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VPG TRANSDUCERS

Load Cells Application Note VPG-08

Load Cell Troubleshooting

Scope Visually inspect the load cells before performing the


tests as described on the following pages. Pay particular
Load cells are designed to sense force or weight under a attention to signs of corrosion (especially around the
wide range of adverse conditions; they are not only the critical gauge area), the integrity of the cable (might be
most essential part of an electronic weighing system, but compromised due to cuts, abrasions, etc) and the condition
also the most vulnerable. of the cable entry.
Load cells m ight be damaged because of (shock) The following test equipment is required to properly
overloading, lightning strikes or heavy electrical surges evaluate a load cell:
in general, chemical or moisture ingress, mishandling
(dropping, lifting on cable, etc.), vibration or internal A high quality, calibrated, digital volt- and ohmmeter
component malfunction. As a direct result the scale or with a measuring accuracy of 0.5 and 0.1 mV, to
system might (zero) drift, provide unstable/unreliable measure the zero balance and integrity of the bridge
readings or not register at all. circuit.
A megohm meter, capable of reading 5000 M with
This application note is written to assist our customers
an accuracy of 500 M at 50 volts, to measure the
with potential load cell problems. It describes basic field
insulation resistance. Do not use megohm meters which
tests which can be performed on site, and provides the
supply more than 50 volts to the load cell, in order to
information necessary to interpret the results.
prevent permanent damage!
Proper field evaluation is absolutely critical to prevent A means to lift the dead load (weighbridge, tank,
similarly induced damage in the future! Under no hopper, conveyor, etc.) off the load cell to be able to
circumstances should fault location, as described below, be measure the zero balance or to remove the load cell(s),
attempted on load cells installed in a hazardous area! i.e. a crane, hydraulic jack, etc.
Load cells are produced according to specifications and
In General
tolerances which are described in the applicable data
Carefully check the system integrity before evaluating the sheet. More detailed information can be found on the
load cells: calibration certificate which is packed with each load
cell. The calibration certificate mentions the exact values
Check for force shunts (might be caused by dirt, for the input and output resistance, insulation resistance,
mechanical misalignment or accompanying zero balance, rated output and the correct wiring code;
components such as stay- or check rods). it provides an important reference for the values which can
Check for damage, corrosion or significant wear in the be measured and should be f iled with the system
documentation set.
A PPL I CAT I O N N OT E
areas of load introduction.
Check cable connections to junction box and
indicator.
Check the measuring device or indicator with an
accurate load cell simulator.

Document Number: 11867 For technical support, contact in Americas lc.usa@vishaypg.com, www.vpgtransducers.com
Revision 14-Dec-2011 in Europe lc.eur@vishaypg.com, in China lc.prc@vishaypg.com, 1
in Taiwan lc.roc@vishaypg.com
Test #1 Test #2 Te
OK OK
Zero Balance Insulation Br
Resistance Inte
VPG-08
VPG Transducers
Wrong Wrong
Load Cell Troubleshooting
TEST PROCEDURES AND ANALYSIS
Mechanical Moisture Electrica
overload
Test Procedures andfor
Analysis or chemical or in
The diagram below represents a proposed sequence testing load cells after a particular system
ingress shor
The malfunction.
diagram below Isolate thea proposed
represents fault location byfor
sequence moving
testing a relatively
load cells aftersmall deadweight
a particular over each load
system malfunction. cell,
Isolate the
faultor by disconnecting
location load cell
by moving a relatively by deadweight
small load cell. over each load cell, or by disconnecting load cell by load cell.
R1k
Sudden change Unstable readings, Scale reads overload, Erratic readings
in Zero point random change incorrect or not at all when load is
in Zero point Short
appliedcircuit
or removed Brok
to housing / screen or com

Test #1 Test #2 Test #3 Test #4


OK OK OK OK
Zero Balance Insulation Bridge Shock
Resistance Integrity Resistance

TEST #1: ZERO BALANCE


Wrong
The Zero Wrong
Balance is defined Wrong
as the load Wrongcell output in a "no-lo
Mechanical
deadload)
Moisture
has to beElectrical
removed from the load
overload
cell. Low capacity load c
Failed electrical
overload the ingress
or load cell is designed
chemical or to measure force to prevent the weight of the
internal
short circuit
connection

The load cell should be connected to a stable power supply, preferab


R1
R1k k R
R4
of at least 10 volts. Disconnect any other load cell for multiple load c
Measure
Short circuit the voltage Broken
across wire the load cell's output leads with a milli
excitation voltage to obtain the Zero Balance in mV/V. Compare the
to housing / screen or component

certificate ( if available ) or to the data sheet.


