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How Accurate Are Load Cells?

Introduction How Accurate Are Load Cells?

How Accurate Are Load Cells? These are devices that transform a force, such as weight, pressure, or torque, into a defined electrical signal. They are extensively utilized in a wide range of sectors and tasks, including weighing scales, testing devices, process control, medical equipment, aerospace, and more.

However, how precise are load cells? How can you make sure the load cell you select for your application will produce accurate readings? And what elements influence the precision of load cells?

We shall address these queries and others in this essay. We will go over what load cells are, how they function, why accuracy matters, how accuracy is measured and expressed, what influences accuracy, what types of load cells are available, their accuracy classes, and how to select the best load cell for your application.

What are load cells, and how do they work?

A load cell is a transducer that transforms a force into an electrical output that can be measured. According to their mode of operation, load cells can be classified as hydraulic, pneumatic, or strain gauges.

Pressure is changed in a chamber filled with fluid in hydraulic load cells when a force is applied. The measurement of pressure can be done with a pressure gauge or a pressure transducer.

Pneumatic load cells use a column of air that changes pressure as a force is applied. Both a pressure gauge and a pressure transducer are capable of measuring pressure.

Metal bodies that slightly deform when a force is applied are used in strain gauge load cells. The electrical resistance of strain gauges attached to the body changes as a result of the deformation. A Wheatstone bridge circuit or an amplifier both have the ability to detect changes in resistance.

The most popular kind of load cell are strain gauge load cells because of their great accuracy, adaptability, and affordability. From milligrams to hundreds of tons, they are capable of measuring forces.

Why is load cell accuracy important?

The precision of the load cell is crucial since it affects how accurate and dependable the measurements are. For numerous reasons, including

  • Weighing products or materials for quality control, inventory management, pricing, or safety considerations
  • Testing the durability or functionality of materials, parts, or buildings for development, research, or certification needs.
  • Managing or supervising processes or systems that rely on accurate force or weight measurements, such as dosing, filling, mixing, batching, or feedback control

Mistakes, waste, rework, customer unhappiness, legal problems, and even accidents can result from inaccurate measurements. Therefore, it’s crucial to pick a load cell that satisfies the application’s accuracy requirements.

How is load cell accuracy measured and expressed?

Load cell accuracy is determined by comparing the load cell’s output signal to a known reference value under controlled conditions. The discrepancy between the output signal and the reference value is referred to as the error.

Various specifications that define different parts of the inaccuracy are used to convey load cell accuracy. The most popular requirements include:

  • Non-linearity: The output signal’s divergence from a straight line between zero load and full-scale load
  • Hysteresis: A variation in output signals caused by applying a load in either an increasing or decreasing order, depending on the load.
  • Repeatability: A load cell’s capacity to generate reliable output signals when the same load is applied again.
  • Creep: the gradual shift in output signal caused by a steady load.
  • Temperature effects: changes in the output signal that occur as a result of changes in the surrounding temperature or load cell self-heating.

They are usually expressed as a percentage of the full-scale output (FSO) or rated output (RO) of the load cell. For instance, if a load cell has a non-linearity of 0.02% FSO and a rated output of 2 mV/V, it indicates that the output signal can deviate by up to 0.0004 mV/V from the ideal straight line.

Using accuracy classes outlined in international standards like OIML R60 or NIST Handbook 44 is another technique to represent the accuracy of a load cell. In accordance with these guidelines, load cells are divided into numerous categories depending on the maximum errors that are permitted for specific load fractions and environmental factors. OIML R60, for instance, categorizes accuracy into grades from A to D, with A denoting the highest accuracy and D denoting the lowest accuracy.

Factors Affecting Load Cell Accuracy

Load cell accuracy can be affected by various factors, such as:


Non-linearity is the output signal’s departure from a straight line between no load and maximum load. It results from the inherent properties of the load cell material and construction, such as elasticity, stiffness, or stress distribution.

High-quality components and designs, as well as mathematical modifications to the output signal, can reduce non-linearity.


The difference between the output signals for the same load applied in ascending or descending order is referred to as hysteresis. It is caused by the material of the load cell’s hysteresis loop, which implies that it does not immediately take on its original shape after deforming.

By choosing materials with minimal hysteresis, like stainless steel or aluminum, or by making mathematical modifications to the output signal, hysteresis can be decreased.


The capacity of a load cell to consistently provide output signals under repeated applications of the same load is known as repeatability. It is impacted by the stability and consistency of the load cell material and structure, as well as external influences like noise, vibration, or electrical interference.

By employing premium components and a well-thought-out design, protecting the load cell from outside interference, and filtering or averaging the output signal, repeatability can be increased.


Creep is the gradual change in the output signal caused by a steady load. The viscoelastic characteristic of the load cell material causes it to deform progressively under stress.

Utilizing creep-resistant materials, such as stainless steel or aluminum, or adjusting for the creep effect via a zero adjustment or calibration technique helps minimize creep.

Temperature effects

Temperature effects are changes in the output signal brought on by variations in ambient temperature or load cell self-heating. They result from the material’s thermal expansion or contraction, the structure’s thermal contraction, and the electrical properties of the load cell’s constituents, like strain gauges or amplifiers, which are temperature-dependent.

