What is a Binocular Strain Gauge Load Cell?


Load cells, the heart of weighing systems, are mechanical devices that use strain gages to provide a measurable electrical output which is proportional to the force applied. The electrical output can be either an analog voltage or current output, or a digital on/off output.

Used for tension, compression, and or shear measurement, load cells are packaged and oriented to perform in testing equipment, electronic scales, and monitoring systems. Tension load cells are used for measuring forces that are in-line and "pull apart". Compression load cells are used to measure forces that are in-line and "push together". Shear load cells are used to measure tension or compression forces that are offset (not in-line). When selecting load cells, there are many form factors or packages to choose from to insure their physical size is compatible with space available for the application, such as inside an electronic weighing scale.

The strain gage is a resistive sensor whose resistance changes based upon the applied strain. A strain gage is attached to some structure, and when that structure is deformed (tension, compression, shear), the resistive strands in the strain gage follow the structure deformation, causing an electrical resistance change. This change in resistance is converted to units of strain or stress. 

Strain gages are used in transducers that measure force, pressure, and tension, and are often used providing stress analysis in structures such as airplanes, cars, machines, and bridges. 

When specifying strain gages one must consider the application variables, such as operating temperature, the state of the strain (including gradient, direction, magnitude, and time dependence), and the stability required by the application.

For more information about strain gages and load cells, contact AP Corp. Call them at 508-351-6200 or visit their web site at https://a-pcorp.com.

Load Cells for Weighing Vessels in Hot and Vibration Prone Areas

Tank weighing
Most load cells are designed to handle vertical force and cannot discern errors introduced from side loading and/or torque loading. In real world conditions, though, load cells see much more than vertical loading, and unfortunately, can output erroneous values. While they are excellent for static weighing situations, such as scales, load cells typically can’t handle the rigors of process vessel applications.

A case in point is a chemical manufacturer with several, existing three cubic meter batching tanks. It was decided the tanks needed modifications to provide more accurate weighing of the individual ingredients. The existing load cells were experiencing errors due to thermal expansion of the vessel, and the resultant side loads from expansion. Additionally there was a problem with vibration in the plant. A better solution was needed, and whatever the solution would be, the customer made it clear the new weighing system must provide system accuracy in the range of ±0.1%.

Tank weighing

An approach to deal mechanically with the thermal cycling while using the same type of load cell was discussed. It involved several mechanical modifications that required significant and costly structural changes.

BLH KIS
BLH KIS
Another suggestion was to evaluate a unique load cell design that was particularly tolerant against thermal expansion, vibration, and high lateral forces - the BLH Nobel KIS series.  The KIS load cell offered some obvious advantages over rebuilding the tanks supports and frame, namely time and expense. Beyond the short installation time and easy modification, the KIS also offers excellent reliability and accuracy.

BLH Controller
BLH Controller
The customer decided to “take the easy way out” and just replace the old, error-prone load cells with KIS load cells. Installation and start-up was very easy, taking very little time. After installation, the customer was pleasantly surprised by the high accuracy of the new KIS load cells, despite the thermal expansion of the vessel and the inherent vibration.

For more information on BLH Nobel products in New England and Upstate New York contact A-P Corp. Call them at (816) 353-6550 or visit them at https://a-pcorp.com.

Coronavirus Update


We at AP Corp. continue to navigate the rapidly changing COVID-19 pandemic. We are closely monitoring the situation and following the guidance available through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and state and regional public health authorities. We are committed to the safety of our customers, business partners, and employees.

  • Our office locations remain open and the manufacturers of the products we represent are producing products as normal.
  • We have transitioned our sales and service staff to work remotely. We are maintaining a limited staff in our main office to support critical functions including shipping, receiving, accounting, and IT.
  • While our territory managers will not be making in-person visits for the foreseeable future, we are using phone, fax, email, and tele-conference to continue to provide customer support.
  • We will update this statement as the situation changes.

We thank you for your continued business and support. Please stay safe and be well.

New Ransomware Attacks Against Industrial Control Systems (ICS)

Dragos is a company that provides industrial asset identification, threat detection, and response to help organizations stay ahead of adversaries. According to Dragos intelligence and threat reports, it appears that a segment of code called Snake or EKANS, first recognized in December, 2019, has been designed as ransomware to target Windows systems used in industrial control systems (ICS). 

Ransomware is malicious software that will lock up data on a computer’s drive, then travel across the network and encrypt other data. The saboteurs will then demand payment in exchange for releasing the data. Whereas industrial control system machines are high-value targets (healthcare is the other high-value target) EKANS is unusual in that the malicious code uses targeted intelligence for control systems to first encrypt the root data (files are encrypted and renamed with random 5-character extension) and then ruin the software processes and hold the data hostage.

EKANS targeted companies and are sent a ransom note with the instruction to pay the ransom in cryptocurrency. There is an email address provided for contact/replies.

Manufacturing plants, power grids, and industrial concerns (such as oil refineries) are all targets of this malicious malware.

Another feature of the EKANS ransomware is it is programed to terminate sixty-four (64) various processes on computers – most of which are ICS specific.  This suggests the possibility that the EKANS may also share features similar to the Megacortex ransomware, which first appeared in early 2019.  Megacortex relies on a manual method of deployment rather than self propagation ransomware deployment.

It is still unknown whether the EKANS ransomware originated from state-sponsored hackers or via real cybercriminals trying to profit from industrial control system owners. It appears that it may be the latter, based on the most recent analysis of the nature of the ransomware – analysis by Dragos researchers.

It is wise to raise awareness with among everyone who touches your systems and it would be prudent to have someone within your organization (or a consultant) tasked with keeping data security protections current.  In addition, it is crucial to have ICS organizations rethink their cybersecurity leadership philosophy. In many organizations, the evangelists for cybersecurity are not equipped to exert influence in the company.  Cybersecurity is still treated as a back-office job, but it needs to be treated as priority by the organizational leaders.

Dragos adversary hunters recommend keeping ICS systems segmented from the rest of the network. In this way, if just one Window machine is infected, the virus can’t mobilize to the systems that control the infrastructure. In addition, standard practices such as backups, stored offline, and including the last known good configuration data will somewhat reduce the liability of slow recovery. Guardrails such as improved access and mechanisms for authentication will also help to reduce the risk of these increasingly troubling attacks on ICS systems.

More detailed information can be accessed here:
https://dragos.com/blog/industry-news/ekans-ransomware-and-ics-operations/

Article courtesy of A-P Corporation, a manufacturer’s representative for the leading suppliers of sensors, instrumentation, and induction heating equipment. Providing professional sales engineering services to New England and upstate New York since 1959.