Test #1: Zero Balance
TEST #1: ZERO BALANCE
The Zero Balance is defined as the load cell output in
The Zero
a "no-load" BalanceTherefore,
situation. is defined all
as weight
the load(including Input
cell output in a "no-load" situation. Therefore, all weight (including
deadload) has has
deadload) to be removed
to be removed from
fromthe
theload Lowcapacity load cells should be measured in the position in which
load cell. Low ~
capacity
the load cell
cellsisshould be to
designed measured
measure in thetoposition
force preventin
the weight of the element giving wrong results.
whichThe
the load
load cell
cell should
is designed to measure
be connected to aforce
stabletopower
prevent
supply, preferably a load cell indicator with an excitation voltage
the weight of the element giving wrong results.
of at least 10 volts. Disconnect any other load cell for multiple load cell systems.
Measure
The load the voltage
cell should across the
be connected to aload cell's
stable poweroutput leads with a millivoltmeter and divide this value by the input or
supply,
A PPL I CAT I O N N OT E

excitation
preferably a loadvoltage to obtainwith
cell indicator the Zero Balance involtage
an excitation mV/V. Compare the Zero balance to the original load cell calibration
of at certificate ( if available
least 10 volts. ) or toany
Disconnect the other
data sheet.
load cell for
multiple load cell systems. Output V

Measure the voltage across the load cell's output leads


Input
with a millivoltmeter and divide this value by the input ~
or excitation voltage to obtain the Zero Balance in mV/V.
Compare the Zero balance to the original load cell
calibration certificate ( if available ) orANALYSIS
to the data sheet. zero output changes per time period are most likely
Analysis
Changes in Zero undergoing
Output
Balancea change
usually occur
in the if the
strain gauge loadbecause
resistance cell has been
of chemical or moisture intrusion. However, in this case
excessive shocks.theLoad
Changes in Zero Balance usually occur if the load cell
V
cells that experience progressive zero ou
insulation resistance and/or the bridge integrity will
undergoing
has been permanently deformed by overloading a change
and/or incompromised.
also be the strain gauge resistance because of chem
excessive shocks. Load cells that experience progressive
ANALYSIS the insulation resistance and/or the bridge integrity will also be comp
Changes in Zero Balance usually occur if the load cell has been permanently deformed by overloading and/or
excessive shocks. Load cells
www.vpgtransducers.com that experience
For technical progressive
support, contact zero lc.usa@vishaypg.com,
in Americas output changes per time period are most
Document likely
Number: 11867
2 in Europe
undergoing a change in the strain lc.eur@vishaypg.com,
gauge resistance because in China lc.prc@vishaypg.com,
of chemical Revision
or moisture intrusion. However, in14-Dec-2011
this case
in Taiwan lc.roc@vishaypg.com
the insulation resistance and/or the bridge integrity will also be compromised.
body. Repeat the measurement between the same 4 or 6 leads and the
resistance between the load cell body and cable shield.
Never use a megohmmeter to measure the input or output resistance,
TEST #2: INSULATION RESISTANCE
exceeds the maximum excitation voltage by far! VPG-08
The insulation resistance is measured between the load cell circuit a
cell from the junction box or VPG
indicator and
Input Transducers
connect all input, output a
Measure the insulation resistance with a megohmmeter between the
Load body.
Cell Repeat the measurement between the same 4 or 6 leads and
Troubleshooting
resistance between the load cell body and cable shield.
Never use a megohmmeter to measure the input or output resistan
Test #2: Insulation Resistance exceeds the maximum excitation
Outputvoltage by far!

