Preferred number
In industrial design, preferred numbers (also called preferred values, preferred series or convenient numbers^{[1]}) are standard guidelines for choosing exact product dimensions within a given set of constraints. Product developers must choose numerous lengths, distances, diameters, volumes, and other characteristic quantities. While all of these choices are constrained by considerations of functionality, usability, compatibility, safety or cost, there usually remains considerable leeway in the exact choice for many dimensions.
Preferred numbers serve two purposes:
 Using them increases the probability of compatibility between objects designed at different times by different people. In other words, it is one tactic among many in standardization, whether within a company or within an industry, and it is usually desirable in industrial contexts (unless the goal is vendor lockin or planned obsolescence)
 They are chosen such that when a product is manufactured in many different sizes, these will end up roughly equally spaced on a logarithmic scale. They therefore help to minimize the number of different sizes that need to be manufactured or kept in stock.
Preferred numbers represent preferences of simple numbers (such as 1, 2, and 5) and their powers of a convenient basis, usually 10.^{[1]}
Renard numbers
The French army engineer Colonel Charles Renard proposed in the 1870s a set of preferred numbers.^{[2]} His system was adopted in 1952 as international standard ISO 3. Renard's system of preferred numbers divides the interval from 1 to 10 into 5, 10, 20, or 40 steps. The factor between two consecutive numbers in a Renard series is approximately constant (before rounding), namely the 5th, 10th, 20th, or 40th root of 10 (approximately 1.58, 1.26, 1.12, and 1.06, respectively), which leads to a geometric sequence. This way, the maximum relative error is minimized if an arbitrary number is replaced by the nearest Renard number multiplied by the appropriate power of 10.
The Renard numbers are not always rounded to the closest threedigit number to the theoretical geometric sequence.
The most basic R5 series consists of these five rounded numbers, which are powers of the fifth root of 10, rounded to two digits:
R5: 1.00 1.60 2.50 4.00 6.30
Example: If our design constraints tell us that the two screws in our gadget should be placed between 32 mm and 55 mm apart, we make it 40 mm, because 4 is in the R5 series of preferred numbers.
Example: If you want to produce a set of nails with lengths between roughly 15 and 300 mm, then the application of the R5 series would lead to a product repertoire of 16 mm, 25 mm, 40 mm, 63 mm, 100 mm, 160 mm, and 250 mm long nails.
If a finer resolution is needed, another five numbers are added to the series, one after each of the original R5 numbers, and we end up with the R10 series. These are rounded to a multiple of 0.05. Where an even finer grading is needed, the R20, R40, and R80 series can be applied. The R20 series is usually rounded to a multiple of 0.05, and the R40 and R80 values interpolate between the R20 values, rather than being powers of the 80th root of 10 rounded correctly. In the table below, the additional R80 values are written to the right of the R40 values in the column named "R80 add'l". The R40 numbers 3.00 and 6.00 are higher than they "should" be by interpolation, in order to give rounder numbers.
In some applications more rounded values are desirable, either because the numbers from the normal series would imply an unrealistically high accuracy, or because an integer value is needed (e.g., the number of teeth in a gear). For these needs, more rounded versions of the Renard series have been defined in ISO 3. In the table below, rounded values that differ from their less rounded counterparts are shown in bold.



As the Renard numbers repeat after every 10fold change of the scale, they are particularly wellsuited for use with SI units. It makes no difference whether the Renard numbers are used with metres or millimetres. But one would end up with two incompatible sets of nicely spaced dimensions if they were applied, for instance, with both inches and feet.
Each of the Renard sequences can be reduced to a subset by taking every nth value in a series, which is designated by adding the number n after a slash.^{[2]} For example, “R10′′/3 (1...1000)” designates a series consisting of every third value in the R′′10 series from 1 to 1000, that is, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 120, 250, 500, 1000.
125 series
In applications for which the R5 series provides a too fine graduation, the 125 series is sometimes used as a cruder alternative. It is effectively an R3 series rounded to one significant digit:
 ... 0.1 0.2 0.5 1 2 5 10 20 50 100 200 500 1000 ...
