Calibration is the process of comparing an unknown value to a known value. To calibrate a device is to compare a characteristic of that device with the characteristic of a similar device called a “standard.” Using load cells as an example, the load cell being calibrated and the standard load cell are mounted together in series and a range of loads is applied. Both load cells experience the same load and therefore the output values should ideally be identical. A calibration result most often indicates a difference between the
two values.

A common misconception is that calibration means adjusting the output of a device to bring its performance “within limits.” Any adjustment made to the output of the device is separate from the calibration and verification process, and must be followed by a further calibration and verification to prove the adjustment was successful.

NOTE: It is important not to confuse CALIBRATION with the term "calibrate" that is sometimes used on instruments to refer to the actions of setting up a transducer such as a loadcell or extensometer to work with the system.