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Testing Lab Essentials Webinar Recap

Interface recently hosted an in-depth discussion about one of our favorite topics, testing labs. Our focus in this technical webinar centered on test lab devices, instrumentation, industry testing lab challenges and considerations, along with best practices. We also took a deep dive into different testing lab applications and how to modernize your test lab.

Force measurement experts Elliot Speidell and Jeff Boyd delivered an engaging and knowledgeable seminar, Testing Lab Essentials: Today + Tomorrow.  Bringing decades of first-hand experience, they were able to provide product examples, tips, recommendations and lessons learned in working with testing lab professionals across industries, from automotive to medical devices.

Initial discussions in the event covered test lab basics, including types of products should be in every lab that performs testing of force, torque, and weight. The quick summary, force, torque and weight measurement devices including load cells and torque transducers of various models, calibration grade equipment and published standards, test stands, data acquisition systems and safety equipment.

One of the first steps in assessing any lab is the type of measurement equipment on hand to perform various testing requirements. Transducer selection criteria includes mechanical connection and load application, force magnitude and loading condition, cycle count, form factor restrictions, environmental conditions, additional measurements needs, such as multiple axis.

Testing labs often require different types of load cells depending on the type of products being tested and the applications in which the load cells will be used. Here are some common types of load cells used in testing labs:

  • Compression load cells: Used to measure the compressive force applied to an object. They are commonly used in materials testing to measure the strength of materials such as concrete, metals, and plastics.
  • Tension load cells: Used to measure the tensile force applied to an object. They are commonly used in materials testing, such as in tensile strength testing of metals and other materials.
  • Shear load cells: Used to measure the shear force applied to an object. They are commonly used in materials testing, such as in shear strength testing of materials.
  • Multi-axis load cells: These load cells are capable of measuring forces in multiple directions and are commonly used in structural testing applications.
  • Torque transducers: Used to measure torque or twisting forces. They are commonly used in automotive testing, industrial machinery, and other applications where rotational forces are important.
  • Fatigue-rated load cells: These load cells are designed to withstand high-cycle fatigue testing and are commonly used in materials testing and durability testing of products.
  • Low profile load cells: These load cells are designed to fit into tight spaces and have a low profile, making them ideal for use in small-scale applications.
  • High-capacity load cells: These load cells are designed to measure large forces and are commonly used in heavy machinery and structural testing.

Instrumentation is central to any testing lab environment. The three most common types of instrumentation found in test lab includes:

  • Indicators: Indicators are used to convert the input signal to a local displayed value.  Often they will have features like, peak capture, alarms, and analog outputs.
  • Signal Conditioners: Signal conditioners are used to convert (amplify) one type of electrical signal into another. 
  • DAQ: Data acquisition systems are used to collect and analyze data from measurement devices. These systems may include software, hardware, and data processing equipment.

In a series of follow-up InterfaceIQ Blog posts we will detail other topics covered in this information packed discussion, including modernization, load frames and test stands, do and don’t tips, plus frequently asked questions.

Watch the complete webinar here:

Force Measurement Installation Guides

Interface is a long-time provider of the world’s most accurate and reliable force measurement products. Our sensor and instrumentation solutions are used across industries to test and monitor everything from critical infrastructure and to advanced robotics. Innovators and engineers know that our quality is unmatched. However, any measurement device manufacturer nor superior quality of a product can save users from poor performance when making this one critical mistake, poor installation.

Proper installation is one of the absolute keys to reliable and accurate test data and successful measurement programs. This is true for any type of test and measurement protocol, in particular utilizing force measurement.

Preparing for any installation for any load cell force or weighing measurement system is dependent of the integrity of the physical installation, interconnection of the components, following proper performance of the system components, and calibration.

Installation success is such an important topic, we asked Interface engineers and application experts for their thoughts on the top reasons why proper installation is critical to a successful test or vice versa. They also shared helpful guidance on why improper installation can be so damaging.

