Load Cells: A Primer on Its Types and Applications

employee holding a board

A huge percentage of global sales continue to rely on exact weight measurements of products and shipments. Thus, load cells, which are sensors that detect force, play an important role in today’s commerce.

  • Load cells maintain exact quality control systems for safety processes and manufacturing consistency.
  • They are also often used in laboratory and medical settings to attain precise measurements.

Knowledge of at least the basics of load cells is vital if you want to choose the most appropriate type for your business’ needs. Learn more about load cells and how you can use them through this guide.

What is a Load Cell?

A load cell or a load cell scale measures weight or directional force through a mix of strain gauges and spring elements. This force is converted to an electrical output.

Load cells have different standards and configurations. These depend on the intended environment and application. Below are the two main ways to differentiate the various styles and models of load cells:

  1. By the particular method that is used in detecting weight (tension load cells, compression load cells, plus other types)
  2. By the output signal type (piezoelectric load cells, hydraulic load cells, and other configurations)

Electronic load cells are widely recognized as the present standard in many of today’s manufacturing plants, heavy industries, environments with strict quality control, and large production floors. Load cells are also quickly becoming more common in industries that rely less on critically precise weight measurements, such as in freight calculation and general logistics.

Load cell technologies are also compatible with many other computer-based and digital communications technologies. This allows all types of companies to quickly access and respond to important information in real-time, which is much harder to achieve with traditional mechanical weighing devices. This is why load cells are usually a much more cost-effective and efficient choice.

Types of Load Cells

There are many load cell configurations and types that are available for home, manufacturing, and industrial use worldwide. The following are several types of load cells and the applications they are most likely suited to:

Compression Load Cells

These load cells are designed to measure lateral or downward ‘pushing’ forces only, a lot like standard weighing scales or platforms. Compression load cells are ideally used in weighing applications with limited space and are usually in environments like silo and vessel weigh stations.

Tension Load Cells

A tension load cell measures forces that are ‘pulling’ on it, often from below. Tension load cells are typically used for tensile testing and materials research, vessel and suspended hopper weighing, and aerospace process monitoring.

Hydraulic Load Cells

These load cells are arranged around a cylinder and a piston. These load cells are often used in environmentally challenging, hard-to-access, or hazardous application types and zones. Hydraulic load cells are also often used in basic agricultural and industrial weighing applications with environmental challenges such as dirt, chemical exposure, and moisture.

Micro Load Cells

These load cells usually depend on semiconductor strain gauges instead of foil. They are often used to measure compression forces in areas where space is more valuable.

Piezoelectric Load Cells

Piezoelectric load cells are built around a special transducer material that can convert the measurements of frequent and dynamic force to an electrical output. These load cells are useful for frequent or dynamic measurements of force.

men at a construction site

What to Look for When Selecting a Load Cell

Selecting a load cell is a process that involves several factors. The following are importable variables that don’t always come to the minds of customers:

Load Characteristics

Here are some questions to ask when looking at load characteristics:

  • What is the load type being measured: tension, compression, shear, or bending?
  • What is the necessary mechanical connection type?
  • Is the loading condition non-centered or centered?
  • Is the loading static (meaning constant), dynamic (occurs in milliseconds or seconds), or impact (speeding up and then stopping abruptly)?

Environmental Factors

When looking at environmental factors, here are some questions to ask:

  • Where is the physical location of the application?
  • Will the load cells be placed indoors where there is protection?
  • Will they be placed outside and regularly exposed to humidity and moisture, fluctuating temperatures, extreme cold or heat, and significant dust?

Location of Load Cell

There are many arrangements and sizes of force equipment. As the load cells are joined with the equipment, they must be of a certain geometry and size. These all depend on how little or how much available space there is, and how the available space is configured.

Load cells are a crucial component in almost any manufacturing, weight-based sales, quality assurance, or modern industrial environment. Use the information in this guide when you’re planning on getting load cells.

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