Modern Industrial Scale and Its User Interface

explosive-environment-scale-c-2People develop machines to perform desired functions. It is important, of course, that the machine perform its task accurately, quickly, and efficiently without interfering with anyone or anything else. But the machine will basically be useless if a human operator is not able to easily and effectively tell the machine what to do, and if the machine cannot report its results back to the operator.

Industrial scales are specialized machines. Their required function is to precisely weight whatever is placed onto the scale platform. The electronic scale will be selected for the type of weighing that must be performed. Parts counting scales are used to quickly and accurately determine the number of pieces that it is weighing. This is very useful when there are identical parts to be counted, such as nuts and bolts, washers, rivets, springs, and other types of hardware. That is equally the case for electronic parts, such as integrated circuits, connectors, switches, sockets, resistors, capacitors, and similar items. Pieces of mail being prepared for bulk mailing may also be counted in this manner.

Floor scales are very popularly used for weighing pallets and totes. Large platforms are built to be loaded with forklifts or pallet jacks. The capacity of the scale may range from 2500 lb up to 30,000 lb or even more. Platform scales are used for similar purposes, but usually with somewhat lighter loads. With a maximum capacity of 1000 lb, they are suitable for weighing boxes and containers. Most shipping departments utilize this type of digital scale. Crane scales may also be used to measure heavy loads. But they are limited to applications where the load may be suspended by the scale itself.

Other types of industrial scales include drum scales, bench scales, cylinder scales, ultra precision scales and animal scales, among others. All of these share the primary requirements of accurately determining weight.

It is certainly the case that an electronic scale is only as useful as its user interface. The digital display is the primary method of communication with the user. Whereas digital scales once predominantly utilized numeric light emitting diodes (LEDs) to report weight, they were less than ideal. Even a bright LED display could be difficult or impossible to read in direct sunlight. Generally, the numbers were quite small, so the user was required to be close to the indicator. This type of display uses quite a bit of electrical current, so they were not ideal for battery operated scales. And they were typically limited to providing only weight values, with a small number of other indicator lights. This does not allow for other types of information, such as error messages, stored data, and menu information, to be communicated to the user.

More modern industrial scales are provided with numeric liquid crystal displays (LCDs). The primary advantage is that this type of display is much easier to view in a wide variety of ambient light conditions, including outdoor light. It is also easier to fabricate a larger display, making it easier to read from a distance. Furthermore, they use much less electrical energy. But they are still limited to the same type of information reporting.

Recently, some of the more useful electronic scales, such as those built by Arlyn Scales, provide graphical LCD indicators. These share all of the advantages of the simpler numeric LCD type. But they have the added advantage of having the ability to deliver much more information to the user. Units, such as pounds, kilograms or ounces, may be spelled out next to the weight. Tare and gross messages may also be shown. It is possible to easily retrieve parameters from the memory of the scale. This is particularly useful for parts counting scales, where the piece weight of previously weighed items may have been stored for future use. Interactive menus help prompt the user through the weighing process. They can also help with special functions, such as scale calibration, or diagnostics.

Perhaps the ultimate display is a color, touch panel screen. Again, Arlyn Scales offers this for some of their premium industrial weighing products. In this case, color is used to transmit further information to the user. Instead of relying on a separate keypad for user entry, this type of display will provide on screen buttons that are relevant to the specific task that the scale is performing at that time. As the user chooses different tasks, the buttons shown on the screen will change to match the task. Furthermore, the weight display can be sized to be very large when there is no other data required to be shown at that time. Then, when more data must be shown, the weight display can be downsized to fit in the remaining space on the screen.