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What Are Load Cells & How Do They Work?

Types Of Load Cells

What are load cells?

Load cells are sensors or transducers found at the heart of every weighing machine, electronic scale, or piece of weighing equipment. It’s here that they’re used to convert load - or force - into a measurable electrical Mv output signal.

Put simply? They’re used to measure weight.

Their precision and accuracy makes them a crucial component across a range of industries and weighing applications. Manufacturing and sorting systems, for example, rely on their precision to ensure accurate weighing of anything from bottles to cans, while they’re also hidden in plain sight in everyday items such as food & labeling scales at the deli or bench scales found at the local post office. 

How do load cells work?

A load cell produces a measurable electrical Mv output signal, but whether this is a voltage change, current change, or frequency change signal is largely dependant on the type of load cell being used and the requirements of the weighing task at hand.

These various signals allow for the easy, efficient weighing of goods in a variety of applications, often found attached to support beams, structural bearings, or underneath objects needing to be weighed via pressure or stresses such as tanks and hoppers, all the way through to bulk material management and mechanical scale conversions.

Load cells are available in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Of these, there are two overarching varieties that both use different methods to arrive at their measurements. These are:


Resistive load cells are some of the most commonly available. These load cells operate on the piezoresistive principle - that is, a change of resistance in response to a load or strain - to create their millivolt range DC voltage output.


Capacitive load cells, meanwhile, are founded on the principle of a change in capacitance whenever a force is applied. This force is measured by the system’s ability to store a charge, which changes depending on the distance between the two internal plates.

11 Things You Need To Consider When Choosing A Load Cell

Load Cells may be designed to measure force and loads, but capacity and size are just two of the many factors consider when choosing the best solution for the job at hand. Some of these include:

1. How would you described the proposed operating environment?

1.1 Is it dirty, dusty, or otherwise harsh?

1.2 Is it controlled and relatively self-contained?

1.3 Is it susceptible to large or small variances in operating temperature?

1.4 Is it exposed to excessive moisture or humidity?

2. Will the Load Cells be exposed to - or immersed in - water, cleaning liquids, or chemicals?

3. How long is the desired duration of measurement?

3.1 Short term.

3.2 Long term.

4. Will the application subject the Load Cell to sudden large loads?

5. What is the desired accuracy?

6. What is the direction of loading?

6.1 Tension?

6.2 Compression?

6.3 Both?

7. Are there any certifications required?

8. What mounting options do you require?

9. What output is required?

10. What is the required measurement speed?

11. What is the total cost of the operation?



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