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Load Cell Basics Sensor Specifications

When selecting a load cell, it’s critical to understand the major factors impacting sensor accuracy. These factors are determined by the materials and components used in the construction of the load cell, the calibration, instrumentation, the accessories such as cables, and mounting installation. Each must be considered in the specific use cases for the load cells.

During our virtual event, Load Cell Basics, applications expert Keith Skidmore detailed everything you need to know about load cells and how to choose the right load cell.  First, Keith highlighted four vital application considerations:

Mechanical – Dimensions and Mounting

Electrical – Output and Excitation

Environmental – Temperature and Moisture

Performance – Accuracy and Thermals

Taking a deeper dive into performance, an important consideration when selecting your load cell are the sensor specifications and how they impact accuracy. The sensor specifications relate to the max error of various parameters. The specifications are always included in product spec sheets and are expressed using the following values – %FS, %RO, %, %/°F, time-related. Specifications listed relate to the max error for accuracy and temperature.

Interface provides all sensor specification data for our load cells in the product datasheets found on each product page for easy download.

The information we provide for every load cell typically includes:

Accuracy:

  • Static Error Band
  • Non-linearity
  • Hysteresis
  • Non-repeatability
  • Creep
  • Side Load Sensitivity
  • Eccentric Load Sensitivity

Temperature:

  • Compensated Range
  • Operating Range
  • Effect on Zero
  • Effect on Span

Further definitions can be found in our online technical glossary.  Here are a few that we highlighted in the Load Cell Basics webinar.

Static Error Band: A band encompassing all points on the ascending and descending curves centered on the best fit straight line. It is expressed in units of %FS.

SEB Output: The output at capacity based on the best fit straight line.

Non-repeatability: The maximum difference between output readings for repeated loadings under IDENTICAL LOADING AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS. In practice, there are many factors that affect repeatability that ARE NOT included in the non-repeatability specification. It is normally expressed in units of %RO.

Non-linearity: The difference in the output from a straight line. It is normally expressed in units of %FS.

Hysteresis: The difference in the ascending versus descending curves. This is normally expressed in units of %F.

Understanding these factors and the maximum error for your specific project is critical to selecting a load cell and getting the best possible data out of it.

To learn more about sensor specifications for load cells, review the product specs on each datasheet or in our product catalogs. For additional help, call to speak with our application engineers at 888-557-2533.

To view additional online events, please go to our events page.

 

How to Choose the Right Load Cell

Load cells are used to test and confirm the design of hardware, components, and fixtures used across industries and by consumers. From the structural integrity of an airplane to the sensitivity of a smartphone touchscreen, there’s a load cell available to measure force. In fact, here at Interface we have over tens of thousands of products used in force measurement, for all types of different applications.

How do engineers and product designers go about choosing the right load cell for a specific application or testing project?

Have no fear, Interface has put together a short guide on choosing the load cell that is right for you. This blog will cover the basic questions to answer when selecting a product, as well the most important factors affecting load cell choice.  Be sure to watch the online video, Load Cell Basics, that highlights key factors of consideration when choosing the right load cell for additional insights.

The basic questions you need to consider when selecting a load cell include:

  • What are the expected loads? What is the minimum and maximum load you’ll be measuring?
  • Is there any potential for higher peak loads than what you intend to measure? What are these expected peak forces?
  • Is it tension, compression, or both?
  • Will there be any off-axis loads? If so, what is their geometry? Do you want to measure them too?
  • Will it be a static, dynamic or fatigue measurement?
  • What is the environment in which you’ll be conducting your test? Will the load cell need to be sealed?
  • How accurate do your measurements need to be? Do they need to be at the highest accuracy of ±0.02-0.05% or within ±0.5-1%?
  • What additional features, accessories and instrumentation does your application require to complete a test?
  • Do you need standard electrical connectors or customized options? What about additional bridges or amplifiers?
  • How are you planning to collect and analyze the data output from the load cell?

Next, these are the most important factors affecting accuracy, which will have a heavy influence over the load cell you choose. It’s important to understand how your application and the load cell will be affected by each of the factors, which include:

  • Mechanical – Dimensions and Mounting
  • Electrical – Output and Excitation
  • Environmental – Temperature and Moisture

One of the most important factors in choosing the right load cell is understanding how it will be mounted for testing or as a component within a design. There are a wide variety of mounting types including threaded connections, inline, through hole or even adhesive. Understanding the mounting type that suits your application is critical to getting the correct data because a poorly mounted load cell will distort the results and can damage the load cell.

