Automated System to Assist in Gauge Block Calibration

Navy SBIR 22.1 - Topic N221-009
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Opens: January 12, 2022 - Closes: February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est)

N221-009 TITLE: Automated System to Assist in Gauge Block Calibration

OUSD (R&E) MODERNIZATION PRIORITY: Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML);Autonomy

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials / Processes

OBJECTIVE: Design and develop an automated system to assist in the gauge block calibration process.

DESCRIPTION: The Navy Primary Standards Laboratory (NPSL) and the Navy Calibration Laboratory Lakehurst (LAL) provide specialized calibration support throughout the Navy. One of the primary calibration procedures they perform is gauge block calibration. This process involves calibrating a precise length measurement machine using calibrated gauge blocks. The block, or blocks, being used must be placed on a precise position on the measuring machine. Measuring machines currently in use at the facilities include the Labmaster Universal Measuring System Model 175, and the Precimar Models 130B-24 and 130B-16. As the task is currently performed by hand, the operators regularly run into an issue where the heat from their hands causes the blocks to expand, and affects the blocks’ dimensions. The operators handle the gauge blocks with gloves in order to mitigate this effect, but enough heat is still transferred to affect the measurements. When this occurs, blocks have to be left sitting untouched for up to a few hours to return to normal dimensions. This can introduce delays and increased costs.

This SBIR topic seeks to develop an automated system that can perform some or all of this calibration process. This would greatly reduce required operator time, freeing up resources for alternate tasks. This would also reduce any delays, as tasks using the system could be run consecutively.

In particular, the system must meet the following block and measurement device specifications:

  • Block sizes range from < 1 in. (< 2.54 cm) to approximately 24 in. (60.96 cm) in length.
  • Blocks are stored in several standard containers near the measurement device.
  • Blocks must be placed on a planar surface in a designated position with a minimum accuracy of 0.03125 in. (0.07937 cm) and an ideal accuracy of 0.01 in. (0.0254 cm).
  • The measurement device has a free working dimension of 1.5 in. by 3 in. (3.81 cm by 7.62 cm). The solution must not make contact with the measurement device outside of this area.
  • The system should capture the output from the measurement device.
  • Total thermal output of the system should prevent raising the temperature of the room more than 0.2 °F (-17.66 °C) to maintain repeatable calibrations.

While there are precision robotic systems in other domains such as medical robotics [Ref 4], none have been evaluated for use in this type of situation, including the accuracy requirements and the ability to handle the wide range of gauge block sizes. This calibration procedure requires precise manipulation and placement of these blocks within the test stand. The key barrier is ensuring that the process is repeatable and reliable to operate without user supervision while still meeting all calibration process requirements. If successful, this solution could be adapted to additional calibration labs or other similar processes.

PHASE I: Design and develop an initial concept that can meet the stated requirements for the calibration system. Demonstrate feasibility of the system concept to perform the calibration procedure subject to those requirements. The system concept does not have to perform all steps in the procedure, it must only demonstrate that the steps are likely to work and meet the acceptance criteria through benchtop tests. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop a working prototype. Integrate the functions demonstrated in Phase I into a working system that meets all performance requirements. Demonstrate the prototype in a lab or live environment.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Perform final testing for verification of requirements by the calibration stakeholders. Following success in final tests, the system will be transitioned into use at naval calibration facilities.

Companies that develop complex mechanical systems, such as defense contractors, and university research laboratories utilize metrology facilities to accurately measure mechanical components. As gauge blocks are a commonly utilized method of calibrating measurement equipment, an automated system that can perform the calibration task would be a valuable acquisition for any of those companies and groups. In addition, though the goal of this topic is to develop a system targeted at the requirements of the described calibration task, the precise manipulation and repeatability requirements would have potential use in many applications where an automated system needs to precisely manipulate small objects, such as pick-and-place operations and assembly portions of manufacturing processes.


  1. Doiron, T. & Beers, J. (n.d.). The gauge block handbook. National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  2. Pratt & Whitney. (2012). Labmaster universal measuring system. Pratt & Whitney.
  3. Mahr. (n.d.). Precimar 130B-24: Gage block comparator 130B-24. Mahr.
  4. Beasley, R. A. (2012, August 12). Medical robots: Current systems and research directions (F. Janabi-Sharifi, Ed.). Journal of Robotics. Hindawi.

KEYWORDS: Automation; Metrology; Robotics; Calibration; Robotic Manipulation; Robotic Grasping


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 22.1 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its 22.1 SBIR BAA pre-release on December 1, 2021, which opens to receive proposals on January 12, 2022, and closes February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est).

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