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Shock and Vibration Shock accelerometers are specifically

designed to withstand and measure

Calibration of
extreme, high-amplitude, short-duration
Accelerometers accelerations often associated with
transients. Such accelerations
characteristically exceed the range limit
Marco Peres, found on other typical vibration
The Modal Shop, Cincinnati, Ohio accelerometer designs. Several
Robert D. Sill,
PCB Piezotronics, Advanced Design Center, applications for shock accelerometers
San Clemente, California are found in the areas of automotive
engineering and human safety (Figure
2), aerospace, military and weapons
Figure 1: Accelerometer Calibration Workstation applications, package and drop testing,
next to an electrodynamic air bearing calibration pyroshock events and explosive studies,
Shock and vibration phenomena are shaker [1].
present around us in everything that projectile impacts, etc.
moves. If something moves, it Comparison methods are normally
experiences acceleration. Measurement performed by back-to-back
of this acceleration helps us gain a measurements against a reference
higher understanding of the nature of standard to measure sensitivity,
the motion, understanding that increases linearity, frequency and phase response
our awareness of an event or [2]. The sensor under test (SUT) is
encourages refinement of the mounted in a back-to-back arrangement
engineering design of a moving device. with a standard reference accelerometer
(the reference having traceability to
Accelerometers are inertial transducers primary calibration). Since the motion
that can sense mechanical motion and input is the same for both devices, the
convert it into an electrical quantity that ratio of their outputs is also the ratio of Figure 2: crash test dummy.
may be conveniently measured or their sensitivities and the sensitivity Ssut
recorded. The accelerometer, either of the SUT can be calculated as: Transient accelerations can be very
alone or with other electrical large, possibly stressing the sensors to
Ssut = Sref • (Vsut/Vref) • (Gref / Gsut) (1) non-linear regions of operation. It is
components, produces an electrical
output signal related to the applied highly desirable to test the
Sref is the reference transducer sensitivity accelerometers at levels typical of the
motion. Accurate accelerometer Vsut is the SUT output (in mV or pC)
calibration is a way to provide physical Vref is the reference sensor output (in mV or pC). actual measurement. In general, shock
meaning to this electrical output and it Gsut is the SUT gain (in mV/mV or mV/pC) acceleration events may easily exceed
Gref is the reference gain (in mV/mV or mV/pC). 5,000 gn or more with pulse durations of
is a prerequisite for quality
measurements. less than 10 ms (1 gn = 9.80665 m/s2).
Both sensors can be mounted to an Many test laboratories will shock
electrodynamic shaker driven with a calibrate each sensor before and after
The manufacturer of an accelerometer sinusoidal vibration and the sensitivity
subjects the design to a wide variety of every test to check if the transducer
of the SUT is measured at that survived and to validate the acquired
tests to determine output due to a large particular frequency. Sweeping through
number of inputs. Output characteristics data.
the desired range of frequencies then
commonly measured include sensitivity, generates a frequency response curve of
frequency response, resonant frequency, Since the acceleration levels available
the SUT. on calibration-quality shakers are not
amplitude linearity, transverse
sensitivity, temperature response, time adequate to test shock accelerometers at
Air bearing shakers are the preferable full scale levels, different techniques are
constant, capacitance, and the other type of electrodynamic shaker to be
environmental effects (base strain needed. ISO 16063-22 specifically
used, as they can provide the highest describes instrumentation and
sensitivity, magnetic sensitivity, etc). quality of pure single degree of freedom procedures to be used for secondary
vibration over the widest frequency shock calibration of accelerometers,
A subset of these parameters is typically range, while minimizing the transverse
tested in a dedicated ‘back to back’ using a reference acceleration, velocity
motion and distortion found on other or force measurement for the time-
calibration system for laboratory use, electrodynamic shakers. [3]
shown in Figure 1. Computer- dependent shock comparison [4]. The
controlled accelerometer calibration methods are applicable in a shock pulse
One limitation of most shakers, duration range of 0.05 ms to 8.0 ms, and
workstations not only automate the however, is that the acceleration levels
sometimes tedious calibration process a dynamic range (peak value) of 10 gn
possible are inadequate for the complete to 10,000 gn (time-dependent). The
but also help minimize human errors calibration of low sensitivity
and enhance system repeatability and resulting data allow the transducer
accelerometers designed for shock shock sensitivity to be obtained.
accuracy. applications.
An example of the most common shock 16063-22 mentions the Hopkinson bar
technique, a pneumatic shock exciter, is method but a maximum level of 10,000
shown in Figure 3. This system can gn is specified, which has reference to
perform calibration and linearity checks primary methodologies (see ISO 16063-
up to 10,000 gn and is one of the most 13 for details [6]). Last but not least,
versatile anvil shock type devices pendulum and drop ball apparatus are
available for shock calibration (in terms also described on the ISO 16063-22 and
of amplitude range, pulse duration, can alternatively be used for shock
repeatability, and traceability to primary calibration.
calibration methodologies).


[2] ISO 16063-21, Methods for the calibration of

vibration and shock transducers — Part 21:
Vibration calibration by comparison to a reference
Figure 4: test transducer, reference transducer, [3] Dosch, Jeffrey, Air Bearing Shaker for
and anvil mounting arrangement detail Precision Calibration of Accelerometers, IMAC
Printed calibration certificates fulfilling
the requirements set forth by ISO 17025 [4] ISO 16063-22 Methods for the calibration of
can be easily generated, and calibration vibration and shock transducers — Part 22: Shock
results can be stored in open database calibration by comparison to a reference
Figure 3: 9155C-525 pneumatic shock exciter format for ease of retrieval and data
management. The system can also test [5] Dosch, Jeffrey, Lin Jing, “Hopkinson Bar
In this exciter a regulated air pressure accelerometers for other characteristics, Acceptance Testing for Shock Accelerometers”,
drives a projectile to impact an “anvil” such as zero shift, ringing, and non- Sound and Vibration, February 1999.
to which transducers are mounted as linearity. Figure 5 shows a typical
shown in Figure 4. A pilot-operated [6] ISO 16063-13:2001, Methods for the
screen shot of the measured shock and calibration of vibration and shock transducers —
poppet valve is used to quickly release the calibration results produced with the Part 13: Primary shock calibration using laser
the controlled pressure, which controls pneumatic exciter described above. interferometry.
the amount of linear momentum transfer
in an impact. Pressure pulse duration
and level can be finely tuned to provide The authors can be contacted at:
precise control and ease of use
adjustment of the projectile shock
levels. An assortment of anvils with
different padding stiffness
characteristics is available to adjust the
acceleration and pulse duration
resulting from the impact. The anvil
assembly is inserted into the guide at
the end of the barrel in which a Figure 5: calibration output results for a shock
sensor tested from 2,000gn to 10,000gn
projectile is launched. A mechanism
acceleration levels.
with “fingers” slides over the assembly,
which catches the transducers during A time domain polynomial
their upward flight. Each finger approximation of the shock pulses is
mechanism has an interlock safety performed according to ISO-16063-22
switch that disables the system if it is to calculate the peak output values of
not in position. the two sensors and the sensitivity value
for the SUT is calculated using equation
(1) described before.

Other methods for shock calibration

include well-described Hopkinson bar
systems, which are particularly suitable
for testing sensors under extremely high
shock levels normally ranging from
10,000 gn up to 200,000 gn. A previous
article published in this magazine [5] 3149 E. Kemper Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45241 USA
provides very good details on the 513-351-9919 800-860-4867
Hopkinson bar calibration method. ISO