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Instrumentation Options in Test and Measurement

Force and torque measurement technologies such as load cells and torque transducers are a single part of an overall system often used for test and measurement projects and programs. Instrumentation is also a key component of force and torque measurement systems. Instrumentation tools are functional for visualizing and logging the sensor data.

When considering all the options for your project, product designers and engineers need to evaluate the type of instrumentation required to read and gather the sensor output and display the results.

Common questions to ask in preparing your test and measurement project, building a system or setting up a lab:

  • Where are you going to connect your sensor technology and how?
  • Do you need to store your data?
  • Do you prefer an analog or digital output device?
  • Are you going to plug-in your instrumentation or use hand-held, wireless or Bluetooth connectivity?
  • How will your data output be displayed?
  • How many channels do you need for your project or program?

These are all questions related to instrumentation devices and how they interact with and connect to your test and measurement products. Because of the wide variety of instrumentation options, from transmitters and indicators to data logging, it is critical to carefully review the features, specifications, capacities for each. Engineers and testers should review capabilities for data collection of a device, connectors and adapter requirements, and how the device works with specific types of load cells, torque transducers, multi-axis sensors, and other testing equipment.

A valuable tip is to spend time reviewing the specifications of any instrumentation device you are considering, as well as speak with an experienced application engineer. The critical model and design details are provided in the product datasheet to help in your selection.

Key areas to consider in your review and design of a force and torque measurement systems include:

  • Excitation
  • Outputs
  • Performance standards
  • Environmental performance
  • Power
  • Mechanical definitions
  • Connections
  • Protocols

There are dozens of instrumentation options available through Interface including signal conditionersoutput moduleshigh-speed data loggersportable load cell indicatorsweight indicators, and junction boxes. Here are some of our latest additions and most popular instrumentation products:

Download our Instrumentation Brochure
Download our NEW Digital Instrumentation Brochure

Terms and Definitions

To help get you started on the process of selecting the right instrumentation for your project, we have compiled a list of common terms used for instrumentation and in force measurement and sensor technology product descriptions.

  • Accuracy: The closeness of an indication or reading of a measurement device to the actual value of the quantity being measured. Usually expressed as ± percent of full-scale output or reading.
  • Adapter: A mechanism or device for attaching non-mating parts.
  • Amplifier: A device that draws power from a source other than the input signal and which produces as an output an enlarged reproduction of the essential features of its input.
  • Analog Output: A voltage or current signal that is a continuous function of the measured parameter.
  • Analog-to-Digital Converter (A/D or ADC): A device or circuit that outputs a binary number corresponding to an analog signal level at the input.
  • Bluetooth: A standard for the short-range wireless interconnection of mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices.
  • Bus Formats: A bus is a common pathway through which information flows from one computer component to another. The common expansion bus types include, Industry Standard Architecture (ISA), Extended Industry Standard Architecture (EISA), Micro Channel Architecture (MCA), Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA), Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI), PCI Express (PCI-X), Personal Computer Memory Card Industry Association, (PCMIA), Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP), Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI).
  • Calibration: Process of adjusting an instrument or compiling a deviation chart so that its reading can be correlated to the actual value being measured.
  • Communication: Transmission and reception of data among data processing equipment and related peripherals.
  • Controller: Controllers deliver measurement and control functions that may be used in a wide variety of applications. They feature compact form and versatility in systems that require precise measurement of weight or force combined with processing and storage.
  • Digital Output: An output signal which represents the size of an input in the form of a series of discrete quantities.
  • Environmental Conditions: All conditions in which a transducer may be exposed during shipping, storage, handling, and operation.
  • Frequency: The number of cycles over a specified time period over which an event occurs. The reciprocal is called the period.
  • Indicator: Load cell indicators are often needed where the force, load or weight measurement needs to be displayed to a user visually and displaying the results on a PC is not feasible.
  • Intelligent Indicator: Intelligent Indicators ensure sensor equipment is used for the correct amount of time, thereby helping to safeguard against mistakes or purposeful misuse.
  • Output: The electrical signal which is produced by an applied input to the transducer.
  • Protocol: A formal definition that describes how data is to be exchanged.
  • Range: Those values over which a transducer is intended to measure, specified by its upper and lower limits.
  • Signal Conditioner: A circuit module which offsets, attenuates, amplifies, linearizes and/or filters the signal for input to the A/D converter. The typical output signal conditioner is +2 V dc.
  • Strain Gage: A measuring element for converting force, pressure, or tension into an electrical signal.
  • Transducer Electronic Data Sheet (TEDS): Provides a force or torque transducer with electronic identification, allows sensor instrument to be “Plug & Play Ready” meets IEEE 1451.4
  • Wireless: Broadcasting, computer networking, or other communication using radio signals, microwaves, and other signals.

