Industrial scales help you weigh objects in industrial settings and come in many sizes and configurations depending on their purpose. For example, scales that the food and beverage industry uses to measure ingredients and calculate nutrition information are different from scales that farms use to measure produce and farm animals.
These constantly improving scales help businesses improve accuracy, save time, and avoid product loss when you are handling large inventories, improving productivity and customer satisfaction. However, they can be far more useful if you enhance them with scale instrumentation accessories that expand their capabilities.
Here is a list of eight industrial scale accessories that you need to start using if you haven’t already.
1. Surge Voltage Protection Devices
Surge protection devices (SPDs) are scale process tools that you will use outdoors, including truck scales and railroad track scales. These scale accessories absorb and redirect high electrical surges to the ground, protecting your equipment from voltage spikes.
When you buy an SPD, you will have the option to choose between different features, including:
- Remote annunciator
- Audio alarms
- Indicator lights
How Do SPDs Work?
SPDs use a high-impedance, solid-state device called a metal oxide varistor (MOV), which redirects the current to the ground like a high-speed switch when the voltage suddenly rises past the “breakdown voltage.”
As it absorbs surges, though, it degrades. Once its impedance has been reduced by 10%, the SPD is considered to be at the end of its life. It’s important to choose an SPD with a diagnostic indicator, whether visual or audible, so you know if your device has stopped functioning properly.
What Type of SPD Do I Need?
There are three categories of SPDs, depending on the voltage level. Low-voltage devices don’t limit voltage and can further split into three categories:
- Type 1: Industrial buildings use this type to protect against external surges from lightning. That way, when lightning hits an electrical system, it doesn’t reduce efficiency by harming the scale or other scale accessories connected to the system.
- Type 2: This type is normally on the load side of the main overcurrent protective device on your service equipment. It keeps overvoltage and indirect lightning strikes from spreading to other installations and damaging the system.
- Type 3: This has a very low discharge capacity and is usually a complement for Type 2 that you would install after the main breaker for a system without lightning protection. You could also use this alongside both Types 1 and 2 to construct a lightning protection system.
2. Wireless Transceivers
Transceivers are scale accessories that send information from one point to another. Both indoor and outdoor scales can use them to send readings to another device, like a remote display, without running a wire between them.
How Does a Wireless Transceiver Work?
A wireless transceiver powers an antenna to send and receive radio wave transmissions. The transceiver then translates the signal into information that people can understand and repurpose as they see fit.
How Do I Choose a Wireless Transceiver?
There are four main factors to consider when you choose a transceiver:
- Power consumption. Transceivers use power every time they send or receive data, and the amount they use depends on the distance between these scale accessories. This means that a low-power transceiver may either transmit information less frequently or require a shorter distance. Power consumption will depend on how you will use the device.
- Communication distance. The distance between the devices that will use the transceivers should be a major consideration. Generally, since it takes more power to send information further, higher ranges will cost more.
- Receiving sensitivity. Higher sensitivity can help you increase range while keeping costs low. You should also pick a more sensitive option if you have high reliability requirements.
- Anti-interference. Interference can compromise a transmission. This may come from objects in the way, like walls or other waves in the air, such as magnetic fields. Some transceivers use an anti-interference chip that helps maintain the transmission’s reliability. This is another way to extend the range of a low-power transceiver.
If you use a wireless transceiver, you will also need an antenna. This scale accessory is the interface between radio waves and electric currents allowing a transceiver to communicate with another transceiver without a direct connection.
How Does an Antenna Work?
To send information, a transceiver or transmitter produces an electric current that runs to the antenna’s terminals. The scale accessory then radiates this energy as electromagnetic waves — specifically, radio waves.
When an antenna receives information, it intercepts a radio wave at its terminals to produce an electric current. It applies this current to the receiver or transceiver, which interprets the signal.
Factors Affecting an Antenna’s Performance
When you buy an antenna, there are many factors to consider. The basic characteristics of an antenna that you should consider include:
- Radiation pattern. An antenna directs energy in a certain direction, rather than in a radius all around it. The radiation pattern describes the field that the antenna radiates and its magnitude across this field.