Utilizing materials with low thermal expansion coefficients, such as stainless steel or aluminum, or applying temperature compensation methods, such as including temperature sensors or resistors in the load cell circuit, can help reduce the impact of temperature.

Calibration and installation errors

Calibration and installation errors occur during or after the calibration or installation of the load cell. They may consist of:

  • Inaccurate use of reference weights or the application of unequal loads during the calibration process
  • Issues in the installation procedure or configuration, such as misalignment, mounting stress, wiring issues, or wrong settings
  • Errors are caused by long-term changes in calibration or installation conditions, such as wear and tear, damage, corrosion, dirt, moisture, or aging.

Calibration and installation faults can be avoided or addressed by following proper calibration and installation recommendations, testing and validating load cell performance on a regular basis, and maintaining and cleaning the load cell on a regular basis.

Types of Load Cells and Their Accuracy Classes

Depending on how they work, load cells can be classified as hydraulic, pneumatic, or strain gauge load cells. Regarding accuracy, performance, price, durability, and applicability for various applications, each type has pros and cons.

Hydraulic How Accurate Are Load Cells?

Whenever a force is applied to the chamber of a hydraulic load cell, the pressure in the chamber changes. It is possible to measure pressure with a pressure gauge or pressure transducer.

Hydraulic load cells have the following benefits over other types of load cells:

  • They are unaffected by changes in temperature and electrical interference.
  • They are inherently safe and clean for sanitary or explosive situations.
  • They can handle heavy-duty applications well and with dependability.

However, there are a few drawbacks to hydraulic load cells as well:

  • In comparison to other kinds of load cells, they are expensive and big.
  • They demand fluid upkeep and leak detection.
  • They have lower accuracy and resolution than other types of load cells.

OIML accuracy class C2 or lower is generally assigned to hydraulic load cells.


Numerous industrial and scientific applications use load cells as a crucial component. They are employed to precisely quantify power and weight. However, a number of variables, including ambient variables, load cell sensitivity, hysteresis, repeatability, non-linearity, creep, and temperature impacts, might alter their accuracy. By performing various actions, such as calibration, testing, installation, and maintenance, the accuracy of a load cell can be increased.

How Accurate Are Load Cells?

A transducer or sensor that measures force or load is called a load cell. It transfers mechanical force into electrical signals, allowing weight, tension, or compression to be precisely measured in a variety of applications.

What are the types of load cells?

Numerous different types of load cells exist, including capacitive, hydraulic, and strain gauge load cells. Each type is created to meet the demands of load measurement in particular applications.

How do load cells work?

How Accurate Are Load Cells? load cell function according to the deformation concept? An electrical signal that is proportionate to the applied force is produced when a load applies a small amount of pressure to a load cell. Then, this signal is changed into a weight or force that can be measured.

What factors affect load cell accuracy?

Temperature changes, overloading, improper installation, hysteresis, and environmental factors can all affect how accurate a load cell is. Maintaining accuracy requires proper maintenance and calibration.

How accurate are load cells?

Depending on the type and quality of the load cell, load cell accuracy can vary. Accuracy in the range of 0.03% to 0.25% of the full-scale capacity is possible with high-quality load cells.

How can I improve the accuracy of my load cell?

Make sure the load cell is installed correctly and is regularly calibrated and maintained to improve accuracy. Avoid overloading the load cell, and shield it from harsh external factors.

What is load cell sensitivity?

The change in electrical output for a specific change in applied force is referred to as load cell sensitivity. It is commonly represented in mV/V and represents the reactivity of the load cell.

What is load cell hysteresis?

Load cell hysteresis is the difference in output values for the same load applied sequentially in increasing and decreasing directions. Accuracy depends on reducing hysteresis.

What is load cell repeatability?

Load cell repeatability assesses a load cell’s capacity to produce consistent and repeated results for the same load. It is a significant precision indicator.

What is load cell non-linearity?

Load cell non-linearity is the departure of the load cell’s output from a perfectly straight line when plotting output vs. load. Its proportion in full-scale production is used to represent it.

What is load cell creep?

Under a sustained load, the term “load cell creep” describes the load cell’s slow, time-dependent distortion. Applications with prolonged load periods should take this into account because it may have an impact on long-term accuracy.

How do environmental factors affect load cell accuracy?

The accuracy of load cells may be impacted by environmental variables such as temperature, humidity, and vibration. Temperature variations can result in expansion or contraction, which can alter measurements. It’s crucial to control the environment properly.

What are some typical techniques for calibrating load cells?

Common calibration techniques include dead weight calibration, calibration using known masses, and load cell-specific calibration tools. Accurate measurements are ensured via calibration.

How can I test my load cell for accuracy?

Utilizing known weights or forces, test load cells and compare the measured and expected values. Regular testing makes it easier to find and fix accuracy problems.

How should I install my load cell to ensure accuracy?

Install load cells with care, making sure they are properly aligned and mounted. Utilize the proper add-ons and install the product in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

How often should I calibrate my load cell?

The frequency of calibration depends on usage, the surrounding environment, and manufacturer recommendations. Most often, load cells need to be calibrated at least annually or whenever there are significant changes in conditions.

How often should I maintain my load cell?

Maintenance must be done frequently. Visually inspect the load cell, clean it, and make sure it’s unharmed and uncontaminated. Although maintenance periods may differ, they should be sufficient to avoid problems.

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