Industrial Weighing Scale vs. Balance—The TRUE Difference Between These Weighing Solutions

Whether you need to measure the weight of small objects or large ones, scales and balances are essential tools for getting precise measurements. 

Though both are instruments used for weighing objects, there are technical variances in what each term means as well as practical factors that need consideration when choosing between them.

A weighing scale or balance is an investment that will benefit your business for years to come. But before making a purchase you need to consider which is best for the level of capacity and how much accuracy is required for your weighing needs.

In this post we’ll uncover the TRUE difference between industrial weighing scales and balances and help you determine which is the right option for your business. 

A Brief History of Weighing Devices

Weighing scales have been used for centuries to measure things like weight, volume and mass—but the way we weigh things has drastically changed over the years.

The first weighing mechanisms were simple. There was no fancy technology or jargon involved, just a balance and a pan for placing items on in order to see how much weight the option had in relation to something else. These earlier devices were often made from materials such as rope and wood with metal dishes suspended at either end. 

Scales have come a long way over the years and can be found in almost every manufacturing plant, research facility, and laboratory today. Over time all sorts of bells and whistles have been added to accommodate the growing need for accuracy and efficiency in today’s bustling business world. Additionally, there are now many subcategories for the different types of weighing instruments, and the nomenclature for these is not always consistent.

Generally, we hear about scales being used for larger objects and balances used for smaller objects, although there can be some crossover. Furthermore, many scale companies and online resources say that the main difference between an industrial scale and a balance is that a scale is used to weigh weight and a balance is used to weigh mass—but this is not accurate. Mass is only a category of weight (just like pounds, ounces or grams). 

The TRUE difference is that a balance is simply more accurate than a scale. Both can be the same capacity but a balance will be much more accurate. 

Let’s break this down with an example: 

Scale A (normal scale) = 5 lb capacity x .001 lb (5,000 divisions)

Scale B (balance) = 5 lb capacity x .000001 lb (5,000,000 divisions). This is  much more accurate but not legal for trade. 

Industrial Weighing Scales

Industrial Scales are a staple when it comes to manufacturing and distribution. They are used to capture weight, count items and provide readings for important data in a timely manner. Whether you’re a manufacturing company that deals with supply chain, retail management, quality control, pallet weights, shipping logistics, or even trucking fleet operation—an industrial weighing scale is a necessary tool for a smooth and profitable operation.

There is a variety of industrial scale types, such as: Cargo scales, forklift scales, animal scales, shipping scales, and health scales. On top of that, there are different varieties and features to consider for each type (such as portability and high precision). If you’re not sure which is right for your business, a full service scale distributor can help you determine the best fit for your needs.

Here’s a quick look at some of the most common types of industrial scales:

Bench Scales

ISHIA IPC Series Portable Bench Scale
ISHIA IPC Series Portable Bench Scale

Bench Scales (sometimes called platform scales) are designed to be placed on any flat surface. They range in size from compact models that will fit nicely onto a workbench table all the way up to large scales suitable only for industrial use since they often have higher capacity ranges (0g – 20+ lbs).

Counting Scales

DIGI® DC-782 Series Portable Counting Scale
DIGI® DC-782 Series Portable Counting Scale

Counting scales are designed to count multiple numbers of identical objects at the same time. It is especially helpful in manufacturing units and packaging processes where manually counting by hand is very time-consuming. The scale first needs to be given a pre-set limit, or an “average piece weight” to determine the number of items on the scale. This type is unique from other industrial scales because their main purpose is to acquire a final count vs. a final weight.

Crane Scales

MSI-3360 Challenger 2
MSI-3360 Challenger 2

Crane scales are used in manufacturing to load heavy objects like metal or plastic pieces on a conveyor. They’re similar in function and design to hanging scales, but this type can handle heavier loads because it doesn’t have any sort or limit on how far from ground they may be placed when carrying out its task at hand.

Checkweighing Scales

CW-90X Over/Under Washdown Checkweigher
CW-90X Over/Under Washdown Checkweigher

Checkweighers are one of the most important scales in production because they ensure that weights will be within tolerance. This helps maximize profit and productivity by automatically measuring packages for commodities at either end or anywhere during industrial processes like mining, smelting etc., making sure all precious metals (such as gold) stay inside their proper containers.

Truck Scales

Centurion Truck Scale

Truck scales are used to weigh both empty or loaded vehicles as they travel through transportation systems such as bridges which have maximum height or weight limits. They are also used to weigh loads for inventory purposes and they can be portable or mounted on concrete foundations.

Balances

Explorer® Series, Ohaus Precision Balance

A balance (also called laboratory scale) is a tool for measuring substances. It can often perform different functions depending on the type of material being weighed. These highly precise instruments can measure six places past the decimal point, which is much more precise than a standard weighing scale.

There are many types of balances on the market, each with their own unique features. However, the two main types of balances used in a laboratory setting are analytical and precision. Analytical balances are designed to measure small samples while precision balances offer greater accuracy and capacity for larger quantities.

Analytical Balances

Apollo GX Series, A&D Weighing Analytical Balance
Apollo GX Series, A&D Weighing Analytical Balance

Analytical balances are used in the analysis of chemicals and particles. Most analytical balance have an automatic internal motorized calibration weight that moves within its own frame, but external weights will also do just fine when needed. Most analytical weight sets automatically adjust themselves based on changes within their environment.

Precision Balances

Cubis II Series MCE, Sartorius Precision Balance
Cubis II Series MCE, Sartorius Precision Balance

A precision balance is often used in manufacturing, research and development, or the medical field. These semi-analytical balances have the same readability and durability as their more expensive counterparts but cost less due, in part, by the fact that they are unable to calculate precise measurements with three decimal places.

The Importance of Maintaining and Calibrating Your Weighing Scale

Careful handling of scales and balances will ensure their long life. The components of these devices must remain clean to maintain accuracy in data collection.

Balances are especially delicate and require special care and attention. Balances used in a laboratory setting typically have an increased risk for corrosion because they’re exposed to many chemicals, which is why it’s especially important to keep your lab scale clean to avoid inconsistent results.

Calibration is another important aspect when it comes to scales. Scales cannot be accurate indefinitely; they must eventually be rechecked for accuracy. It’s recommended to calibrate at least once a year or per the manufacturer’s guidelines. Other factors also come into play for determining how often to calibrate, include the items being weighed, how often the scale is used and what environment the weighing scale is used in.

You can purchase weight sets to calibrate your scale yourself or you can hire an expert to calibrate them for you for quick turnaround and peace of mind.

Industrial Weighing Scales & Balances— What’s the TRUE Difference?

Industrial weighing scales are a great tool for weighing items of all sizes, but if you’re dealing with heavier items like boxes, pallets, coils, cargo or heavy bags, an industrial weighing scale is ideal. On the other hand, if you’re weighing items that are very small, such as chemical ingredients or if you need readings for things like scientific calculations, then you will need the higher accuracy of a balance.

Though there is some disagreement about what the main difference is between a weighing scale and a balance—at their core they serve one purpose: accurate measurement. The key difference is that a balance will offer more precise readings than a weighing scale.

weighing scale vs balance the true difference

American Scale Can Help

Industrial weighing scales and balances both serve different purposes. Depending on the industry and application it’s being used for, different types of scales and balances will come into play to accurately measure weight.

While industrial weighing scales are great for larger and heavier objects, balances provide more accuracy when weighing objects that require an exquisite degree of precision.
At American Scale, we have a massive inventory of industry scales and balances with a variety of features and options for maximum accuracy, durability and precision. We can also service your scale with routine maintenance and scale calibrations. Contact us today so we can help you select the right tool for your needs.