Every day, hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks might pass over a major bridge. How do engineers measure the pressures acting on the bridge from those vehicles to ensure it maintains structural integrity?

Simultaneously, each of those vehicles — particularly those with driver assistance technologies — require sensors to monitor, align, and activate the many moving parts in its motors, brakes, suspension system, seats, and more. What kind of sensors do they use?

Stepping back, those vehicles might be constructed in part by robotic manufacturing equipment that must know when to tighten/loosen its grip on a component before doing damage to it. How does it know?

The answer to all these questions: force sensors.

Force sensors are measuring devices that use load cells to measure the pressure or tension experienced by an object in order to prevent overload. Load cells come in a variety of designs, so they can work in a huge array of scenarios. Force sensors are widely used in consumer products, medical devices, industrial settings, aerospace and automotive applications, and more. Broadly speaking, different types of load cells can measure three different kinds of pressures.

“Push” Pressure Scenarios

In some cases, one or more “push” forces compress the load cell from one or two different directions. In our bridge example above, force sensors can measure the pressure exerted by all those cars to determine if the bridge is exceeding its structural limitations. Force sensors come in a variety of designs, including those that can measure massive pressures with an incredibly high degree of accuracy. That accuracy is key when monitoring loads in any situation that must meet rigorous safety standards.

“Pull” Tension Scenarios

In other cases, you may be measuring tension where something is pulling on the sensor from one or two directions. Imagine a construction facility — perhaps an assembly facility where vehicles are being manufactured. The facility might use overhead cranes to move components from one end of the building to another. However, cranes can be risky: if they try to move too heavy a weight, they can break and come crashing down, risking serious property damage and injury to workers. Happily, force sensors can monitor loads to ensure they don’t exceed the crane’s limits.

Shear Force Scenarios

In these situations, the load cells measure if the pressures acting on an object are causing it to bend or otherwise move in unsafe ways. For example, wind can cause shear stress on bridges — where two pieces of the bridge are moving in different directions, as when high wind causes a suspension bridge to rotate and twist. Force sensors in the bridge can monitor and measure the shear force being exerted on the bridge to ensure it remains within safe parameters.

Altogether, high quality, high accuracy force sensors are critical in a huge array of scenarios to protect property and people and ensure objects function as intended. For more information about specific force sensors and load cells, visit https://www.hoffmann-krippner.com/load-cells-force-sensors/.