The insulation resistance is measured between the load cell
circuit and element or cable shield. Disconnect the load Input
cell from the junction box or indicator and connect all
input, output and sense (if applicable) leads together.
ANALYSIS
Measure the insulation resistance with a megohmmeter
The
between these four or six connected leads and the loadinsulation
cell resistance of all load cells should be 5000 M or more fo
body. Repeat the measurement between the same 4 or 6
cable screen and housing to cable screen.
leads and the cable shield. Finally measure the insulation Output
A lower value indicates electrical
resistance between the load cell body and cable shield.
leakage, which is usually caused by mo

the load cell or cable. Extremely low values ( 1k ) indicate a short cir
Never use a megohmmeter to measure the input or output
Electrical leakage
resistance, as it normally operates at a voltage which exceeds
results usually in unstable load cell or scale reading ou
the maximum excitation voltage by far! temperature.

Analysis ANALYSIS
The insulation resistance of all load cells should be
The insulation load cell or cable.
resistance of Extremely low values
all load cells should(1kbe 5000
) indicate
Ma or mor
5000 M or more for bridge circuit to housing, bridge short circuit rather than moisture ingress.
cable screen and housing to cable screen.
TEST
A lower#3:
circuit to cable screen and housing to cable screen. BRIDGE
valueElectrical
indicates INTEGRITY
leakage results
electrical usually which
leakage, in unstable load cell
is usually caused b
A lower value indicates electrical leakage, which is usually or scale reading output. The stability might vary with
caused by moisture or chemical contaminations The the load
bridge
within cell or
the integritycable. Extremely low values ( 1k ) indicate
is verified by measuring the input and output resistan
temperature. a shor
Electrical leakage
Disconnect the load results usually
cell from in unstable
the junction box orload cell or scale
measuring readin
device.
The input and
temperature. output resistance is measured with an ohmmeter across eac
the input and output resistance to the original calibration certificate (if av
The bridge balance is obtained by comparing the resistance from -output
Test #3: Bridge Integrity difference between both values should be smaller than, or equal to 1 .
The bridge integrity is verified by measuring the input and
TEST #3:
output resistance as well as the bridge balance. Disconnect BRIDGE INTEGRITY
the load cell from the junction box or measuring device. Input
The bridge integrity is verified by measuring the input and output res
The input and output resistance is measured with an
ohmmeter across each pair of input and output Disconnect
leads. the load cell from the junction box or measuring device.
Compare the input and output resistance to theThe input and output resistance is measured with an ohmmeter
original acros
the input
calibration certificate (if available) or to the data sheet and output resistance to the original calibration certificate (
specifications.
The bridge balance is obtained by comparing the resistance from -ou
The bridge balance is obtained by comparing Output
the between both values
difference should be smaller than, or equal to 1
A PPL I CAT I O N N OT E

resistance from -output to -input, and -output to +input.


The difference between both values should be smaller
than, or equal to 1.
Input
Analysis
ANALYSIS result from over-voltage (lightning or welding), physical
Changes in bridge resistance or bridge balance are most
often caused by a broken or burned wire, anChanges
electrical in bridge resistance
damage or bridge
from shock, balance
vibration or are most excessive
fatigue, often caused by
component
component failure or internal short circuit. This might failure or internal
temperature, short
or from circuit. This
production might result fromover-v
inconsistencies.
damage from shock, vibration or fatigue, excessive temperature, or from
Output

