Load Cell Mounting in Imperfect Conditions

While load cells are utilized in a multitude of industries and applications, manufacturing load cells takes place in controlled environments with nearly ideal conditions, resulting in specifications that are relatively precise and accurate. Likewise, factory calibrations are performed under ideal conditions where the geometrical accuracies are designed to keep from contributing to the error (or at least be in the range of acceptable “noise”).


In the real world, issues may arise when the load cell is utilized in imperfect conditions. While environmental conditions, primarily temperature, have an impact on measurement performance, it is typically the geometrical conditions that present the most widespread source of error for end-users. Off-axis and non-axial loading are significant sources of error.


When the applied load and the loaded device are not parallel to one another, error may result. Addressing this issue can be challenging, but the key is to keep the force vector going through the center of the load cell. This is best addressed through appropriate design, but sometimes implementation of a new device into an existing system makes this a harder task. Spherical contact methods, such as load buttons, can help regulate the errors involved through these types of geometrical inconsistencies by distributing the load more evenly through the center of the load cell.


Mounting on rough and uneven surfaces can also impact the performance of the load cell. These errors are usually much easier to address. Typically, hardened and ground washers can be utilized at the point of contact between the load cell and load. In applications where it may not be possible to employ hardened and ground washers at the load cell and base support interface, another means to provide a good surface is to add a custom ground plate between the load cell and the base support.


As there are a multitude of geometrical conditions that adversely impact the performance of a load cell, the intention of this article is to educate users of load cells of the fact that the geometrical conditions of the loading surfaces merit consideration when designing a test environment.


We at Cooper Instruments have many years of helping customers ensure their application is based on sound engineering principles and are happy to help assist in defining the best means by which to mount their device.

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
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