This series covers a decade (1:10 ratio) in three steps. Adjacent values differ by factors 2 or 2.5. Unlike the Renard series, the 125 series has not been formally adopted as an international standard. However, the Renard series R10 can be used to extend the 125 series to a finer graduation.
This series is used to define the scales for graphs and for instruments that display in a twodimensional form with a graticule, such as oscilloscopes.
The denominations of most modern currencies follow a 125 series. The United States and Canada follow the series 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 (cents), and also $5 and $10 which belong to the same series. However, after that comes $20, not $25. The ¼½1 series (... 0.1 0.25 0.5 1 2.5 5 10 ...) is also used by currencies derived from the former Dutch gulden (Aruban florin, Netherlands Antillean gulden, Surinamese dollar), some Middle Eastern currencies (Iraqi and Jordanian dinars, Lebanese pound, Syrian pound), and the Seychellois rupee. However, newer notes introduced in Lebanon and Syria due to inflation follow the standard 125 series instead.
E series
In electronics, international standard IEC 60063 defines another preferred number series for resistors, capacitors, inductors and Zener diodes. It works similarly to the Renard series, except that it subdivides the interval from 1 to 10 into 6, 12, 24, etc. steps. These subdivisions ensure that when some arbitrary value is replaced with the nearest preferred number, the maximum relative error will be on the order of 20%, 10%, 5%, etc.
Use of the E series is mostly restricted to resistors, capacitors, inductors and Zener diodes. Commonly produced dimensions for other types of electrical components are either chosen from the Renard series instead (for example fuses) or are defined in relevant product standards (for example wires).
The IEC 60063 numbers are as follows. The E6 series is every other element of the E12 series, which is in turn every other element of the E24 series:
E6 ( 20%): 10 15 22 33 47 68
E12 ( 10%): 10 12 15 18 22 27 33 39 47 56 68 82
E24 ( 5%): 10 12 15 18 22 27 33 39 47 56 68 82 11 13 16 20 24 30 36 43 51 62 75 91
With the E48 series, a third decimal place is added, and the values are slightly adjusted. Again, the E48 series is every other value of the E96 series, which is every other value of the E192 series:
E48 ( 2%): 100 121 147 178 215 261 316 383 464 562 681 825 105 127 154 187 226 274 332 402 487 590 715 866 110 133 162 196 237 287 348 422 511 619 750 909 115 140 169 205 249 301 365 442 536 649 787 953
E96 ( 1%): 100 121 147 178 215 261 316 383 464 562 681 825 102 124 150 182 221 267 324 392 475 576 698 845 105 127 154 187 226 274 332 402 487 590 715 866 107 130 158 191 232 280 340 412 499 604 732 887 110 133 162 196 237 287 348 422 511 619 750 909 113 137 165 200 243 294 357 432 523 634 768 931 115 140 169 205 249 301 365 442 536 649 787 953 118 143 174 210 255 309 374 453 549 665 806 976
E192 (0.5%) 100 121 147 178 215 261 316 383 464 562 681 825 101 123 149 180 218 264 320 388 470 569 690 835 102 124 150 182 221 267 324 392 475 576 698 845 104 126 152 184 223 271 328 397 481 583 706 856 105 127 154 187 226 274 332 402 487 590 715 866 106 129 156 189 229 277 336 407 493 597 723 876 107 130 158 191 232 280 340 412 499 604 732 887 109 132 160 193 234 284 344 417 505 612 741 898 110 133 162 196 237 287 348 422 511 619 750 909 111 135 164 198 240 291 352 427 517 626 759 920 113 137 165 200 243 294 357 432 523 634 768 931 114 138 167 203 246 298 361 437 530 642 777 942 115 140 169 205 249 301 365 442 536 649 787 953 117 142 172 208 252 305 370 448 542 657 796 965 118 143 174 210 255 309 374 453 549 665 806 976 120 145 176 213 258 312 379 459 556 673 816 988
The E192 series is also used for 0.25% and 0.1% tolerance resistors.
