Chart Recorders: Definition, Types, Uses, and How To Choose

Posted by TechStar on Jun 22, 2023 12:00:00 PM




Compare & Contrast Chart Recorders: Types, Uses, Features, Functions

A chart recorder is an instrument that falls under data acquisition (DAQ) systems and solutions.  

So what exactly is a chart recorder? What does it do, how does it work, what are the types, and do you need one for your operation? Read on to sort through the details and get the answers you need.

What is a Chart Recorder?

A chart recorder is an instrument that records electrical and process signals. Traditionally, chart records are built of a piece of paper and a pen that creates marks in response to a signal. 

A high-quality chart recorder provides accurate, high resolution measurement charts that can withstand harsh production environments. Some models can be used as a monitoring device as well as quality control instrument in a variety of applications including pharmaceutical, chemical, power generation, heat treat and environmental monitoring.


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What is a chart recorder used for?

The two main industries that use chart recorders are manufacturing and science/engineering labs. 

In manufacturing settings, chart recorders are used to track the following qualities: 

  • Temperature
  • Pressure
  • Flow
  • pH
  • Humidity
  • Vibration
  • Movement
  • And Much More 

In scientific and engineering laboratories, chart recorders are used for data transcription regarding: 

  • Diagnostics
  • Testing
  • Statistical Analysis
  • And More

Chart recorders are beneficial because they create intuitive visualization tools that display data over a specified time period. Chart recorders are particularly useful in situations with limited variables that do not require a digital interface. 


Chart Recorders as a Tool for Data Acquisition (DAQ)

Chart recorders are valuable tools in a variety of data acquisition applications across multiple industries. When process data needs to be recorded over a period of time, a chart recorder can be used to map the information and visualize the trends

  • For water purification equipment, a chart recorder can track and display factors such as temperature, flow, turbidity, PH, dissolved oxygen, and more. 
  • In a tunnel kiln, a chart recorder can monitor and record temperature and transcribe data abnormality alarms. 
  • In the pharmaceutical and food industries, chart recorders can be used to manage sterilization processes. A chart recorder can compute F0 values record parameters such as temperature, pressure, and more. 
  • For environmental testing equipment, a chart recorder can display and record test results data from a thermostatic chamber. 
  • In a power plant, a chart recorder can acquire data on turbine temperature, vibration, and abnormalities. This information is a critical component of equipment maintenance. 

In the electrical wire coating process, a chart recorder can acquire data on wire temperature and outer diameter for monitoring of correlations. 


How Does a Chart Recorder Work?

As the signal comes in, a pen moves across a sheet, pad, or roll paper. The resulting marks compose a graph or chart of the incoming data. 


What Are the Features of Chart Recorders?

There are several characteristics that differentiate between the few types of chart recorders. 

  • Number of Pens
  • Shape of Paper
  • Direction of Paper Movement 

Chart recorders mostly vary by number of pens, shape of the paper, and direction of paper movement over time. 


Single Channel vs Multi Channel Chart Recorders

Chart recorders can be classified as single channel or multichannel. A multichannel chart recorder utilizes multiple pens to chart many inputs in different colors. 

How many inputs can a multichannel chart recorder handle? Four channel inputs and four channel outputs is a common size, while some multichannel chart recorders boast up to six channels.


Strip Chart Recorder vs Circular Chart Recorder

Strip chart Recorder

A strip chart recorder moves paper linearly to record continuous processes. For jobs that require a nonstop tracking of records, a strip recorder is preferred. Paper sections can be separated and archived for accurate records keeping and referencing. 

Circular Chart Recorder

A circular chart recorder spins round paper pads to record data within a specified, and often standardized, time frame. Since the pads are set to rotate based on typical time frames such as 1 hour, 24 hours, or 7 days, a circular recorder is best used for timed batch jobs. 


Chart Recorders vs. Data Loggers

Chart recorders and data loggers are primarily differentiated by format. 

Chart recorders store information on paper.

Data loggers store the information in a digital file. 

While both types of equipment are designed to be small and portable, chart recorders are usually larger than data loggers. 

Both systems are user friendly, but there are specific features that differentiate the two.

Chart Recorders

  • Houses a motor that moves the paper through the device
  • Contains a mechanical sensor
  • Features a structure to hold the paper chart
  • Manual device, faster setup and start time 
  • Excellent for limited variable environments
  • Does not require a digital interface 
  • Limited configuration options 
  • Purpose-built to excel at a specific task  

Data Loggers

  • Built of a small microprocessor
  • Contains a probe or sensor chip 
  • Networked device, requires software application setup for data export 
  • More flexible for programming modifications

An example of a data logger is the final data transcription stage in a process gas chromatograph.

LEARN MORE: Process Gas Chromatography: What It Is and How It Works


What about Hybrid Recorders?

A combination that may offer the best of both worlds, hybrid recorders feature both paper recorder and data logging capabilities. 


What about Paperless Chart Recorders?

Featuring a panel-mount design capable of operating in harsh industrial applications, paperless recorders such as the Yokogawa SMARTDAC+ GX and GP are the next level in data acquisition systems.


How to Choose a Chart Recorder

To choose the chart recorder that best suits your application requirements, you need to consider the following factors: 

  • Number of inputs needed
  • Type of signals being recorded
  • Type of recording needed 
  • Alarm requirements (if any)
  • Communication style of interface
  • Environmental conditions 

factors such as the number of inputs, the type of signals, the type of recording that is 

Still unsure? Our TechStar experts can walk you through the process of selecting the best chart recorder for your needs.  

Ask an Expert

Our customers’ top pick for chart recorders is the μR Series strip chart recorder, featured here: 

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Our customers love this product for providing accurate, high resolution measurement charts that can withstand harsh production environments. Additionally, the μR Series can be used as a monitoring device and quality control instrument in a variety of applications including pharmaceutical, chemical, power generation, heat treatment, and environmental monitoring. Contact TechStar to learn more about this product or for purchasing details.

For over 20 years, TechStar has been the leading manufacturing representative for instrumentation, automation, analytical products, service, and training. 

We offer technical courses, distance learning, custom training and hands-on instruction. 

Learn More About Our Training


Topics: strip vs circular chart recorder, how does a chart recorder work, compare contrast chart recorders, what is a chart recorder, chart recorder vs data logger, chart recorders for data acquisition, how to choose a chart recorder

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