May 1931 RadioCraft
[Table of Contents]
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics.
RadioCraft was published from 1929 through 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged. See all articles
from RadioCraft.

Analog and most digital multimeters rely on precision
resistors for scaling the input voltage or current to keep it within the safe operational range of the
meter movement or analogtodigital converter circuit. Resistance value selection is a relatively simple
matter of series and/or parallel combinations and their resulting divisions of voltages and/or currents.
When this article appeared in 1931, the whole concept of electrical circuit design was entirely new
to most people, including shunts and multipliers for meter scales. There is a nice table of resistor
values provided, but I was a little disappointed to find that not a single equation is given for calculating
custom values.
Determining Meter Shunts and Multipliers
International Rectifier Company
Investment in a milliammeter or microammeter may be made to pay greater dividends, in the form of
diversified applications, by conversion to a multirange voltmeter, Likewise, the usual voltmeter
can be readily converted to a multirange voltmeter.
Fig. 1  The ordinary 01 milliammeter, as shown, with the series resistors becomes
a multiscale voltmeter. The resistor values should, theoretically, be lessened by the resistance of
the meter's moving element but, except on the 1volt scale, this would make too trifling of a difference
to be read.
Fig. 2  The same principle is applied to a standard voltmeters, except that the
first series resistors is already provided.
The connections shown in Fig. 1 are intended for the conversion of microammeters and milliammeters
into voltmeters. Those shown in Fig. 2 are for the conversion of a 100volt, highresistance meter to
a multirange voltmeter, by means of a number of precision wirewound resistors which serve as voltmeter
multipliers. In using resistors of this type as voltmeter multipliers, it is essential to know the internal
resistance of the voltmeter, expressed in ohms per volt. Then multiply the fullscale reading of the
voltmeter by the number of ohms per volt; insert a similar resistance value in series with the instrument,
and the added resistor will double the effective scale reading.
The moving element of voltmeters may be used, in conjunction with a multiplier, to obtain lower ranges
than those for which the meter was originally made, with a great saving over the cost of a new meter.
The new multiplier or multipliers must be directly connected to the movingelement leads.
The resistance of the multiplier can be computed by the following formula: multiply the ohms per
volt by the fullscale deflection; then the product by the desired multiplier ratio; and subtract the
resistance of the movingelement. But since the resistance of most movingelements is low (say 40 ohms
to 0.1 ohm) it may be neglected except when the computed multiplier resistance is only fifty (or fewer)
times the order of magnitude of the resistance of the movingelement.
The accompanying chart gives the total resistance required to change microammeters and milliammeters
into instruments for accurately measuring voltage, Since the resistance of most microammeters and milliammeters
is very low, that is, 40 ohms or much less, these values may be used for the multiplying resistors.
The error in this assumption is the resistance of the instrument divided by the resistance given in
the table; which, in most cases, is very much less than the error in most calibrations. The maximum
error, other than the above, is the sum of the error of the movingelement and the error in the resistance
value used. A moving element that is accurate to 2 percent would never become more accurate, no matter
how accurate the multiplier was made. On the other hand, if a high degree of accuracy is wanted and
the moving element was designed for that type of work, a very accurate multiplier must be used. If closer
accuracies that 1 percent are required, resistors must be better than 1/2 percent.
Fortunately, wirewound resistors of an accuracy of 1 percent and closer are now available commercially,
as contrasted with the wider tolerances of resistors of the past. Furthermore, these resistor are thoroughly
seasoned. These perfected wirewound resistors now make it possible to convert meters into multirange
instruments with every assurance of accurate readings.
December 22 16, 2014
