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Load Cell Simulator 101

A load cell simulator is a device that mimics the electrical signal of a load cell. This allows technicians to test and calibrate measurement systems without applying physical force or weight to the load.

By generating a range of input signals using a load cell simulator, technicians can assess the instrument’s linearity, sensitivity, and accuracy, ensuring it meets the required specifications.

The two most common uses for load cell simulators are troubleshooting and calibration. Load cell simulators can effectively troubleshoot force measurement systems, detecting and isolating faults or malfunctions. By simulating various load conditions and injecting fault conditions, technicians can pinpoint the source of the problem, such as a broken wire or a faulty load cell.

Load cell simulators are essential for calibrating force measurement devices, ensuring they accurately translate applied force into a measurable electrical signal. By generating a controlled force signal, technicians can compare the displayed value to the known input signal, identifying discrepancies and adjusting the device accordingly.

Interface load cell simulators are part of our accessories product line. They are an essential accessory and valuable investment for any testing lab or research facility frequently using load cells. These simulators can help to improve safety, reduce downtime, improve accuracy, lower costs, and increase convenience.

Why Use a Load Cell Simulator?

  • Testing and monitoring force measurement systems: Load cell simulators can test instrumentation performance used in force measurement systems, such as hydraulic presses, assembly machines, and material testing machines. By simulating forces that the system would typically encounter, the simulator can help identify potential problems with the instrumentation, ensuring that the system operates safely and efficiently.
  • Verifying proper indicator setup: Load cell simulators can be used to verify that an indicator is configured correctly for the type of load cells being used. This includes checking the scaling and the instrument’s linearity.
  • Cable checks: One of the first troubleshooting tips for any load cell application is to check the cables and connectors. A load cell simulator is valuable for checking cables.
  • Scaling: Load cell simulators are crucial for scaling force measurement devices, enabling precise calibration, troubleshooting, and testing. They play a vital role in ensuring the accuracy and reliability of force measurements across various industries.
  • Calibrating scale indicators: Load cell simulators can generate a precise mV/V signal corresponding to a specific weight. This allows technicians to calibrate scale indicators to ensure that they are displaying accurate weight readings.
  • Application evaluation: Load cell simulators can be used to develop and troubleshoot force-related applications, such as medical devices, prosthetics, and exercise equipment. By simulating forces that users would typically apply, the simulator can help to ensure that the application is safe, effective, and operational.
  • Research and product development: Load cell simulators can be used to research new force measurement applications.
  • Technician training: Load cell simulators can educate and train technicians on the proper use and calibration of load cells.

Interface Load Cell Simulators

CX SERIES PRECISION MV/V TRANSFER STANDARD LOAD CELL SIMULATOR 

CX SERIES PRECISION mV/V TRANSFER STANDARDModel CX Series Precision mV/V Transfer Standard is the market’s most accurate load cell simulator. This NIST Traceable product is commonly used to calibrate and check instruments in accredited labs.

  • Most accurate load cell simulator
  • Special low thermal EMF construction
  • Each unit is individually calibrated, aged, and recalibrated
  • Strong, rugged design
  • Instrument substitution testing

In the series, models CX-0202, CX-0610, CX-0440, CS-0330, and CX-0220 are used to set up and check the Gold Standard® System Hardware. CX-0440, CX-0330, and CX-0220 are single-step mV/V transfer standards providing precision outputs of ±4, ±3, and ±2 mV/V respectively. CX-0610 is a multi-step unit that allows the user to go from -6 mV/V to +6 mV/V in 1 mV/V steps. Model CX-0404 is specifically designed for instrument substitution testing as per ASTM E74.

EVALUATOR 3 LOAD CELL SIMULATOR 

Evaluator 3 Load Cell SimulatorThe Evaluator 3 variable range simulator is well suited for basic troubleshooting needs, offering nine fixed intervals from -5 mV/V to +4.5 mV/V.

  • ABS plastic case
  • Weighs less than 1 lb (0.45 kg)
  • Fixed rotary switch, -0.5 mV/V to 4.5 mV/V in 9 steps of 0.5mV/V per step
  • Used in testing and troubleshooting mV/V instrumentation

IF500 LOAD CELL SIMULATOR 

The new model IF500 is a 5V or 10V excitation-only load cell simulator with a state-of-the-art microprocessor-based design. It is a cost-effective simulator with advanced instrumentation capabilities. The instrument excitation supply powers the IF500 and requires no batteries.

