Calibrated Sieves

Several samples and a brass calibrated test sieve on the blue background.
Brass calibrated test sieve.

The sieve is inspected in accordance with the specification. Each sieve is supplied with a calibration certificate or inspection certificates giving the range of tolerances and measurements taken.

Sieving is sometimes referred to as the Cinderella of the particle-size analysis, because it performs most of the work but gets little of the credit.

New high-tech processes of Sedimentation, Laser Diffraction and Image Analysis get most of the headlines. Issues affecting the universal implementation of these methods vs. sieving are high instrument cost, calibration, extensive operator training and procedural discipline.

Sieving has occasionally a bad name because tests are sometimes performed with subpar sieve mesh. Consequently, much has been made of obtaining sieves certified via ASTM or ISO mesh standards.

Sieve certification
Optical approaches can accomplish this, either with a microscope or video image analysis. Results are presented in terms of maximum and minimum aperture size on the warp and on the weft, largest admissible openings and average openings. The number of openings measured is specified, means are calculated and a report is then generated. The proscribed optical certification methods examine only a small number of the openings -- usually less than 1 percent. For example, a 63-micron sieve has 2.5 million apertures; the ASTM method requires less than 1000 apertures. Opening size tolerances can exceed 10 percent. A 63-micron sieve has allowable tolerances of 12 microns or almost 20 percent.

Thus, a certification report can be viewed as only an insurance policy; assurance that a sieve's mesh is within a required specification. It is not a valuable predictor of a sieve' performance.

Some diamonds in the stainless steel calibrated test sieve.
Stainless steel perforated calibrated test sieve for diamond classifying.

Sieve calibration
In some circles, the development of microspheres with tolerances as tight as +/- 0.5 microns in diameter has started a revolution in thinking about sieve certification and calibration.

The re-certification or certification is an expensive and laborious process, requiring special equipment and technician patience. It should be emphasized that the end result is no more than an insurance policy and is not a true predictor of a sieve's performance. Microsphere calibration standards, however, bring the promise of not only the insurance policy that sieve calibrations are traceable, but also produce specific numerical results that predict performance of a test sieve.

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