- Radiation intensity. This is the strength of the transmission as it travels. As with transceivers, a stronger intensity generally comes with a higher price.
- Gain. This is the ratio between the signal that the antenna transmits in its “maximum” direction to the signal that an antenna would transmit if its range was equal in all directions. Higher gain can imply a stronger signal in one direction, but the antennas in the system will require more precise positioning.
- Bandwidth. This is the range of frequencies across which the antenna will function normally. Many antenna types have narrow bandwidths, so they can work very well when serving specific purposes but don’t work for a wideband operation.
- Rating standards. If you buy an antenna for outdoor use, you should check its rating standards. An IP rating of IP65 will generally offer enough weather resistance to endure water and corrosion, though harsh conditions may necessitate a rating up to IP68. Another useful standard to check is the IK rating, which denotes the scale accessory’s impact protection and shock resistance.
4. Relay option cards
Relay options cards are scale accessories that let you activate or control devices outside of your scale. For instance, if you need to combine a specific number of different products, you can use a relay option card in conjunction with a transceiver. The relay card will receive readings from your scale and open and close valves as necessary to reach the right combination.
How Do Relay Option Cards Work?
A relay card is an electrically operated switch. By sending a low-power signal to the relay, you can power its contact points, turning it on or off and effectively letting you control a range of circuits. A relay option card that permits multiple inputs or outputs helps you program more complicated logic so that you can reduce the manual oversight needed.
What Factors Should I Consider When Buying a Relay Option Card?
The factors you should check before buying a relay card include:
- Number of contact points. Contact points connect a relay card to other circuits, allowing it to function as a switch. You can buy a relay card with more contact points so you can control different circuits separately, though this will require more complicated logic.
- Protection. Since these devices use low-power signals, they don’t need as much protection as the rest of your system. However, a surge can damage the card’s internal coil, so it’s important to check the amount of protection your card has.
- Resolution. With analog inputs, the accuracy of your relay card will depend on its resolution, meaning the smallest degree of change that it can detect.
5. Intercom systems
Intercom systems are only used for truck scales. They allow a truck driver to talk to someone in the office, which may be 200 to 300 feet away.
What Factors Should I Consider When Buying an Intercom System?
Since these devices are only for truck scales, you can consider much more specific factors than some of the other scale accessories in this list. When you pick a truck scale intercom, keep in mind:
- Type. Your intercom system could be wired or wireless. A wired option requires less power, but setting it up and upgrading it will be expensive and labor-intensive, whereas a wireless option is generally cheaper but has more possible points of failure. For example, interference from obstructions can affect the quality of the intercom transmission.
- Driver arm length. A common problem you can face occurs when the driver’s arm is not long enough to reach the intercom while they’re on the scale. To solve this, some systems use an optical sensor on the outside intercom that automatically calls the scale operator. The operator can then press their own intercom button, talking through amplified speakers so the driver can talk hands-free.
- Sound cancellation. Trucks are loud, which makes it hard for an intercom operator to hear the driver. That’s why it helps to get systems with acoustic echo cancellation and active noise cancellation to clean up the audio.
6. Summing Boards and Junction Boxes
If you have a large scale or complex weighing system, you might need more than one load cell to accurately record a measurement. In this case, you can distribute your load cells across the measurement platform and use scale accessories like a junction box and a summing board to combine their output.
You can also use these scale accessories to trim the different load cells so they all have the same amount of output.
How Do You Connect Load Cells?
To connect load cells, you connect them all to the terminal of a junction box. Your junction box should be hardy, fully capable of withstanding weather conditions, because it will be complicated to disconnect the box from the scale for maintenance later.
The junction box feeds the output of the load cells into a summing board, which adds the signals together to generate a single measurement output.
When Do You Need to Trim Load Cells?
Trimming load cells to all deliver the same output ensures the measurement’s reliability.