  • Poor installation can lead to damaging the load cell, so to protect your investment follow the installation instructions that a accompany your product.
  • When we provide performance metrics on our product, it is based on our in-house calibration. When improperly installed, you will not be hitting the performance numbers you need during use.
  • Improper installation can cause overload which can not only damage the load cell, but also create unsafe working conditions.
  • Installation guides not only give you the proper installation techniques, but they also provide the correct order for installation.
  • And our favorite tip, and the most relatable, “Improper installation with ultimately lead to headaches!

Installation can also vary widely between load cells and other force measurement solutions. Each product has different processes depending on the mounting components, the application being tested or monitored, the environment in which the application is being tested or monitored, and more. It is important to carefully review any materials provided with the instrumentation and sensor.

Interface provides a wide variety of installation guides, instructions and technical support online. You can find these instruction guides by visiting our support installation and manuals option.

In addition, we have resources providing clear explanation on installation and its importance. Recently, our video and blog series titled, I’ve Got A Load cell – Now What? Part 6 – Usage & Best Practices, includes in-depth information on installation and mounting.

Mechanical Installation Tips

Once you have your load cell hooked up and your instrumentation scale, it is time to put it to work. You want to review the attachment, including thread engagement and mounting. If you are threading into the live end, the center hub on the low profile load cell, make sure you have enough threads engaging into the load cell itself. We recommend that you thread it into where the studs bottom out, then back up a half a turn. Next step is to preload tension load by about 130% of capacity and jam the jam nut. We want to ensure that we do not have any repeatability issues due to thread engagement of the flexure. If you cannot provide a preload, reference the torque values in the installation guide.

Mounting to Base, Structure or Plate Tips

  • Use Grade 8 or Better Hardware
  • Mount to Total Flatness of .002″
  • R30-33 Hardness Scale
  • Follow the star patter to proper torque values
  • Preinstalled Bases

Interface bases help in making integration to any assembly much easier. Interface manufactures bases with the same high-performance materials and specifications for hardness and flatness as our load cells. The bases offer threaded holes, which make it easier for mechanics like hydraulic actuators.

We also offer several references for troubleshooting. Two important considerations to review during set-up are the mechanical and electrical installation requirements.

Mechanical Installation Troubleshooting: Load cells not mounted in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations may not perform to specifications. It is important to review the mounting surfaces, hardware, and orientation during the installation.

Electrical Installation Troubleshooting: Proper load cell performance is depending upon the electrical system. The areas to inspect during any install are the connections, cables, settings of excitation voltage and loading of the bridge circuit.

We urge that to get the most out of your new load cell to reference the materials provided in the installation guides. If you have any questions, Interface is also here to help. Feel free to reach out to your local representatives and distributors or call us directly at 480-948-5555 to speak with an engineer to help solve your installation challenges.

I’ve Got a Load Cell – Now What? Episodes 5 and 6

Reviewing the test and measurement video I’ve Got a Load Cell – Now What?, today we are highlighting Episodes 5 and 6 in the favored series.

These two installments highlight instrumentation and installation tips with best practice recommendations for the most popular load cell, the 1200 LowProfile, in addition to the 1100 LowProfile, SM S-Type and WMC Stainless Steel Miniature Load Cell products.

Once you have selected measurement device, it is equally important to review your instrumentation options. You will need a way of interpreting the output or the voltage from the load cell. This requires connecting to some type of instrumentation. If you already own an instrumentation device, you need to ensure that it is useable with any new force measurement device.

Interface offers a large line of instrumentation, from simple indicators to more complex multi-channel data acquisition systems used with multi-axis sensors, load cells and torque transducers. In addition to watching the video, be sure to check out our Instrumentation Selection Guide.

If you are selecting new instrumentation, there are a few questions to help qualify what will work best. For example, do you need a simple device to read analog outputs or advanced wireless instrumentation used with calibration-grade equipment? What type of software will you need to analyze the output data? Will you be connecting the instrumentation to a computer? As discussed in, I’ve Got a Load Cell Episode 5, here are some basic considerations for instrumentation.