  • Set “ANY” mV/V value within ±5mV/V
  • State-of-the-art, microprocessor-based design
  • Sleep mode eliminates digital clock noise
  • Powered by instrument excitation supply… No batteries
  • Buffered Ratiometric output
  • 350-ohm bridge configuration
  • Stores up to 10 settings with sequential recall
  • Digital zero trim and storage
  • Low noise, low quiescent current, low-temperature coefficient, high stability amplifiers
  • Compatible with instruments using 5V or 10V excitation, including Interface’s instrument models 9820, 9840, 9860, 9870, 9890, CSC/CSD, DMA/DMA2, DCA, INF1/INF4, ISG, SGA, and VSC
  • Options include: NIST Traceable Calibration Certificate, Screw Terminal Adapters for the BNC Connectors and Cable Adapters

Application Examples for Load Cell Simulators

Manufacturing: Load cell simulators are essential for calibrating and testing force measurement devices used in manufacturing processes, ensuring accurate force control and product consistency. ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: Manufacturing Solutions.

Food Processing: Load cell simulators are critical in calibrating and troubleshooting force measurement devices, ensuring precise portion control, and maintaining food safety standards.  ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: Force Measurement for Efficiency in Food Processing and Packaging

Construction: Load cell simulators are employed for testing and calibrating force measurement devices used in construction applications, such as crane load monitoring and material testing. ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: Construction Solutions

Medical Devices: Load cell simulators are utilized for calibrating and verifying the accuracy of force measurement devices in medical applications, such as patient weighing scales and rehabilitation equipment. ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: Medical and Healthcare

Interface load cell simulators are indispensable tools for scaling force measurement devices, providing a safe, efficient, and cost-effective means to ensure the accuracy and reliability of force measurements across diverse industries. Their ability to calibrate, troubleshoot, and test force measurement devices contributes to product quality, process control, safety, and regulatory compliance, making them essential for maintaining the integrity of force measurement systems.

Faces of Interface Featuring Ryan Roden

Ryan Roden, one of our outstanding engineers, is our feature in today’s Faces of Interface. Ryan has been a team member at Interface for more than two years. He is instrumental in leading one of our most important product lines, the revolutionary AxialTQ wireless rotary torque transducer.

Like many of Interface’s talented engineers, Ryan’s interest in the world of electronics and design started at an early age. He remembers working on cars, building, and fixing things around the house constantly as a kid. In addition, his father owned a machine shop, so he always had the tools around, as well as the mentorship of his father.

This early interest led Ryan to pursue an educational foundation in electrical engineering at LeTourneau University in Texas. During his time in school, he also had the opportunity to join Colorado Engineering as an intern, which eventually led to his very first role in the industry as an associate electrical engineer with the same company.

In this role, Ryan worked with a wide variety of different applications, most notable military grade products involving radar. As an associate engineer, he worked on digital design, board layout, testing and troubleshooting across military and commercial applications. He worked with Colorado Engineering, Inc., for two years before moving back to Arizona.

When he came back, Ryan worked for his dad for a few months while looking for a job in the area. He found Interface had an opening and immediately saw that his skillset fit the types of things we’re doing in the area of electrical engineering, and he was excited to have a diverse set of industries and applications that can utilize his experience.

Ryan was hired and he has been an excellent member of the team. He notes that his day-to-day is always different, but typically he can be found troubleshooting electrical challenges, designing PCBs, dealing with the supply chain to source parts and materials, and working with the engineering lab on new products.

What he enjoys most about working at Interface is that it is a diverse mix of different fields of engineering including electrical and mechanical. He also enjoys the deep level of problem solving required to serve customers. He says the work keeps him on his toes and constantly shifting gears to solve different challenges.

In his free time, Ryan is an outdoors person. He enjoys boating in the summer and hunting as much as possible throughout Arizona, as well as spending time with his family. He also still enjoys being around and working on cars, a passion that never left him since he was a kid.

Ryan has proven his abilities as an engineer repeatedly over the last two years with Interface and we are proud to have him on the team!

We hope you enjoyed learning more about Ryan, and if you’re interested in getting to know the rest of our outstanding Interface team members, tune in monthly to the Interface blog for more ForceLeaders features.

Additional Resources

Interface Celebrates Engineers

Electrical Engineers Choose Interface Sensor Technologies

AxialTQ Technical White Paper Details Comparative Testing

Recap of Latest Spin on AxialTQ Webinar

Interface Solutions for Production Line Engineers

Quality Engineers Require Accurate Force Measurement Solutions

 

Can Load Cells Be Repaired?

Load cells are very resilient. Most are constructed with sturdy materials that can withstand long and arduous cycling and multitudes of testing projects. In fact, with proper treatment, regular calibration services and use within specifications, load cells can last many years. Even with such high quality and durability, it is important to perform regular diagnostic checks of a load cell to maintain the health of any force measurement device.

FACT: Interface has load cells that are in use today that we manufactured several decades ago. As the saying goes, Interface load cells are built to last.

A load cell can be damaged or lose accuracy. Load cells can be repaired depending on the extent of damage. Some common issues such as cable damage, electrical faults, or environmental factors can be repaired by replacing parts or recalibrating the load cell. However, more severe damage such as physical damage to the load cell itself may make it beyond repair and require replacement.