There are many cases in which you would have an imbalance between load cells that you need to trim, including the following:
- Asymmetrical loading. If one load cell in the system bears the majority of a truck’s weight, the scale’s measurement will be incorrect. Trimming ensures a correct measurement regardless of the truck’s position on the scale.
- Unequal load cells. Because of the geometry of your measuring system, sometimes, you can’t use identical load cells at the corners. In this case, you must trim load cells before calibrating the measurement system.
- Industry requirements. Any scale that you use to weigh goods or products that you sell commercially must be “legal-for-trade” or “trade-approved.” One requirement for this qualification is load cell trimming, which lowers the number of inaccuracies that might result in improper price setting.
7. Traffic Controls, Scoreboards, and Remote Displays
There are many scale accessories that let you extend the usefulness of your scale. For instance, you can direct the flow of traffic with traffic controls or use scoreboards and remote displays to show the weight of a vehicle to people in different areas.
These scale accessories are almost all only used for truck scales. You may sometimes use scoreboards and remote displays for rail scales, however.
What Kind of Traffic Controls Are Available?
Traffic controls help trucks safely mount and leave a truck scale by keeping other vehicles away from the scale during measurement. You can get controls for a scale operator to use manually or controls that use sensors on the scale or scale management software to automatically activate when they need to.
Some traffic control options you could consider include:
- Traffic lights
How Can I Get the Most Out of My Traffic Controls?
You already know how sensors can improve traffic controls by helping them run automatically, but there are more scale accessories that can make your traffic controls even more useful. Other devices that help you improve your traffic controls include:
- RFID scanners
You could even mount an unattended terminal alongside the scale so the driver can process their weighing transaction on their own, without help from a scale operator. These units can include ticket prints and internal climate control systems that keep the unit functional regardless of the weather.
How Can I Use Remote Displays or Scoreboards?
You can connect a remote display to your scale to let drivers, loading operators, and other workers know the vehicle’s weight.
That’s not the only way to use it, though. You could set up a system that provides different messages based on the weight, such as a warning if the truck exceeds the weight limit of an upcoming road. If your scale has a multi-axle configuration, multiple displays can also show you the weight of each axle group.
You could add a printer to any scale or balance to print out important information, like:
- The date
- ID number for the truck
- Gross weight
- Net weight
A printer is also useful for labeling boxes with their corresponding bar code. This can be useful for printing shipping labels that need to include the weight of a package.
Why Would You Print Weight Readings?
Some specific reasons for printing your measurements include:
- Record-keeping. Manually recording weights introduces the possibility of human error, both in reading the measurement and in writing it down. A printer can give you a hard copy with the exact recorded measurement, minimizing errors and giving you a dated, hard copy measurement of an item’s weight.
- Tracking consignments. Printers improve traceability. By creating sticky labels that include the consignment number and other identifying package information, you can easily verify the contents of outgoing packages by checking its current weight. By recording the same details in your system, you can better track your package after shipping it.
- Control shipment costs. Third-party couriers generally charge by weight. By weighing and labeling your outgoing shipments, you can make accurate estimates of future costs.
- Improve customer experience. A label on your package can let the customer know the product type, date, and dispatch date of the product, helping them identify the package. You can also customize the information on the shipping label to help your customers, including your company’s name or the product name.
Get the Right Industrial Scale Accessories for Your Scale
As you can see, industrial scale accessories can significantly optimize your scales, making them more durable and user-friendly while also expanding their functions. Even one of these scale accessories will be a very welcome addition to your system.
This doesn’t just mean that you can buy scale accessories to compensate for a less effective scale — they can make the best scales even better. That’s why American Scale offers custom equipment systems and programming to help you access capabilities that may not exist on the market yet if that’s what you need. American Scale also offers scale service and calibration where they can check the scale and recommend any new parts and accessories that would be needed for to accomplish the most efficient process control.
Visit American Scale to find industrial scales that ensure the most accurate results every time so that your scale accessories can be as effective as possible.