The mounting process also requires you to understand which direction the load is coming from, in addition to any extraneous loads that may be present. The load cell mating surface is also an important factor. For example, when using our LowProfile® load cells without a pre-installed base, the best practice is to ensure that the mating surface is clean and flat to within a 0.0002-inch total indicator reading and is of suitable material, thickness, and hardness (Rc 30 or higher). Also make sure that bolts are torqued to the recommended level.

If you’re conducting a fatigue measurement, it’s also important to address the frequency and magnitude of load cycles with your load cell provider. Factors to address include single mode versus reverse cycles, deflection versus output resolution, and material types. Interface offers a wide variety of fatigue-rated load cells that are perfect for these types of applications.

Another consideration in choosing the right load cell is the electrical signal. Load cells work by converting force into an electrical signal. Therefore, it’s important to understand the electrical output type necessary for your application, which could include millivolt, voltage, current or digital output. You can find the excitation voltage data on our website for each of our load cells. Additional considerations include noise immunity, cable length and proper grounding.

The environment is also a critical factor in ensuring accurate performance of your load cell. Interface provides load cells in a variety of material types including aluminum, steel, and stainless steel. Each material has a variety of properties that make them more suitable for different environments. For a more in-depth perspective on the different strengths and weaknesses of materials, please read our blog titled, Considerations for Steel, Stainless Steel and Aluminum Load Cells. For applications where load cells need to be submerged in liquid or enter an explosive environment, we also have a variety of harsh environment and IP rated load cells, in addition to load cells suitable for high humidity or splash resistance. Learn more about our intrinsically safe load cells here.

Learn more about choosing the right load cell in these online resources:

WATCH: Load Cell Basics with Keith Skidmore

WATCH: How to Choose a Load Cell with Design Engineer Carlos Salamanca

READ: Load Cell Field Guide

VISIT: Interface Technical Library

To learn more about choosing the right load cell for any application, connect with our applications engineers about the force measurement needs for your next project at 480-948-5555.

Load Cell Basics Webinar Recap

Interface applications and load cell expert Keith Skidmore was the featured presenter at the latest ForceLeaders Forum hosted event, Load Cell Basics. In his comprehensive presentation, he highlights key subjects including fundamentals of load cell design, sensor specifications, use cases, troubleshooting and valuable performance related topics.

The entire event is now available on the Interface YouTube channel. In this 60-minute virtual event, Keith highlights commonly asked questions from both new load cell users as well as for advanced engineers and force measurement pros.

What will you learn watching the online Load Cells Basics event?

  • Load cell designs and how they work
  • Capacities, models and how to choose the right load cell
  • Factors that can impact sensor accuracy
  • Performance, moment compensation, creep, and eccentric load sensitivity
  • Calibration and troubleshooting
  • Use Cases and FAQs

The team concluded the event by answering a series of questions from the participants. They addressed advanced technical and set-up questions, as well as frequently asked inquiries about common troubleshooting issues.

Here is a sample of questions that you can find answered in the Load Cell Basics recorded event:

  • Is the temperature compensation achieved using dummy gauges?
  • Does Interface offer or have their own software to read the TEDs?
  • Can we assume that all load cells are intrinsically safe for hazardous locations?
  • What is the IP protection rating for the electrical connection?
  • What is better way to tare load cells, by electronics or mechanical preload?
  • Which is the frequency measurement limit and how fast does the load cell respond?
  • What are recommended amplifier instrumentation brands?
  • What is the most frequent problem when installing a load cell?
  • Does the cables and amplifiers affect the results of the load cell calibration?
  • For an application to 10 kN (2250 lbf), is it too much to use a 2000 lb load cell or should we use the next higher capacity?
  • What is the maximum sampling frequency for strain gage load cells?

WATCH THE EVENT AND Q&A HERE: https://youtu.be/_oHvfAzHMig

If you have additional technical questions or would like to talk about your specific application requirements, contact our Interface Application Engineers here. 

Additional resources for troubleshooting can be found here.

Our Interface Load Cell Field Guide is also helpful for troubleshooting and advanced technical support references.  You can order here.