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Standardized Digital Calibration Certificates To Become Integral In Quality Infrastructure

Due to the digital transformation, products as well as production and economic processes are changing massively and with increasing speed. The new requirements that go hand in hand with this present the established system of quality infrastructure (QI) with new challenges.

In order to meet these challenges, all quality assurance processes, such as conformity assessment, accreditation, certification and market surveillance, must be fully digitalised. All those involved must be digitally networked and act interoperably.

The Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) in Germany is working, together with the other players in national QI, to implement a digitally transformed, interoperable and future-oriented quality infrastructure, the QI-Digital.

To this end, PTB’s work consistently builds on the existing digital projects: digital, machine-readable certificates, digital networked processes, new production methods and artificial intelligence (AI). In QI-Digital, these are dovetailed with PTB’s existing competences in the quality infrastructure – nationally and globally.

Digital Calibration Certificate

German products enjoy an excellent reputation – thanks to a complex system for ensuring quality and protecting consumers: the so-called Quality Infrastructure (QI). In order for this promise of quality to also apply in a digital world, the necessary instruments, such as calibration certificates and national emblems, must also become digital. The PTB and the German Accreditation Body (DAkkS) have now started a close cooperation for the practical introduction of such machine-readable calibration certificates (DCC) with a digital national emblem. The actors want to support the German economy in its digital transformation and are committed to uniform European and global standards in this area.

The QI-Digital initiative has set itself the goal of developing a modern quality infrastructure together with a network of actors from science, industry and private-sector QI actors, which covers the needs of a networked and automated value chain and reduces costs. Digital and machine-readable results reports, such as calibration certificates, are an important component.

A calibration certificate proves that a measuring device has been calibrated in accordance with applicable requirements. Digital calibration certificates (DCC) also provide this technical information in a machine-readable form – a clear advantage for manufacturing and quality control processes, in which digitization is becoming more and more common. Therefore, in recent years, in close cooperation with industry and international partners, PTB has developed a technical format for a digital calibration certificate that is suitable for worldwide use.

In close cooperation between DAkkS and PTB, the integration of a digital accreditation symbol as a machine-readable national emblem is now imminent. This step enables machine-readability of all information issued by accredited bodies without media discontinuity. DAkkS and PTB are now working on selected pilot projects to develop the necessary processes to bring digital calibration certificates and the digital national emblem into practical use quickly and extensively.

Digital Calibration Certificate Specifications

A digital calibration certificate contains all calibration information in a computer-understandable structure so that this information can be read out directly in digital systems and used automatically. The principle can be transferred to any other metrological document. The technological basis is formed by developments which, under the leadership of the PTB, have meanwhile found wide national and international distribution: The DCC is based on the established markup language XML. Uniform semantics enable the transmission of calibration information in a form that can be interpreted by machines, which at the same time meets the requirements of the ISO/IEC 17025 standard relevant to laboratories.

The digital accreditation symbol of the DAkkS is based on a so-called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which, as a cryptographic system, enables secure digital identities to be issued and managed. The national emblem of the DAkkS is issued by a qualified seal certificate for advanced seal signatures, which is defined in Regulation (EU) No. 910/2014 (eIDAS Regulation) according to Art. 3 Para. 26.30. This procedure enables the identity of the issuing accredited body and the status of the accreditation issued by DAkkS to be digitally checked by a trust service provider.

QI Digital For New Products and Manufacturing Processes

Additive manufacturing offers new possibilities for the flexible production of complex products. For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular, this opens up a wide range of economic potential.

Together with the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM), the PTB is also developing effective and efficient methods for quality assurance in additive manufacturing in QI-Digital with the aim of transferring the corresponding competences to SMEs.

Digital Processes For More Effective and Efficient QI

The development and establishment of digital processes and digital infrastructures offers enormous potential for QI to streamline and improve processes. PTB already started work several years ago on a cloud infrastructure for digital processes in legal metrology and the development of an XML schema for digital calibration certificates.

The PTB is consistently continuing this work in QI-Digital. The Metrology Cloud will be successively expanded into a QI-Cloud and, in particular, supplemented by a connection to GAIA-X. On the basis of the DCC (Digital Calibration Certificate), the PTB is developing a digital, machine-readable certificate for conformity assessment (Digital Certificate of Conformance, D-CoC).

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