Roughness measurement instruments output those two values, where Rt is the distance between the top of the highest peak and the bottom of the lowest valley, and Ra is the average distance of every point to the mean line.

In almost all technical specifications I see the Ra value being reported, so when is the Rt value used/why is it measured?

  • $\begingroup$ Beause there is a difference between the roughness that is +\-1 and 4 peaks of 10 and 0.5 in between... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 29, 2018 at 13:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You sure Rt isn't limited to adjacent peak-valley? In any case, the mean and variance of any factor are almost always far more useful than the peak-peak value. $\endgroup$ Jun 29, 2018 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


Theoretically talking, the peak to peak value let us to estimate the worst case scenarios. Here is an example, A shaft fixed inside a conical coupling.enter image description here

How we make sure if the coupling can transmit the required torque? We need to calculate it using this pk-pk value. I'm not going further into details.

In production series of a specific component, people are less interested about how much really this peak to peak value is, but rather they are interested in the average. This average is not sensitive to strong deviations, and is an indicator of your machining tools health and lifetime. Strong deviations in average value means worn cutters ... .

But that's not all, sometimes the average value plays very important role in theoretical calculations as well, for instance, designing the thrust bearing requires always the average value, and the peak-to-peak value here doesn't make sense.


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