If you still have questions about load cells, torque transducers, and the instrumentation options please give us a call at 480-948-5555 or visit www.interfaceforce.com.

For some of the key terms, we used an online reference you can find here: Source

Force Measurement Instrumentation 101

There are many types of instrumentation devices used in force measurement applications. Interface provides high-quality instrumentation tools to use with our wide range of load cells and torque transducers.

The variety of instrumentation solutions includes signal conditioners, output modules, high-speed data loggers, portable load cell indicators, weight indicators, and junction boxes.

Depending on the application requirements, Interface has solutions for full-data acquisition as well as wireless technology telemetry systems. Our multi-channel bridge amplifier has 4-channel capability, while the INF-USB2 universal serial has a sensor to USB output converter.  With more than 50 instrumentation products, the solutions range for all types of uses.

To provide you with more insight, here’s an overview of a few of Interface’s instrumentation offerings along with educational video demonstrations to help you.

4 Channel 9840-400-1-T Intelligent Indicator 

The Model 9840 is TEDS plug-and-play ready! It is suitable for use in calibration labs, field service, or anywhere high accuracy is important.  This intelligent digital indicator has auto-setup for multiple load cells with fast, direct analog output.  Features include two interactive 7″ graphical touch screen displays, remote sense, low noise, 24-bit internal resolution. It has a USB port with RS232 communication, mV/V calibration and can store calibrations for up to 25 sensors.  This unit also has self-calibration and is TEDS plug and play ready and IEEE 1451.4 compliant. It is fully compatible with the Gold Standard® Calibration Systems.

9860 High Speed Digital Indicator

Recently updated with new software, Interface’s Model 9860 High Speed Digital Indicator features an internal, high gain, fully differential amplifier with a 16-bit analog-to-digital converter combined to accurately digitize the input signal. The analog input is digitally filtered, with user-selected sample size and filter window (band), allowing optimization for specific operating conditions. With this model, self-calibrating ±10Vdc and 4-20mA analog output signals are standard. This product has an RS232 interface, which gives the instrument the ability to communicate, command, query operating modes and parameters and to continuously read data.

The Interface Transducer Electronic Data Sheet (TEDS) status indicator on the Model 9860 provides the information on the configuration of the input. A front panel RCAL switch provides a convenient calibration feature. Both calibration functions are easily performed via front panel pushbuttons.

Watch this video to learn how to calibrate your 9860 High Speed Digital Indicator and to see some of the product features.

DIG-USB Output Module

Interface’s DIG-USB Module is a compact, high-precision strain gage converter used for converting a strain gage sensor input to a digital output. It connects to a computer via a USB port. This product allows high precision measurements to be communicated directly to a computer and is aimed at applications which require high-accuracy measurement repeatability. With the appropriate drivers installed, the DIG-USB appears as a virtual serial port to the computer.

Simply by plugging the device into a computer, data can be extracted from most strain gage bridge input sensors and acquired by software which allows data manipulation removing the need for amplifiers, filters, and multi-meters.

Watch this video for a getting started demonstration with the DIG-USB Output Module.

9890 Strain Gage Indicator

Our 9890 Strain Gage Indicator is a full-featured multipurpose and easy-to-use digital strain gage and load cell meter ideal for weight and force measurement applications. With a max current of 350 mA at 10 V, it can support up to twelve 350 Ω load cells (minimum load resistance of 28 Ω), making it ideal for multipoint weight measurement applications. It accepts mV input signals up to 300 mV (unipolar) and ± 250 mV (bipolar). The 9890’s powerful dual-scale capability allows the measurement to be displayed in two different units of measure.

This video provides an overview of the 9890 Strain Gage Indicator and how it works.

920i Programmable Weight Indicator/Controller

The Interface 920i instrumentation device is a programmable, multi-channel digital weight indicator and controller. The configuration can be performed using the front panel, with an attached USB-type keyboard (or PS/2 keyboard if using a serial interface), or by using the iRev 4 utility. Model 920i is bidirectional and comes in a NEMA 4X stainless enclosure. Standard options include 8,000,000 internal counts, 4.6 x 3.4-inch LCD 7-digit display and a measurement rate that goes up to 960 Hz. Options are available that allow you to include analog and relay outputs.

