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NIST Leads International Effort in Mass Metrology to Enhance Trade in the Americas

Measurement scientists from five regional metrology organizations of the Americas met at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology, Nov. 27 to Dec. 8, 1995, to develop procedures for the comparison of mass measurement standards between the national laboratories in the 34-member Organization of American States. The goal is to ensure that when producers and manufacturers measure a kilogram of a commodity in one country, it will be identical in weight in another Western Hemisphere nation.

The mass comparison effort is being sponsored by NIST, OAS and the U.S. Mission to OAS. The activity supports two goals of the Interamerican Metrology System (abbreviated SIM for the Spanish translation, System Interamericana de Metrologia): to increase cooperation in science and technology within the Americas, and to promote prosperity and free trade by eliminating technical barriers to trade.

At the first meeting of the newly reactivated SIM Council, Nov. 9, 1995, in Miami, Fla., members defined specific tasks that the interamerican group could undertake to develop a strong infrastructure. The initiative for the intercomparison of metrology standards between the national laboratories of nations was agreed upon as a way to enhance trade and commerce among nations.

As the official U.S. national measurement and standards laboratory, NIST was assigned lead responsibility for the intercomparison of mass metrology. NIST invited officials from each of the regional organizations in SIM to come to the institute and participate in the development of protocols for use in mass comparisons throughout the Americas. The five regions of SIM are: NORAMET, North American nations; CAMET, Central American nations; ANDIMET, Northern South American nations; SURAMET, Southern South American nations; and CARIMET, Caribbean Island nations (see attached chart).

NIST leads the effort for NORAMET, which includes the United States, Canada and Mexico. Other regional officials are from the University of Panama, CAMET; Ecuador's INEN laboratory (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Normalization), ANDIMET; Uruguay's LATU national laboratory (Laboratorio Technico del Uruguay), SURAMET; and the Jamaican Bureau of Standards and the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards, CARIMET.

According to Stephen Carpenter, NIST director for International and Academic Affairs, the measurement representatives have agreed to convene meetings of representatives from each of the national laboratories in their regions and to conduct workshops to implement accepted protocols and information acquired at NIST so that all laboratories throughout the Americas will be using the same procedures.

After the SIM regional workshops, NIST will collect data and invite the officials to return to NIST to analyze the data and establish linkages. After the second meeting, regional representatives will hold additional workshops in their respective areas. The mass calibration services offered by the OAS members will have a known relationship to each other and to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, Sevres, France.

Carpenter notes that the comparisons of mass standards is one of several measurement intercomparisons that will take place to promote traceability of standards between countries in various regions and among the regions of SIM. While NIST is taking the lead for mass metrology, the other North American Free Trade Agreement countries, Canada and Mexico, will be working together as equal partners in a leadership role to carry out the activity. Plans call for intercomparisons of electrical units and pressure. The Mexican National Center for Metrology (Centro Nacional de Metrologia CENAM) will lead an effort in the intercomparisons of temperature measurements.

The international program is a cooperative effort between government and the private sector: OAS is providing travel support and NIST is making available facilities and technical staff. Three U.S. manufacturers have donated two sets each of new mass standards, from 1 kilogram down to 1 milligram, for use in developing the necessary protocols. The manufacturers are: Troemner, Inc., Philadelphia, Pa.; Denver Instruments Co., Denver, Colo.; and Rice Lake Weighing Systems, Rice Lake, Wis.

As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.

Released December 13, 1995, Updated November 27, 2017