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Strain Gauge Bridge Completion Modules

The most common strain gauges used to quantify the state of stress on a test specimen’s surface, are uniaxial and rosette gauges.  For accurate measurements of stress and strain, these uniaxial and rosette gauges are independently connected as a Wheatstone bridge in a 3-wire quarter-bridge or half-bridge arrangement.

Today, most high-end data acquisition equipment manufacturers provide signal conditioning options for collecting data from single strain gauges.  Signal conditioning for strain gauges usually includes circuitry for bridge excitation voltage, quarter and half bridge completion arrangements, and shunt calibration.

Sometimes you may need to view or collect data from a single strain gauge using a device that only has analog voltage inputs and no strain signal conditioning.  This was precisely the case when I was working with the HX711 load cell/strain amplifier.  The HX711 requires a full bridge input so I instrumented my test specimens as such.  If I needed to use a single strain gauge with the HX711, I would have had to use an external bridge completion circuit.

What are your options for measuring single strain gauges with a device that only has voltage inputs or full bridge inputs?

Option 1: Buy a commercial off the shelf bridge completion modules.

The list below gives the specifications for some available bridge completion modules.  I plan on adding more completion modules to this list for future reference, so send me any additional completion options.

Strain Gauge Completion Modules
 
Manufacturer NI VPG Campbell Scientific
Model # NI 9926, NI 9945, NI 9944 MR1-10C-129, MR1-350-130, MR1-120-133 4WFBS1K, 4WFBS350, 4WFBS120
Description 3-Wire Quarter Bridge Completion 3-Wire Quarter Bridge Completion 3-Wire Quarter Bridge Completion 
Resistance 1000 Ω, 350 Ω, 120 Ω 1000 Ω, 350 Ω, 120 Ω 1000 Ω, 350 Ω, 120 Ω
Strain Gauge Connector Terminal Block Solder Tab Terminal Block
Device Connector RJ50 Solder Tab Pins and Lead Wire

Option 2: Build your own circuit.

If you are building a product or are in the strain business long term, building your own circuit may be a cost effective alternative to the potentially more expensive off the shelf bridge completion option.  I have built a few bridge completion circuits in the past.  Here is a list of things to keep in mind when designing a circuit.

  1. Use high precision, low resistance temperature coefficient resistors
  2. The voltage source used for bridge excitation should be from a stable source like a reference since the output of a Wheatstone bridge is inversely proportional to the excitation voltage Vout/Vex.
  3. Use remote sensing to compensate for errors in excitation voltage from long lead wires
  4. Amplification will increase measurement resolution and improve signal-to-noise ratio
  5. Filter data to remove external, high-frequency noise

For more information about bridge completion or our strain gauging services, contact Ryan Welker @ (844) 837-8797 x701.

Related Links

Strain Gauge Installations for Field Testing

iTestSystem Tip: Strain Gauge Rosette Analysis

Wireless Strain Measurements with iTestSystem, LabVIEW, and Arduino

iTestSystem Tip: Sensor Auto-zero Utility Update

Our iTestSystem customers who routinely acquire data with high channel counts and data from full-bridge transducers recently requested that we update the sensor auto-zero utility to improve test setup efficiency.   In the latest version of iTestSystem (16.1.0.29), we updated the sensor auto-zero utility to include all channels that use the From Custom Scale option.  This update enables users to quickly adjust selected channel offsets with only a few mouse clicks.

One of our test engineers recently used this feature to test and calibrate a new load cell design for measuring loads in a manufacturing process.  He was able to quickly calibrate and zero the strain gauges along with a calibrated load cell and a pressure transducer prior to testing and before each directional test. The offset values are included in the calibration data files for traceability.

Contact Information: For more information about this update or iTestSystem contact:

Chase Petzinger – Integrated Test & Measurement (ITM), LLC. Email: chase.petzinger@itestsystem.com or Phone: 1.844.TestSys

Strain Gauge Installations for Field Testing

Image1: Shaft torque strain gauge installation example for field testing

Our engineers and technicians have epoxied, soldered and spot welded strain gauges for applications ranging from high temperature exhaust systems to miniature load cell measurements. Every application requires a unique understanding of the strain measurement requirements including installation environment.

If the strain gauge installation is to survive in the field you must plan for the conditions it will undergo. Three important variables that you should account for are temperature range, liquid exposure, and potential impact forces. These variables determine the type of strain gauge, epoxy, solder, wiring, coating, and impact/wear protection to use in the application. The table below shows which variables affect your installation choices.

  Gauge Epoxy Solder Wiring Coating Covering
Temperature  
Liquid Exposure      
Impact Forces      

Table1: Strain gauge installation variables

For more information about ITM’s strain gauging services contact Ryan Welker at email: ryan.welker@itestsystem.com or phone: 1.844.837.8797 x702

Silo Load Monitoring

Plant operators need to continuously measure bulk material levels/weight to make sure their processes are running safely, efficiently and without any bottlenecks. Measuring these levels allows operators to automate vessel filling/emptying logistics or verify that a process is using the right amount of material.

How do you measure bulk material levels/weights in silos and hoppers?

There are a variety of bulk material level/weight monitoring sensors in the market. These sensors include distance measuring devices like laser, ultrasonic, and radar; or weight measuring devices like load cells and strain gauges. Our engineers prefer to implement strain gauge based solutions because they are very accurate and do not require structural modification.

For these solutions, our engineers identify the silo/hopper load paths and our technicians install strain gauges at these locations. By calibrating the strain gauge sensors to load and summing the load data for all load paths, we can accurately measure the total weight of the bulk material.

A typical silo monitoring system consists of weatherproofed strain gauges for each silo leg and a National Instruments (NI) CompactRIO embedded controller for inputs, calibration, and outputs housed in a stainless steel enclosure.

For more information about silo monitoring, contact Ryan Welker @ 1.844.837.8797 x702.  To see how ITM’s structural load monitoring systems work watch this video.

video link: https://youtu.be/TwVtDYLkFKs.