NIST logo
Bookmark and Share

Dimensional Measurement Services


The Dimensional Measurement Services Project within the Semiconductor & Dimensional Metrology Division (683) of the Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) realizes and disseminates the SI units of length, concentrates on dimensional measurements in the range of a few micrometers to one meter, and provides the delivery of those measurements, standards and infrastructural technology services that promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness.

We also maintain and develop the advanced interferometric systems required to transfer the frequency-based realization of the SI length scale to physical artifacts. We perform research into advancing the state of the art of coordinate dimensional metrology and developing methods to quantify the performance evaluation of dimensional measurement instrumentation. We actively support international and national dimensional metrology standards committees by our participation and leadership and with emphasis on rigorous uncertainty evaluation.


The Dimensional Measurement Services project provides industry high accuracy dimensional measurements within an internationally accepted quality system. These measurements span the dimensional metrology needs over length scales ranging from micrometers to meters. Our measurements are targeted to provide measurement results that are either of very high value to our customers or high leverage into the industrial metrology community where a single calibration may propagate into hundreds or thousands of subsequent measurement results. This is accomplished by taking state-of-the-art equipment and optimizing the performance using superior environmental control, process development, and other metrology techniques. Rigorous focus on continuous improvement and flexibility of our measurement systems result in state of the art traditional measurement services and in many cases unique capability unmatched at the industrial or NMI level. Research efforts target industrial needs for smaller uncertainty, faster turnaround, and expanded measurement capabilities.

Figure 2. NIST M48 Coordinate Measuring Machine.
Figure 2. NIST M48 Coordinate Measuring Machine.

Selected Publications on Dimensional Metrology:

Arrow Gage Blocks
Arrow Uncertainty and Statistics
Arrow Other Calibrations
Arrow Measurement Assurance
Arrow 20-Degree Celsius Paper

Major Accomplishments:

  • Acquired two additional M48 Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs) courtesy of Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) and Lawerance Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Once online, these additional CMM's will increase our capacity to deliver high accuracy coordinate measurements leading to more readily available access for customer measurement requests, limited disruptions due to maintenance and repair, and will provide at least one machine dedicated to measurement research.
  • Improved the throughput efficiency of our gage block interferometer, used for master and customer gage block interferometry (L < 100 mm), by up to 25 % through the retrofitting of the instrument with a camera and the development of a computer algorithm for semi-automated fringe fraction analysis.
  • Improved efficiency and uncertainty of the interferometric measurement of ball diameter. Process improvements include image acquisition by camera, automated fringe analysis, and novel automated measurement force adjustment using a voice coil. Uncertainties for specific marked diameters of 12 nm or better (k=2) can now be achieved with a factor of 10 improvement in efficiency versus the previous process. 
Figure 1. Measurement of API Rotary Master Gauge on CMM. © Robert Rathe
Figure 1. Measurement of API Rotary Master Gauge on CMM. © Robert Rathe

Lead Organizational Unit:



  • The Dimensional Measurement Services Project receives more than $1.0M in measurement income from over 400 industrial, government, and international customers.

Facilities/Tools Used:

  • Advanced Measurement Laboratory (
  • American Petroleum Institute Grand Master Facility


NIST cylinder
Figure 3. Redesigned NIST Cylinder and Wire Diameter Micrometer – Modifications focused on improving thermal stability/isolation, minimizing bearing motion errors, and increasing resolution. Expanded uncertainty goal for diameter of ± 25 nm (k=2), or better.

Related Programs and Projects:

  • Advanced Dimensional Measurement Systems for Manufacturing
  • SI Length and Traceability

Associated Products:

  • Engineering Metrology Toolbox-An array of mechanisms we make available to our customers to help them achieve high-accuracy dimensional measurements traceable to national and international standards.

Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML)
Semiconductor & Dimensional Metrology Division (683)

General Information:
301-975-3468 Telephone
301-869-0822 Facsimile

100 Bureau Drive, M/S 8211
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899-8211