Mesh (scale)

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Mesh material is often used in determining the particle size distribution of a granular material. For example, a sample from a truckload of peanuts may be placed atop a mesh with 5 mm openings. When the mesh is shaken, small broken pieces and dust pass through the mesh while whole peanuts are retained on the mesh. A commercial peanut buyer might use a test like this to determine if a batch of peanuts has too many broken pieces. This type of test is common in some industries, and to facilitate uniform testing methods, several standardized mesh series have been established.

Applicable standards are ISO 565 (1987), ISO 3310 (1999), ASTM E 11-70 (1995), DIN 4188 (1977), BS 410 (1986) and AFNOR NFX11-501 (1987).


Tyler mesh size

One well-known mesh series is the Tyler Equivalent created by the W.S. Tyler screening company.[1] Tyler mesh size is the number of openings per (linear) inch of mesh. To calculate the size of the openings in a mesh the thickness of the wires making up the mesh material must be taken into account. In practice, mesh openings are determined referring to a chart like the one below. Mesh size given as 4x4 means the number of squares in one inch horizontally is 4 and vertically is 4.

Variation in mesh openings

Some standards use the mesh designation as the number of wires rather than the size of openings (see Tyler, above). There can be significant differences in particle size passing small laboratory screens versus large heavy-duty industrial screens due to the different wire sizes used. Thicker wire results in a smaller opening size for an equivalent mesh. An example of variation moving between machine sizes is:[2]

Laboratory sieve cloth[3]
Sieve DesignationWire widthOpening
10 MeshU.S. Std. No. 120.800mm0.0315in1.7mm0.0669in (0.0661 nominal)
Medium industrial screen cloth
SieveWire WidthOpeningOpening
10 Mesh0.035 in0.0650 in1651 μm
Heavy industrial screen cloth
SieveWire WidthOpeningOpening
10 Mesh0.047 in0.053 in1346 μm

Particle size distribution

Powders and granular materials are sometimes described as having a certain mesh size (e.g. 30 mesh sand). By itself, this type of description is somewhat ambiguous. More precise specifications will indicate that a material will pass through some specific mesh (that is, have a maximum size; larger pieces won't fit through this mesh) but will be retained by some specific tighter mesh (that is, a minimum size; pieces smaller than this will have passed through the mesh). This type of description establishes a range of particle sizes.

One notation for indicating particle size distribution using mesh size is to use + and - designations. A "+" before the sieve mesh indicates the particles are retained by the sieve, while a "-" before the sieve mesh indicates the particles pass through the sieve. This means that typically 90% or more of the particles will have mesh sizes between the two values.

For instance, if the particle size of a material is described as -80/+170 (or could also be written -80 +170), then 90% or more of the material will pass through an 80 mesh sieve and be retained by a 170 mesh sieve. Using the conversion chart below, the resulting particles will have a range of diameters between 0.089 and 0.178 mm (89 and 178 micrometers).


The Federation of European Producers of Abrasives (FEPA) has four sets of standards to denote size of grains coupled with the type of abrasive. The standards indicate a range of grit sizes that may come within any single designator which consists of a letter (F for bonded abrasives and P for coated abrasives) and a number. Within each series are two standards detailing the larger macrogrit (approximately 12 – 240) and smaller microgrit (approximately 230 – 2000 or 2500) sizes and the different process by which sizes are determined (sieving for the larger grits and sedimentation for the smaller).

While following the common practice of smaller designators meaning coarser grits and similar cut-off marks between macro- and microgrit standards, the F and P series are not compatible. While F 12 and P 12 are only about 3% different in size, P 2000 is more than 750% larger than F 2000 (that is, the particles in P 2000 are about 8.5 times as large as those in F 2000).[4][5]

Metal surfaces mechanically polished are designated as having a mechanical finish related to the abrasive used.

Sieve sizing and conversion charts

Typical openings in laboratory sieve series
Sieve size (mm)BSSTyler (approx)US (approx)

Market Grade sieves use thicker wire than other commercial grades, and so they are commonly used for applications where mesh strength (and therefore screen life) is important. Mill Grade sieves use a thinner wire diameter, which provide more open area for a given mesh size. Therefore, Mill Grade sieves are used when throughput is more important than durability. Tensile Bolting Cloth uses very fine wire diameters, and thus provides the highest fraction of open area of all sieve types; it is often used for fine sifting and screen printing.

Commercial Sieve Mesh Dimensions
Sieve sizeOpeningStandard MeshTensile Bolting ClothMill GradeMarket Grade

Further information on equivalent mesh sizes from 5μm to 25.4mm is available [6][7]. Available sieve sizes are usually regulated by standards. Those in common use are ISO 565:1990 and ISO 3310-1:2000 (international), EN 933-1(European) and ASTM E11:01 (US). EN standards are available with national 'badging' so appear as BS EN, FR EN, DE EN, etc.

Although such information contains long lists of sieve sizes, in practice sieves are normally used in series in which each member sieve is selected to pass particles approximately 1/√2 or 1/2 smaller in size than the previous sieve. For example the series 80mm, 63, 40, 31.5, 20, 16, 14, 10, 8, 6.3, 4, 2.8, 2mm is routinely available in many European countries or the series with the larger steps 63, 31.5, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1mm, 500μm, 250, 125, 63μm is commonly used to grade aggregates in the construction industry. Such series are somewhat derived from the principles originally established by Renard and now known as Renard series. Some users replace some of those indicated above with 45, 22.4, 12.5, 11.2 and 5.6mm sieves, mostly because of historical usage of such sizes in their country or industry.


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