What is the most common type of damage to a load cell?

Most often, a load cell is damaged by overloading or exceeding its rated capacity. This can result in physical deformation or strain on the load cell, leading to permanent damage and reduced accuracy.

Other common causes of damage to load cells include exposure to harsh environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures, moisture, or corrosive substances, as well as electrical faults such as voltage spikes or short circuits. Additionally, mechanical stress from improper installation or handling can also cause damage to load cells.

What steps should be taken to evaluate a load cell that might be damaged?

  • Visual Inspection: Ensure that the physical installation, correct interconnection of components and the system are all intact. For example, has the load cell been dropped or have any damage to connectors or adapters? Reference the installation and operation manuals available with each product.
  • Electrical Testing: Use an Ohmmeter to check the bridge circuitry and zero balance. Evaluate the resistance and output of the load cell. If there is a notable change in resistance or output, it may indicate that the load cell is damaged. This is also a good time to check the troubleshooting guide.
  • Test Loads: Apply a range of test loads to the load cell and observe if the readings are consistent and within the expected range.
  • Calibration: If the load cell is not functioning correctly, recalibrate it using a weight calibration system or load cell calibrator to see if the readings are within the expected range.
  • Professional Evaluation: Request a thorough inspection of the device to determine the load cell can be repaired or needs to be replaced.

It is important to follow safety protocols and to use proper equipment and techniques when evaluating a load cell to avoid causing additional damage.

After a thorough physical inspection along with mechanical and electrical installation checks, it is determined that a load cell is not performing to specifications it is time to contact the manufacturer for Services & Repair to schedule a return of the product for further evaluation and potential load cell repair.

Use Cases for Frequent Calibration Services and Repair Evaluations

  • Harsh environmental conditions can cause corrosion and electrical failures
  • Loading forces that exceed the load cell rated capacity can cause shifting of the zero-load output of the load cell
  • Moment loading of the load cell can cause zero shifts and other undesirable behavior
  • High cycle rates or fatigue applications can cause premature failure

Many of these symptoms can be repaired or mitigated if they are identified early during appropriate evaluation and calibration cycles. In addition, load cells are prone to losing accuracy through normal wear and tear and ageing. There are times when loading conditions and use case environments necessitate the need for more frequent evaluation and calibration cycles. The process of calibration can include adjusting the measuring instrument to bring it in alignment with the standard specifications.

It is always recommended that users consult an application engineer or user’s manual to avoid situations where a load cell can be damaged or degrade accuracy too quickly. Interface has deeps expertise in repair and calibration, built and proven over 55 years in the business of making and calibrating load cells.

Interface provides repair evaluation and services on load cells we make and from other manufacturers. Repairs include a complete evaluation of the device prior to repair and calibration upon completion. Our standards for calibration are world-class. Our calibration labs are managed by experts in diagnostics, testing and repair with engineering and metrology grade equipment designed by the leaders in force measurement.

If you’re already a load cell user and have not had your products calibrated in some time, we recommend scheduling your calibration service online here. Load cells can provide years and years of quality data as long as they are properly taken care of. Put your trust In Interface to make that happen.

Additional Resources

Services & Repair

Mechanical Installation Load Cell Troubleshooting 101

How Do Load Cells Work?

Regular Calibration Service Maintains Load Cell Accuracy

System Level Calibration Validates Accuracy and Performance

 

Mechanical Installation Load Cell Troubleshooting 101

The performance of a load cell force measurement system is dependent upon the reliability of the physical installation, correct interconnection of the components, proper performance of the basic components which make up the system, and calibration of the system.

Interface provides installation instructions for our products. Review the installation guide and keep on hand for installation and troubleshooting. Load cells not mounted in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations may not perform to the design specifications.

Always start any troubleshooting with a physical inspection of the load or weighing sensor. Resistance results from numerous factors, creating an inaccurate reading of the measurement and potential overload. If there is any appearance of dents, bending, cracks or deformation it is likely the device will need to be repaired or replaced. If none of these conditions are visible, the next step is to troubleshoot the mechanical installation.

The following is a quick checklist to reference for mechanical installation troubleshooting:

  • Check the mounting surfaces for cleanliness, flatness, and alignment
  • Check the torque of all mounting hardware
  • Check the load cell orientation
  • Check use of proper hardware as required to connect the load to the load cell
  • Check cables or output devices

Orientation is of a load cell is defined by the “dead” end on mechanical reference or load forcing source and the “live” end connected to the load to be measured by the cell. Dead end is the end closest mechanically to the cable exit or connector. A fundamental requirement is that there be one, and only one, load path.  This load path must be through the load axis of the load cell. This may sound elementary; however, it is a commonly overlooked problem.