Document Number: 11867 For technical support, contact in Americas lc.usa@vishaypg.com, www.vpgtransducers.com
Revision 14-Dec-2011 in Europe lc.eur@vishaypg.com, in China lc.prc@vishaypg.com, 3
inANALYSIS
Taiwan lc.roc@vishaypg.com
VPG-08 TEST #4: SHOCK RESISTANCE
VPG Transducers The load cell should be connected to a stable power supply, preferabl
of at least 10 volts. Disconnect all other load cells for multiple load ce
With a voltmeter connected to the output leads, lightly rap on the load
Load Cell Troubleshooting
Exercise extreme care not to overload low capacity load cells while te
Watch the readings during the test. The readings should not become e
return to original zero readings.
Test #4: Shock Resistance
The load cell should be connected to a stable power supply, Input
preferably a load cell indicator with an excitation voltage
of at least 10 volts. Disconnect all other load cells for ~
multiple load cell systems.
With a voltmeter connected to the output leads, lightly
rap on the load cell with a small mallet to mildly shock it.
Exercise extreme care not to overload low capacity load cells Output
while testing their shock resistance.
Watch the readings during the test. The readings should V
not become erratic, should remain reasonably stable and
return to original zero readings.

Analysis
ANALYSIS
Erratic readings may indicate a failed electrical connection
Erratic readings may indicate a failed electrical connection or a dama
or a damaged glue layer between strain gauge and element
as a result of an electrical transient. element as a result of an electrical transient.

LOAD CELL EVALUATION FORM


Load Cell Evaluation Form
The following load cell evaluation form should be used as a guide for the testing and evaluation of load cells. We recommend
that this form be included in the customer dossier and used as the basis to discuss the test results and diagnostics with third
parties. A load cell evaluation form is included in this application
If a load cell is returned to VPG Transducers, thefor testing
Evaluation and
Form will evaluating
assist our repair load cells.
department We recommend
in further diagnostics this
and repair of the cell. and its use as a basis to discuss the test results and diagnost
If a load cell is returned to Vishay Revere Transducers, th
department in further diagnostics and repairing the cell.
A PPL I CAT I O N N OT E

Customer support:
The Vishay Revere Transducers combines sixty years of lo
application know how. For further information, please con
one of our regional sales offices.

www.vpgtransducers.com For technical support, contact in Americas lc.usa@vishaypg.com, Document Number: 11867
4 in Europe lc.eur@vishaypg.com, in China lc.prc@vishaypg.com, Revision 14-Dec-2011
Vishay Revere Transducers B.V.
in Taiwan lc.roc@vishaypg.com
VPG-08
VPG Transducers

Load Cell Troubleshooting

Load Cell Evaluation Form


Company:________________________________________________ Contact person:___________________________________
Address:___________________________________________________ City / Country:___________________________________
Tel. / Fax.:__________________________________________________ Repair order:__________ Date:____________________

Load cell type:______________________________________________ Serial number:___________________________________


Capacity:_________________________________________________ Accuracy grade:___________________________________

Short description of system failure and application:______________________________________________________________


__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Visual Inspection
Label OK Unreadable Missing
Like new Cable cut J-box damage
Condition
Broken welds Visual mechanical overload Dents/cracks in parts
Weld(s) J-box/cable entry Diaphragm
Corroded parts
Housing/element Top/bottom plate Bellow/tube/cubs
Affected by chemicals No Unknown Yes: _______________

Electrical Inspection
Bridge Measurements Actual Specification Conclusion
Zero balance mV/V 1% of rated span OK Wrong
Input resistance 1% OK Wrong
Output resistance 1% OK Wrong
Output to input OK Wrong
Out put to input + difference 1% OK Wrong
Insulation Resistance Actual Specification Conclusion
Bridge to housing M 5000 M OK Wrong
Bridge to shield M 5000 M OK Wrong
A PPL I CAT I O N N OT E
Shield to housing M 5000 M OK Wrong

Expected Reason for Failure


Moisture ingress Short circuit Broken wire/component Excessive heat
Electrical transients Mechanical overload Excessive corrosion Broken cable
Other: ____________________________________________

Recommendation
Return load cell to supplier for further evaluation and repair (if possible)
Return load cell to supplier for warranty
Load cell beyond (economic) repair
________________________________________________________________________________

Document Number: 11867 For technical support, contact in Americas lc.usa@vishaypg.com, www.vpgtransducers.com
Revision 14-Dec-2011 in Europe lc.eur@vishaypg.com, in China lc.prc@vishaypg.com, 5
in Taiwan lc.roc@vishaypg.com