of moving block through pointer strip causes the pointer
arm to be deflected as shown in Fig. below. The spider web at the end of the pointer arm is not
viewed directly but it is projected through an optical system on a scale as shown in second Fig.
below. If a be
the distance between the pointer strips and l be length of pointer arm, then for movement of
movable member, angular deflection of pointer strips = /a and linear displacement of web=/a *
Therefore, Mechanical amplification = /a * l = l/a, which is of the order of 400.

The optical magnification is of the order of 50, thus overall magnification is around 20,000.

Multicheck Comparators

Now-a-days modern trend in comparison is towards the inspection of all dimensions at the same
time, as it is economical procedure. It is particularly desired where various dimensions have
some relationship with each other, e.g., diameter and concentricity measurement. This job is
done by multicheck comparators, which are of the following types and incorporate the following
systems of amplication.

(a) Electrical, (b) Air, (c) Combination air-electric.

1. Electric Multichecks. This is combination gauge incorporating about twenty or more

electrical-check heads to measure simultaneously a number of dimensions of one part. For each
dimension, there is one measuring head and signal lights for each dimension indicate whether it
is within tolerance, undersize or oversize.

The instrument is used for high production checking and chances of any error in any dimension
are less. As it will not be desirable to see all the lights for various dimensions, a master signal
light is used to integrate all the individual lights, and inspector has to watch only one light. On
seeing the master light warning individual signal lights are examined. This instrument is well
suited for all sizes of works.

2. Air Multichecks. In this instrument, group of air comparators are set up to check a number of
dimensions. In this type of instrument, initially some difficulty is experienced in setting the
various comparators to check various dimensions and to arrange them in compact form. But once
this is done things become very- easy. In one setting all the dimensions can be checked and the
time of inspection is reduced considerably. Mass inspection becomes possible and high quality
can be ensured.

3. An air Electric Multicheck. This makes use of both types of comparators. It is very easy to
use air comparator for checking diameter and concentricity, so for this purpose air comparator is
used, while for other measurements electric-checks are used.

4. Automatic Gauging Machines. These machines incorporate comparator amplifying methods

and are similar to multicheck devices. They eliminate manual inspection and parts are inspected
for all the dimensions simultaneously and segregated and classified automatically.