Load Cell Defined
A load cell is a transducer that converts a mechanical force or load into an electrical output signal. Metal foil strain gauges are bonded onto a flexure or structural member that deforms when weight or load is applied. In most cases, four metal foil strain gauges are used to obtain maximum sensitivity and temperature compensation. Two of the gauges are usually in tension, and two in compression, all four strain gauges are wired in a Wheatstone bridge
configuration with compensation adjustments that correct for temperature errors.
Load Cell Choices
How to choose the correct Load Cell and compatible instrument for your load or force measurement application?
Our application sales engineers do this day in and out, with years of experience so please don’t hesitate to give us a call to help you though this process, that’s what we are here for. But it all comes down to your budget, your application, what stage your application is in, and how quickly you need your load cell system.
Let me start with a few easy applications and I will follow it by a layout of things you should consider in your load cell selection process.
If you need to perform a quick one time test to verify a load or force on a component or to prove an application, you might choose an inexpensive load beam load cell with a precision power supply and a voltmeter. We can help.
If you’re designing a Test machine you would choose a load cell based upon the overall system accuracy. Is the measurement static or dynamic? Do you require a digital display or just an amplifier signal conditioner module for a data acquisition system? We can help.
If your application is on a race car suspension system recording real time data while testing the car on an actual race track, like the Cornell racing team in one of our featured videos, you would need a load cell that could perform in a dynamic application and be able to handle extraneous loads like our MLP series load cell did. We double the normal load capacity of the load cell (which is a good rule of thumb in dynamic loading applications) and still exceeded the accuracy they required. We supplied our TM0-1 amplifier signal conditioner module that sent high speed data to their on board data acquisition system. We also designed a custom load pin load cell to measure the torque on the drive train. In some applications going with a custom load cell makes more sense.
National Geographic had an application on one of their super human strength episodes where they needed to measure the force of a strong man pulling a Semi tractor trailer (featured in our video gallery) that they were filming the next day. We choose the HSW-20k load cell with the smart plug and play option (also known as our Cal-Teds option) because of the accuracy and the ease of placing it in the application. We supplied our smart plug and play DPM-3 load cell meter with an analog output option that sent real time data to their data acquisition system that they were pushing in a cart alongside of the test. Having the Cal-Teds option on the load cell allowed the load cell and the smart plug and play DPM-3 meter to automatically perform a system calibration by just plugging them together (meter reads the EPPROM chip in the Cal-Teds option that populates an IEEE 1451.4 template 33 calibrating the system instantly). We generally don’t recommend pushing a cart alongside of a test, but this was already taking place for other equipment. This was a very inexpensive load cell system that allowed them to film the next day as planned.
Below is a list of things to consider when selecting a load cell for your load / force measurement requirement:
Price and availability are normally the first two things to consider. If you’re on a limited budget or need something the next day this may narrow your selection. However Transducer Techniques does offer educational discounts and we stock our standard products ready for next day shipping.
Define how you want to conduct the measurement and how you will apply the load. Will your loading be static or dynamic? A dynamic application usually requires a load cell with a higher frequency response (a good rule of thumb is the lower the load cell deflection the high the frequency response). Will you be loading the load cell in-line or require a load cell that can handle extraneous loads? Will you be measuring bending, tension or compression or both, multi-axis such as thrust and torque?
Define how this load cell will be mounted in your application. Do you require male or female threads or a flange mount? Do you need a through hole or compression load washer load cell that allows a structure to pass through the load cell?
Define the environment in which the load cell is intended to be used in (laboratory, warehouse, outdoors, underwater). For extended outdoor use or in a marine environment or for underwater use, we recommend a hermetically seal load cell.
Define the overall accuracy, output, bridge resistance, nonlinearity, hysteresis, nonrepeatability, frequency response.
Define if there are any special options required, such as, connectors, addition cable lengths, high temperature,or if Cal-Teds (plug and play smart load cell option) is required.
Define if load cell instrumentation is required. From a precision power supply, to an amplifier signal conditioner module, to a digital display with alarms, analog output or data logging, we have economical solutions for your load cell instrument requirements.
In summary, for someone using a load cell for the first time this can be overwhelming. But this is what we enjoy doing and we are always here for you. Please allow us to help you select the right load cell from installation, to setup, we will be here to assist you every step of the way.
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