Load cells: measuring forces

Load cells are by far the most common method used to measure force. This kind of sensor consists of a piece of metal with a strain gauge, which is a piece of foil with a carbon pattern. The resistance changes as this pattern is stretched, compressed or distorted.

An electronic circuit called a Wheatstone bridge can accurately measure the change in resistance. Metals exhibit nice linear behavior within a certain area when deformed, so the force can be calculated in the sensor or externally by measuring the resistance of the sensor.


Easy to integrate

Load cell are not particularly expensive, and they are relatively easy to integrate into a design. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to study the mechanics of the system closely. If the configuration is right, the force is perpendicular to the load cell and there are no other supports that absorb part of the force.

There are also situations that require highly accurate measurements and therefore a light load cell, but where the system must nevertheless be able to withstand shocks such as a mechanic putting all their weight on the conveyor belt. You can then protect the sensor by creating a stop, which is a buffer that the system runs up against, and that keeps the sensor within its nominal allowable deflection.

Load cells with a strain gauge are the most common in the industry, but other solutions are available that use piezo elements. One new option that is gaining ground is the fiber Bragg grating sensor.

Featured load cells

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