1% resistors are available in both the E24 values and the E96 values.
Paper documents, envelopes, and drawing pens
Standard metric paper sizes use the square root of two (√2) as factors between neighbouring dimensions rounded to the nearest mm (Lichtenberg series, ISO 216). An A4 sheet for example has an aspect ratio very close to √2 and an area very close to 1/16 square metre. An A5 is almost exactly half an A4, and has the same aspect ratio. The √2 factor also appears between the standard pen thicknesses for technical drawings (0.13, 0.18, 0.25, 0.35, 0.50, 0.70, 1.00, 1.40, and 2.00 mm). This way, the right pen size is available to continue a drawing that has been magnified to a different standard paper size.
Computer engineering
When dimensioning computer components, the powers of two are frequently used as preferred numbers:
1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512 1024 ...
Where a finer grading is needed, additional preferred numbers are obtained by multiplying a power of two with a small odd integer:
1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512 1024 ... (×3) 3 6 12 24 48 96 192 384 768 1536 ... (×5) 5 10 20 40 80 160 320 640 1280 ... (×7) 7 14 28 56 112 224 448 896 1792 ...
16:  15:  12:  

:8  2:1  3:2  
:9  16:9  5:3  4:3 
:10  8:5  3:2  
:12  4:3  5:4  1:1 
In computer graphics, widths and heights of raster images are preferred to be multiples of 16, as many compression algorithms (JPEG, MPEG) divide color images into square blocks of that size. Blackandwhite JPEG images are divided into 8×8 blocks. Screen resolutions often follow the same principle. Preferred aspect ratios have also an important influence here, e.g., 2:1, 3:2, 4:3, 5:3, 5:4, 8:5, 16:9.
Retail packaging
In some countries, consumerprotection laws restrict the number of different prepackaged sizes in which certain products can be sold, in order to make it easier for consumers to compare prices.
An example of such a regulation is the European Union directive on the volume of certain prepackaged liquids (75/106/EEC ). It restricts the list of allowed winebottle sizes to 0.1, 0.25 (1/4), 0.375 (3/8), 0.5 (1/2), 0.75 (3/4), 1, 1.5, 2, 3, and 5 litres. Similar lists exist for several other types of products. They vary and often deviate significantly from any geometric series in order to accommodate traditional sizes when feasible. Adjacent package sizes in these lists differ typically by factors 2/3 or 3/4, in some cases even 1/2, 4/5, or some other ratio of two small integers.
Photography
In photography, aperture, exposure, and film speed generally follow powers of 2:
The aperture size controls how much light enters the camera. It's measured in fstops: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, etc. Full fstops are a square root of 2 apart. Digital cameras often subdivide these into thirds, so each fstop is a sixth root of 2, rounded to two significant digits: 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.5, 2.8, 3.2, 3.5, 4.0, etc.
The film speed is a measure of the film’s sensitivity to light. It's expressed as ISO values such as “ISO 100”. Measured film speeds are rounded to the nearest preferred number from a modified Renard series including 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800... This is the same as the R10′ rounded Renard series, except for the use of 6.4 instead of 6.3, and for having more aggressive rounding below ISO 16. Film marketed to amateurs, however, uses a restricted series including only powers of two multiples of ISO 100: 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200. Some lowend cameras can only reliably read these values from DX encoded film cartridges because they lack the extra electrical contacts that would be needed to read the complete series. Some digital cameras extend this binary series to values like 12800, 25600, etc. instead of the modified Renard values 12500, 25000, etc.
The shutter speed controls how long the camera records light. These are expressed as fractions of a second, roughly but not exactly based on powers of 2: 1 second, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000 of a second.
See also
References
Further reading
 ISO 3: "Preferred numbers. Series of preferred numbers." (1973)
 IEC 60063: "Preferred number series for resistors and capacitors." (2015)