The Evolution of Optical Comparators: From Inception to Now

Optical comparators have been a staple in the manufacturing industry for over a century. These machines have undergone many changes and improvements since their inception, and today they remain an essential part of the manufacturing process. Accurate Machine Tool Services takes a closer look at the evolution of optical comparators from their earliest models to the advanced machines we use today.

What Is an Optical Comparator?

An optical comparator, also known as a profile projector, is a high-precision measuring tool that is widely used in the manufacturing industry for inspecting small parts or objects. It employs an optical magnification process to project an enlarged and identical image of the part being measured onto a screen for easy inspection and measurement. The use of lights and mirrors in the process ensures the creation of a comparable and magnified version of the part, simplifying the measurement process and ensuring that all specifications are met. 

An optical comparator is particularly useful when working with parts that are difficult to measure or inspect due to their size or complexity. Through its accurate and precise measurements, the optical comparator helps manufacturers maintain quality control and meet the highest standards of production.

Exploring the History of the Optical Comparator 

The Birth of the Optical Comparator

The first optical comparators were developed in the late 1800s. They were used to measure the dimensions of small parts and were an improvement over the previous method of using a micrometer. 

Early optical comparators used a simple lens system to magnify the part being measured, and a scale was placed in the field of view to allow for precise measurements.

The Rise of the Profile Projector

In the early 1900s, the profile projector was developed. This machine used a more advanced lens system that allowed for even greater magnification and accuracy. The profile projector allowed for the measurement of more complex parts and quickly became an essential tool for leading manufacturers. 

The first commercial comparator was created by James Hartness and Russell W. Porter at the J&L Machine Co., in 1919. At first, it was also called a shadow graph. 

The Development of Electronic Optical Comparators

In the 1960s, electronic optical comparators were developed. These machines used an electronic sensor to measure the dimensions of the part being inspected. The electronic sensor allowed for greater accuracy and speed, and the readings could be displayed on a screen for easy viewing.

All About Modern Optical Comparators

Today, modern optical comparators have advanced significantly. They use advanced technology, such as optical edge detection and video measuring systems, to provide accurate and reliable measurements. Some machines even use computer software to analyze the measurements and provide detailed reports on the quality of the parts being inspected.

One of the most significant advancements in modern optical comparators is the use of digital imaging technology. This technology allows for the creation of a digital image of the part being inspected, which can then be analyzed by the machine’s software. This allows for even greater accuracy and faster measurements and virtually eliminates operator errors. 

Another advancement in modern optical comparators is the use of automated systems. These systems allow for the inspection of multiple parts at once, which can greatly increase productivity and efficiency. There are even table-top and compact 12-inch screened comparator models available. Some large models even have 30-inch or 60-inch screens for optimal viewing. 

Quality Service & Maintenance for Optical Comparators

The evolution of optical comparators has been a long and fascinating journey. From the early models that used simple lenses to the advanced machines of today that use digital imaging and automated systems, optical comparators have played a vital role in the manufacturing industry. As technology continues to advance, we can expect even more improvements in the field of optical comparators, which will make them even more valuable tools for manufacturers around the world. 

Accurate MTS offers both sophisticated maintenance plans and service by skilled and trained technicians. Contact us for machine service and sales today.