This video provides an easy-to-follow getting start guide for the 920i Programmable Weight Indicator/Controller.

These are just a few of the dozens of instrumentation solutions Interface offers, all designed for unique application needs.  For more information on Interface’s instruments, visit our web product page or review our product brochure for detailed specifications on every product.

Instrumentation Brochure

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Visit Interface’s YouTube channel for all our indicator and product video demonstrations at https://www.youtube.com/interfaceforce and be sure to subscribe to stay current with our new releases.

 

Present and Future Interface Calibration Product Family

Calibration of force measurement tools is integral to accuracy and success in product design and development. As a follow-up to our feature on our expert calibration services, here is a quick introduction to some of our current and future calibration products.

The calibration product family includes five calibration systems that are designed for various needs and force measurement parameters. These systems include:

  • 55K lbf and 110K lbf Automated Calibration System and 2K lbf Automated Calibration System
  • 2K lbf Load Cell Verification System
  • Next Gen High-Resolution Signal Conditioning Board (HRSBSC)
  • 4 Channel 9840-400-1-T Intelligent Indicator

55K lbf and 110K lbf Automated Calibration System and 2K lbf Automated Calibration System

The 55K lbf and 110K lbf Automated Calibration Systems are Interface’s most popular systems because two capacities represent the two most popular capacities requested by customers.

“These systems allow customers to speed up their calibration process because rather than outsourcing calibration, it can all be done in-house.”  Ted Larson, VP of Product Development

The systems are unique in the industry because unlike competitor products, they feature a fully automated system that can measure both tension and compression in a single setup. These systems are designed to satisfy the calibration needs of the test and instrumentation, automotive, aerospace and metrology industries.

The 2K lbf Automated Calibration System, which is on track for release in Q2 of 2019, will offer the same level of accuracy, consistency and excellence as the 55K lbf and110K lbf Systems, but is designed for low-end capacity load cells. This system will serve as a bench top unit and integrate with the same software as the 55K lbf and 110K lbf Systems. It is being designed to serve the medical and automation industries.

The 2K lbf, 55K lbf and 110K lbf Systems will be able to be integrated to work as a dual range system for customers who need to calibrate a wide range of load cells.  Both systems utilize our industry-leading gold and platinum standard load cells, which provide the highest accuracy in the industry.

2K lbf Load Cell Verification System

The 2K lbf Load Cell Verification System is another calibration product that is on track for a Q2 2019 release. This system is being designed as a direct response to OEMs who deal with large volumes of load cells and need a quick, low-cost way of verifying load cells used in equipment. Currently, customers who suspect a calibration issue are often forced to remove load cells from equipment and be sent in to be repaired, recalibrated or to receive a new load cell. This process and the resulting downtime costs money due to lack of production, and there is often no issue present with the load cells.

The 2k lbf Load Cell Verification System can identify a calibration or performance issue, allowing the customer to accurately determine if the load cells need to be replaced or need a tune-up, significantly reducing unnecessary downtime.

Next-Gen High-Resolution Signal Conditioning Board (HRSBSC)

The High-Resolution Signal Conditioning Board, which Interface pioneered more than three decades ago, will be receiving an innovation update to improve performance and capabilities. The HRSBSC is designed for use with Interface Gold Standard Calibration Systems and can be provided in a single or dual channel solution. This product’s primary industries include test and instrumentation and metrology. The development of Interface’s Next-Gen HRSBSC is slated for Q4 of 2019.

4 Channel 9840-400-1-T Intelligent Indicator 

Interface recently introduced a new version of the 4 Channel Model T which features a more modern display with additional channels available. It’s now easier to use and has the same high stability and industry-leading performance as the older version of the 9840. Although the quality is the same, the updated version can be integrated with Interface’s Gold Standard® system and frames, as well as with Windows 10.

The 4 Channel Model T 9840-400-1-T Intelligent Indicator allows single loads with three measurements to directly compare outputs to Interface’s Gold Standard load cell, and all measurements can be captured through Interface’s Gold Standard software. This allows users to compare multiple load cells and gather data on whether the load cells are accurate or uncalibrated. The 4 Channel Model T solution also has the option for high-level input channels.

Stay tuned for updates on current and upcoming additions to our family of innovative calibration products.

Contributor: Ted Larson, VP of Product Development and Marketing, Interface