Check all hardware and accessories when troubleshooting during mechanical installation, including all connectors, cables, thread sizes, jam nuts, swivels, mounts, and bolts. It is always important to also thoroughly inspect the cables used in a system. Evaluate the cable to ensure there is no crimping, cuts, or exposed wires. This is a common cause of mechanical installation failure.

For a quick reference, here is a discussion about what a healthy load cell should look like, and any visual clues that may potentially be a sign for an improperly working load cell.

For more helpful guides and troubleshooting tips, please visit the Interface Technical Library. Interface provides technical support for additional questions related to installation or if there is help needed in troubleshooting any of our products. Contact us here and let us know how we can help.

Additional Resources

Force Measurement Installation Guides

I’ve Got a Load Cell, Now What Play List

Force Measurement Accessories 101

 

System Level Calibration Validates Accuracy and Performance

Interface strongly recommends when buying any force measurement sensor along with instrumentation that you request a system level calibration. The final step taken to confirm that a sensor and instrumentation are working properly together before leaving Interface is a system level calibration.

System level calibrations provide traceability and record for reference for validating performance and accuracy. It is important to review calibration certificates prior to use and for any troubleshooting. System level calibrations ensure that all system components, including connectors, cables, transducers, and instrumentation are ready to use out of the box.

Interface provides calibration to all individual force measurement components. A basic calibration for the load cell is performed and certified of how the transducer performs in isolation. Expert Interface Calibration Technicians always calibrate these devices to meet the design specification and the exact parameters outlined in the accompanying calibration certifications shipped with the part. A calibration certification characterizes the load cell performance across specific force range with different load points applied output from the load cell versus applied load, confirmed by the specification in voltage outputs, milliamps, or digital output types.

A system level calibration ensures that the performance of the transducer and instrumentation are operating as a system, together. A system level calibration and an associated certification proves the system pairing is functional and essentially plug-and-play ready.

The system level calibration is an important reference for traceability and troubleshooting for the entire system. It can help identify if a setting has been changed or if there is another issue that invalidated the system.

Interface can provide system level calibrations for load cells, torque transducers, multi-axis sensors and other measurement tools that are paired with indicators, amplifiers, USB, and digital instruments. Interface uses a very high quality NIST and NMI traceable mV/V transfer standard to ratiometrically scale or applied force to scale the system. We provide a separate digital indicator calibration certificate indicating how we scaled the instrument.

Interface guarantees our quality performance load cells, torque transducers, multi-axis sensors, and related instrumentation. We certify our products to meet or exceed the quality clauses outlined by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO).

Interface is A2LA Accredited for torque and force calibration in accordance with International Standard ISO/IEC 17025:2017.

From the time we designed our first load cells in 1968, we have been providing calibration solutions. We even calibrate other manufacturers load cells.  Every year, Interface performs more than 100,000 calibrations. Every transducer’s calibration data is stored at Interface, providing a permanent archive. We utilize NMI Certified Gold and Platinum Standard reference load cells and our Interface Gold Standard Calibration Software for all calibrations.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Instrumentation Selection Guide

Top Five Reasons Why Calibration Matters

Recap of Accurate Report on Calibration

Regular Calibration Service Maintains Load Cell Accuracy

Shunt Calibration 101

Load Cell Basics Sensor Specifications

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.

Interface 2021 Video Watch List

Interface is committed to providing a variety of online support resources to help our customers and those interested in using our products and services. In fact, we host one of the industry’s largest self-help glossaries of test and measurement technical terms, a detailed technical library, along with a robust troubleshooting guide and access to our famous Load Cell Field Guide.

In our conversations with customers, we know that people like to consume information in a variety of formats. That is why in 2021 we produced a number of new videos to extend our digital library of education and training references.

From product use cases to technical user guides, our team of experts have created 19 new videos in 2021.  The new Interface videos cover a diverse set of topics, including product introductions, industry solutions, animated application notes, use cases, installation tips, and explainers for using Interface software.

We also introduced our new ForceLeaders Webinar Series in 2021. We hosted seven expert-led online events that included product overviews, technical tips, installation support, use cases and FAQs for a number of Interface products and services. Each webinar was recorded and archived on our site, as well as posted on our YouTube channel.

Here is a quick and easy guide to the 2021 Watch List for the latest releases from Interface’s video vault:

NEW 2021 FORCELEADERS WEBINARS

INDUSTRY SOLUTIONS 

ANIMATED APPLICATION NOTES AND USE CASES

PRODUCT OVERVIEWS, SET-UP AND TRAINING VIDEOS

So what is on the schedule for 2022? You need to tune-in by subscribing to our YouTube channel, as well as watching for upcoming ForceLeaders Webinars.  We are already working on our first series of online events that we’ll launch in February. Keep watching, we have a lot more we are ready to share.

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.