History of the BetaGauge – Part I

Since Martel is introducing a new BetaGauge at the ISA Show in Houston (October 14-16), I thought it would be a good idea to give you a short history of the BetaGauge calibrator line. (Note, this blog was first posted on Friday, September 12th, but due to a technical glitch, it was lost).

The immediate predecessor of the original BetaGauge was a little calibrator called the DPG-310 from BETA Products. This was licensed from RiS (Rochester Instruments). It was a gauge only. That is it could only measure pressure. It handled the temperature sensitivity of the silicon sensor by enclosing it in a little “oven” that kept the sensor at a constant temperature. I think the temperature was about 40°C. This was in 1989, so I don’t remember all the details. The accuracy was ±0.1% of full scale as I recall. It had a tiny 2 line by 16 character LCD display. Although pretty good for its time, it suffered from a couple of problems, both related to the “oven.”

First, the relatively high temperature prematurely aged the sensor, resulting in a shortened life. Second, the power to run the heater sucked juice out of the batteries quickly.

So the improved BetaGauge 320 was conceived with better battery life (nearly 100 hours continuous use), dual ranges and characterized sensors so changes in ambient temperature weren’t much of a problem. Although it wasn’t an immediate success, it was so much better than its main competitors the old Crystal Engineering and Meriam calibrators, it did get to a point where monthly sales exceeded more than 100 units for a couple of years. It had better resolution, a better display and 2 available ranges.

Another point in its favor was the wide number of ranges from 10” WC full scale to 5,000 PSI full scale. It could also do true differential measurement and absolute measurement. As it has turned out, it was pretty rugged and reliable, too. We continue to have customers send theirs in for calibration and repair. Many of these units are more than 10 years old. Even with a nice trade-in offer, they don’t want to give up their old friend.

BetaGauge II

BetaGauge II

That being said, users did complain about some deficiencies in the 320. The major complaints were: lack of interchangeable ranges, lack of replaceable batteries and the small dark display (2 lines by 16 characters LCD). Hence, the BetaGauge II, which was released in 1994.

The BetaGauge II was the first handheld pressure calibrator with a fully modular interface. Changing the pressure range was as simple as plugging in a different pressure module. Also, the modules were the calibrator. The handheld part did not require any service or recalibration.  It started off a little slower than expected mostly because we were unable to produce the large number of ranges we had for the 320. Also, at first, we did not have an IS rating for it.

The really big news for the BetaGauge II wasn’t the large bright display, the interchangeable modules or the replaceable battery packs. The big news was that it was the first handheld pressure calibrator to offer ±0.025% of full scale accuracy for pressure. That was needed as field pressure transmitters were becoming much more accurate and calibrators up to then had not kept pace.

Part II of this series will continue with the BetaGauge 321 story.