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
|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.
- Use high precision, low resistance temperature coefficient resistors
- 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.
- Use remote sensing to compensate for errors in excitation voltage from long lead wires
- Amplification will increase measurement resolution and improve signal-to-noise ratio
- Filter data to remove external, high-frequency noise