Instrumentation Selection

Step 1: Electrical Wiring – Review the electrical wiring diagrams (also available on each product page). If you need to review the wiring based on engineered-to-order or custom options, contact our application engineers.

Step 2:  Signal Leads – Are you using a 4 or 6-wire configuration? A 6-wire lead provides sense. Some instrumentation options will support 6-wire signal leads. Most applications allow you to just pair with excitation.

Step 3: Cables – Identify the type of cable required with the right number of leads. For example, our standard 6-wire cable will support the sense function. We recommend shielded conductors when you order your cables.

Step 4: Grounding – Avoid ground loops in any wiring.

Step 5: Excitation Voltage – Review the sensor’s voltage of excitation on the datasheet to identify the load cell calibration. We recommend to properly match with the instrumentation’s capabilities in voltage with the load cell.

Step 6: Set-Up – Once you connect your instrumentation, you need to scale it. Review your options in the installation instructions. Some instrumentation options will take an mV entry and others will require a known load or shunt calibration. Reference your device’s calibration certificate.

In the I’ve Got a Load Cell, Now What? series Episode 6, we highlight some important diagnostics, installation tips and best practices. This video highlights examples of installation for some of our most popular load cells.

During the selection of your load cell, which usually begins with capacity and capabilities requirements, it is important to consider performance influencing factors and installation.

Use Case Considerations

  • Environmental Considerations and Exposure
  • Fatigue or Non-Fatigue
  • Overload Protection Needs
  • Off-Axis Loads
  • Dimensions
  • Mounting and Base Requirements
  • Output
  • Installation Set-Up

If you already have an older load cell, we recommend doing some back load cell health checks before putting it back into use. How can you evaluate the health of your load cell? You can do some simple diagnostics with load cells. Here are three recommended diagnostics:

  1. Zero Balance Check – If the load cell has been in use for some time, it is good to determine if there has been any potential overload or damage to the load cell. If the zero balance has shifted up or down from the nominal, that is an indication the load cell should be evaluated or repaired prior to using it in test applications.
  2. RCal or Shunt Calibration Check – Any shift from the specifications or certificate requires further evaluation.
  3. Bridge Evaluation – Some instrumentation will allow you to do a bridge evaluation. If you have any concerns on the performance or accuracy of the output, contact Interface to discuss tools that you can use to evaluate the bridge of the load cell.

The next section of Episode 6 highlights the 1200 LowProfile features, installation tips, and mounting options for assembly.

Mechanical Installation Tips

Once you have your load cell hooked up and your instrumentation scale, it is time to put it to work. You want to review the attachment, including thread engagement and mounting. If you are threading into the live end, the center hub on the low profile load cell, make sure you have enough threads engaging into the load cell itself. We recommend that you thread it into where the studs bottom out, then back up a half a turn. Next step is to preload tension load by about 130% of capacity and jam the jam nut. We want to ensure that we do not have any repeatability issues due to thread engagement of the flexure. If you cannot provide a preload, reference the torque values in the installation guide.

Mounting to Base, Structure or Plate Tips

  • Use Grade 8 or Better Hardware
  • Mount to Total Flatness of .002″
  • R30-33 Hardness Scale
  • Follow the star patter to proper torque values
  • Preinstalled Bases

Interface bases help in making integration to any assembly much easier. Interface manufactures bases with the same high-performance materials and specifications for hardness and flatness as our load cells. The bases offer threaded holes, which make it easier for mechanics like hydraulic actuators.

Brian Peters and Elliot Speidell continue to detail the assembly and best practices for three additional products. You can watch more installation tips and recommendations related to the 1100 Model Ultra Precision Compression Only LowProfile Load Cells, SM S-Type Tension and Compression Load Cells and our popular WMC Sealed Stainless Steel Miniature Load Cell.

Interface publishes all our installation guides, diagrams and resources for support online. Go to our support resources for additional help.

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