In the early days of force measurement instrumentation and use cases, analog was king and, in many cases, still dominates most use cases. The fact that product manufacturers continue to provide analog solutions is steeped in the accuracy and reliability of the format. Digital is changing this outlook and the rise of solutions that support digital output are on the rise.
Analog and digital signals are utilized for the transmission of information, typically conveyed through electrical signals. In both these technologies, data undergoes a conversion process to transform it into electrical signals. The disparity between analog and digital technologies lies in how information is encoded within the electric pulses. Analog technology translates information into electric pulses with varying amplitudes, while digital technology converts information into a binary format consisting of zeros and ones, with each bit representing two distinct amplitudes.
The primary difference between analog and digital is how the signal is processed. Analog signals when compared to digital signals are continuous and more accurate. Digital measurement solutions have come a long way and are growing in use and popularity due to overall trends towards digital transformation and modernization of testing labs. Read Instrumentation Analog Versus Digital Outputs for further definition.
As more test and measurement professionals and labs are using digital instrumentation, the quality and accuracy of data output has skyrocketed. Primarily, it is much easier to gather and store digital data. This is often seen through the growth in wireless sensor technologies. Interface Digital Instrumentation continues to expand with new products.
Digital signals are stronger than analog signals, providing a better signal that is free from interference by things like temperature, electromagnetism, and radio signals. The data sampling rate is also much faster. As a result, load cells and other force sensors output signals transmitted to digital instrumentation can read and record hundreds of measurements in seconds.
Another major reason for making the switch to digital output is convenience and capability. Digital instrumentation opens a world of possibilities in terms of wireless data transfer, removing the need for wires and giving engineers more flexibility in terms of where to conduct tests, or monitor applications. It also allows for larger force sensor systems to work together on larger applications in which you need multiple data points on different forces around the object you are measuring.
Why Choose a Digital Solution
- Lower-cost options
- Works across existing networks
- It is scalable without causing interruptions
- Multiple sensors can be daisy-chained together on a single cable run
- Built-in error detection
- Less susceptible to noise
Why Choose an Analog Solution
- Speed, fast transmission
- Ease of use
- Familiarity (standard)
- Uses less network bandwidth
- Compatible with DAQs and PLCs
Interface offers a host of digital instrumentation solutions and complete digital systems to easily integrate into your existing test infrastructure. The Interface Instrumentation Selection Guide is a useful resource to help in the selection of digital equipment.
Basic Criteria for Selecting Digital or Analog
- Is there an existing network you need to connect to?
- Are you connecting to an existing DAQ device?
- What is your budget?
- How many sensors are you connecting?
- Do you need to communicate through a bus?
Be sure to tune into the ForceLeaders online event, Unlocking the Power of DAQ Webinar, to learn about data acquisition and digital instrumentation.Digital Instrumentation Brochure