What is Autoranging?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 December 2019
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Sometimes referred to as automatic ranging, autoranging is a process in which an instrument has the capability to automatically switch to settings anywhere along a specifically identified range. On the front end, the range is defined with minimum and maximum settings, and is programmed with criteria that must be met in order for the switch to automatically move from one setting to another. Most autoranging equipment has the capability of moving from higher to lower settings and vice versa, rather than allowing movement in only one direction.

The use of autoranging in various types of devices is common in a number of situations. Electrical equipment, especially equipment used in power plants, often makes use of this type of technology. This makes it possible for the flow of power from the plant to remain at adequate levels for meeting the current needs of a given segment of a power grid, while minimizing the possibility of damage to the grid from any type of electrical overflow. In a similar manner, autoranging devices can help control the flow of liquids through a system of funnels or pipes, keeping the pressure of the flow within an acceptable range.


One example of autoranging is with a device that is known as an autoranging multimeter. This type of equipment makes it possible to identify what is considered the ideal quantity or range desired. When the actual quantity falls below or increases above this desirable range, the equipment may sound an alarm. When attached to devices that are used to monitor and control that quantity, the readings from the multimeter may trigger immediate action to correct the balance, without the need for human intervention. This type of safety feature is especially important when materials that are potentially dangerous are involved in some type of research or mining project.

With autoranging, the two main benefits are the ability to identify shifts in range immediately, without the need for constant human monitoring, and to obtain readings that are much more precise than is possible with other means. Meters and other devices that are equipped with automatic ranging capability may also create situations in which immediate action can be taken to contain a potentially dangerous situation. That action may be triggered by alerting people working in the facility to execute some type of process to manage the situation, or by communicating with other electronic devices that automatically execute actions that restore pressure, quantity, or range to acceptable levels. The exact nature of the readings at any given point in time also make it possible to identify what caused the shift, which in turn allows workers to develop protocols that minimize the potential of a recurrence.


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