Celebrating load cells in April

Published On: April 12 2018


Something a little different for our April blog. We’re linking national and international awareness days with load cells to show the diverse uses in almost every industry and sector. And rest assured, none of these are April Fools!


International Bear Day – Weds 4 April

As part of conservation projects, researchers are monitoring various bear populations by tracking their movements and checking their health. This inevitably means weighing individuals who have been sedated beforehand. However, while weighing a koala is relatively simple, a polar bear is another matter. In our blog back in 2017, we looked at the various ways load cells are used in simple, portable and robust methods for weighing these magnificent animals.

A subspecies of the brown bear, the Kodiak bear of Alaska, is extensively researched by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. According to their website:

“Researchers from NASA and the medical professions are very interested in denning physiology. They are trying to figure out how bears can sleep for up to 8 months without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating, yet when they awaken they have lost little bone mass or muscle tone and have no signs of uremia. Understanding this could help astronauts during extended space flights or patients who are bedridden.”

A neat link to load cells used to monitor the movements of patients in bed, research into sleep disorders, and alerting carers if those who have Alzheimer’s get up unexpectedly during the night!


National Beer Day – Sat 7 April

Load cells are used extensively in brewing to monitor the contents of grain storage silos and fermentation tanks. Load cells placed under the feet of beer fermentation tanks constantly monitor the contents, relaying the data to computer software either via direct connections or wirelessly. The load cells can also accurately measure a specific amount of beet as it exits the tanks, for accurate bottling and packaging.

At the other end of the brewing scale, we’ve discovered a home nano brewery design that uses load cells to monitor fermentation by the weight of CO2 produced. It’s a very neat solution and looks a great way to brew micro batches of high quality beer!


World Parkinson’s Day – Weds 11 April

Parkinson’s disease affects the nervous system as a result of progressive brain damage. The main symptoms are tremor or shaking of various parts of the body, slow movement and stiff muscles. Load cells have been successfully used to assess both the tremors and muscle movement to track the progress of the disease. For example, a study in 2001 into discriminating normal aging from the early signs of Parkinson’s used the following methodology:

“Eight young (21-29 years), eight elderly (68-80 years), and eight PD (68-80 years) subjects produced constant grip force at 5, 25 and 50% of their maximal voluntary contraction by squeezing two load cells with their index finger and thumb under a vision and no vision condition. Spectral analysis and approximate entropy (ApEn) were used, respectively, to analyze the frequency and time-dependent structure of tremor.”

In a broader context, a thesis by Richard Lukas Bumann for ETH Zurich examined “Using Load-Cells to Unveil Limitations to the Human Movement System”. The paper suggests a new approach to a specific issue:

“Code of practice in the Brain-body dynamics lab has always been the use of six-axis load-cells for this purpose. They can accurately measure forces and torques in all spatial directions. Nevertheless, active usage changes the mechanical properties of the complex system and changes the calibration parameters of the sensor. … We developed an approach to calibrate complex load-cells in-lab with a precision that comes close to industry standards.”


World Cheerleading Championships 25-27 April

You may think cheerleading is only for our American cousins, but the UK Cheerleading Association offers competitions and “Extensive training courses … in the disciplines of Cheerleading, Stunting, Tumbling, Urban Cheer, Cheer Dance & Pom Dance.”

Devising routines is crucial for success, and the creation of the Wii Balance Board by Nintendo allowed a whole new generation of virtual cheerleading games to emerge in the late 2000s.

The Wii Balance Board used four load cells in conjunction with handheld controllers. Remarkably accurate, reliable and robust, the Balance Board became the “Best-selling personal weighing device” in 2010, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

The only thing this video promo for one of the top cheerleading games using the Balance Board doesn’t explain is how you do all those awesome moves on a board measuring just 16.1 x 24 x 6.3 inches…


Looking for load cells?

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