The Beginners Guide to Digital Calipers

Submitted by Production Ser… on Mon, 01/31/2022 - 9:25am

Did you know that calipers have been around since the Han Dynasty ruled China from 202 BC to 220 AD?

They were originally made of bronze, and they were used to not only make measurements but also tell directions for people out at sea. Now, they're a common tool found in a lot of professional and home workshops, and they're made out of a lot more than bronze. They've withstood the test of time for users all over the world, but if you're new to digital calipers or are just starting your search, it might all feel a little daunting.

Luckily, we're here to help.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about digital calipers and what they can do for you.

What Is a Digital Caliper?

Put simply, a digital caliper is an instrument that's used to make the precision measurements of inside, outside, depth, and thickness by hand. Additional types of calipers include dial and vernier.   

Digital calipers use a digital encoder that displays measurements on a screen instead of the rack and pinion system that analog calipers display on a round dial. They're capable of reading in both metric and imperial units, and some are even capable of taking fractional measurements.

Depending on the caliper, you can also connect it to your computer, meaning measurements can be placed into a spreadsheet or statistical process control (SPC) software rather than having to record everything manually.

What To Consider When Choosing Digital Calipers

When you're looking at digital calipers, there are a lot of components to consider. With so many moving parts, you have to take special care to ensure everything works well. If you don't, it can be easy to find one with problems and poor design.


Digital calipers are traditionally going to be made of stainless steel, plastic, or carbon fiber.

Stainless steel is typically the most luxurious material, and it's reserved for higher-end calipers. It's resistant to water, dirt, and oil, and its sturdy material helps keep it from getting damaged.

Carbon fiber is a lightweight material that comes with a moderate level of durability, and it's going to be cheaper than stainless steel. It's as strong as stainless steel options, but it comes with a lot less weight. It isn't as corrosion-resistant, though, and it can deteriorate quickly if exposed to water, dirt, or UV rays.

Plastic calipers are the least expensive, and also the least durable. If you're a professional or you use calipers a lot, you're going to be better off opting for a different material.

If you're looking for an option that falls somewhere in the middle, you can find composite calipers that are a hybrid of these different materials.


One of the biggest benefits of digital calipers is their accuracy. Many digital calipers on the market today can provide measurement accuracy of +/-.001" with resolution and repeatability of .0003".  Measurement ranges span from 4.00" to 72.00".  While the electronic components that translate the distance are going to have the greatest impact on the calipers' accuracy, the material the inside and outside jaws are made of can have an effect too. 

Stainless steel options are going to give the smoothest movement of the measuring jaws, meaning a more accurate readout, but the overall accuracy also depends on your skill level and the unit itself.

Ease of Use

Taking all the measurements you need and then working to track them can be stressful enough, so making your tools work for you is a great move to make when you're getting new ones — that's what makes digital calipers a great choice.

This tool is already built to give you accurate measurements, but extra features like a large display screen, locking screw, carbide-tipped jaws, and even a textured thumbwheel can make all the difference.

How Should You Store a Digital Caliper?

Ideally, you're going to want to store your digital caliper in a dry place with low humidity. If it came with a case, you're going to want to keep it in that when it's not in use and also turn it off while inside to preserve the battery.

For the best care, you can also purchase your tool from a company that offers services to help maintain, calibrate, and repair your calipers. You might think it's easy enough to do these things yourself, but if you have access to professional services then you should take advantage when it's needed.

Digital Caliper Uses

So, what can you use digital calipers for? Here are a few examples:

Comparative Measurements

Digital calipers can also play a huge part in piecing together random parts of your projects. Smaller things like making sure certain pipes will fit inside one another can make a huge difference in how quickly certain things can get completed.

You might not think about it initially, but using your digital calipers to make comparative measurements in situations like these can be a great move for the overall efficiency of the projects you take on.

Not only can these steps help you complete things faster, but they can also help you complete them better than you have in the past.

Measure the Outside and Inside

Digital calipers are good for measuring more than the outside dimensions of objects. In fact, they're great for measuring a lot of different parts and workpieces, but they're best used for taking inside measurements as well as outside.

The inside jaws are great for this exact purpose, and so is using the depth gauge to measure different aspects of your workpiece.

These extra features might seem like something you'll never end up using, but you're likely to find that you're wrong once you start working with your caliper.

Tips for Using a Digital Caliper

Even with the best digital caliper in your hand, you need to know how to use it.

First, you're going to start with zeroing out the reading. Once it's reset and the screen says "0," you're going to turn the thumbwheel until the jaws make firm contact with the object you're measuring. For measuring the inside diameter of an object, use the inside or upper jaws; for the outside diameter, use the outside or lower jaws.

For measuring the depth of something, you're going to turn to the depth gauge.

To start, make sure the bottom of your caliper is perpendicular to the object, and then slide the thumbwheel until the tip of the gauge bottoms out.

What Is the Best Digital Caliper?

So, now that you know more about digital calipers, how can you know you're getting the best one? Well, the answer is simple, because it's going to depend on you and your needs.

Making a Decision

When you're deciding which digital caliper to purchase, the best thing you can do is consider your needs. What specific part features do you measure most often? What options do you need from your digital calipers, and which could you live without?

If you need to, sit down and make a list of the things you want, need, and can live without. Taking the extra time to plan ahead before making your final decision is going to make a world of difference, and you're going to be more confident in the choice you made.

Here are a few more things you can consider:

  • What is the accuracy that is required of the measurements you take most consistently. 
  • What is your budget?
  • How harsh is the environment you are working in?
  • Do you have a favorite brand?
  • Would you like the data collected to be imported into an SPC based system?

In reviewing these questions, you might be surprised at the number of tools that'll get ticked off your list based on that consideration alone. Considering the other tools you have access too can also help determine what you'll use the calipers for.

Advantages of Digital Calipers

There are plenty of advantages that come with using digital calipers that have been discussed within this article. In short, they are best used for quick accurate measurements that can be taken by hand. They are accurate, durable, easy to read, and easy to use. This is why most precision manufacturing environments are filled with digital calipers.

Access the Best Tools Today

Now that we've gone over the basics of using and owning digital calipers, you're ready to get started. Whether you're a dedicated DIYer searching for an upgrade or a professional looking to get the most out of your toolkit, digital calipers can help you get there.

Luckily, Production Service Co. is the perfect place to start your search for the best precision measurement tools. Our experienced staff is ready and willing to help you choose the best make and model for your specific application. 

You can check out our website today for more details, or contact us at to get answers to all of your questions.

Subscribe to receive more of our inspection related content