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Improperly Loading a Load Cell

The mechanics of load application (direction and contact points), support structure and mounting aids all influence the accuracy of the reading produced by a load cell. For the most precise results, it is necessary to apply the load correctly, thus minimizing the effects of the factors mentioned above.
Direction of the applied load: Load should be applied directly to the loading surface of the instrument, with care taken to avoid side loading, application of torsional force and bending. Additionally, the application of forces that do not correspond with the designated measurement direction of the load cell (ex. compression force on a tension load cell), will skew the resulting measurement and can potentially shorten the operating life of the load cell. Load application points: Care should be taken to ensure that the load is being applied evenly to the appropriate contact points on the load cell and that the load cell is making proper contact with the surface it rests on or is mounted to.
The support structure or mounting arrangement is equally important for obtaining accurate measurements and preventing damage to the load cell. Instruments for measuring compressive force should be located with their base on a level surface which is strong enough to withstand the measurement force without deformation. If the support structure is not strong enough to bear the weight of the load, then as the support deforms, the load cell becomes subject to off-axis loading.
The S-Beam Load Cell Application Notes and Donut Load Cell Application Notes that we provide with our products illustrate these concepts with diagrams showing proper and improper loading. If proper loading practices are not followed and improper loading occurs, the current measurement may be inaccurate and the load cell may experience permanent damage, resulting in inaccuracy for future measurements as well. If you have any question about how to ensure the best measurement for your application or how to properly mount your load cell, our staff is waiting to advise you so that you get the best results from your measurement system.
As always, if you have any questions related to this material, our support staff at Cooper Instruments is available to help. Contact them by calling (800) 344-3921 or emailing sales@cooperinstruments.com.
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