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Weighing scale

Emperor Jahangir (reign 1605 - 1627) weighing his son Shah Jahan on a weighing scale by
artist Manohar (AD 1615, Mughal dynasty, India).
A weighing scale (usually just "scales" in UK and Australian English, "weighing machine" in
south Asian English or "scale" in US English) is a measuring instrument for determining the
weight or mass of an object.
A spring scale measures weight by the distance a spring deflects under its load. A balance
compares the torque on the arm due to the sample weight to the torque on the arm due to a
standard reference weight using a horizontal lever. Balances are different from scales, in that
a balance measures mass (or more specifically gravitational mass), where as a scale measures
weight (or more specifically, either the tension or compression force of constraint provided
by the scale). Weighing scales are used in many industrial and commercial applications, and
products from feathers to loaded tractor-trailers are sold by weight. Specialized medical
scales and bathroom scales are used to measure the body weight of human beings.

Contents

1 History

2 Balance

## o 2.1 Analytical balance

3 Scales
o 3.1 Spring scales
o 3.2 Pendulum balance scales
o 3.3 Electronic analytical "balance" scale
o 3.4 Strain gauge scale
o 3.5 Hydraulic or pneumatic scale

## 4 Testing and certification

5 Supermarket/retail scale

6 Sources of error

7 Symbolism

9 Footnotes

History

## Balance scale in the Egyptian Book of the Dead

The balance scale is such a simple device that its usage likely far predates the evidence. What
has allowed archaeologists to link artifacts to weighing scales are the stones for determining

absolute weight. The balance scale itself was probably used to determine relative weight long
before absolute weight.[1]
The oldest evidence for the existence of weighing scales dates to c. 2400-1800 B.C.E. in the
Indus River valley (modern-day Pakistan). Before then no banking was performed due to lack
of scales. Uniform, polished stone cubes discovered in early settlements were probably used
as weight-setting stones in balance scales. Although the cubes bear no markings, their
weights are multiples of a common denominator. The cubes are made of many different kinds
of stones with varying densities. Clearly their weight, not their size or other characteristics,
was a factor in sculpting these cubes.[2] In Egypt, scales can be traced to around 1878 B.C.E.,
but their usage probably extends much earlier. Carved stones bearing marks denoting weight
and the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for gold have been discovered, which suggests that
Egyptian merchants had been using an established system of weight measurement to catalog
gold shipments and/or gold mine yields. Although no actual scales from this era have
survived, many sets of weighing stones as well as murals depicting the use of balance scales
Variations on the balance scale, including devices like the cheap and inaccurate bismar,[4]
began to see common usage by c. 400 B.C.E. by many small merchants and their customers.
A plethora of scale varieties each boasting advantages and improvements over one another
appear throughout recorded history, with such great inventors as Leonardo da Vinci lending a
personal hand in their development.[5]
Even with all the advances in weighing scale design and development, all scales until the
seventeenth century C.E. were variations on the balance scale. Although records dating to the
1600s refer to spring scales for measuring weight, the earliest design for such a device dates
to 1770 and credits Richard Salter, an early scale-maker.[6] Spring scales came into common
usage in 1840 when R. W. Winfield developed the candlestick scale for use in measuring
letters and packages.[7] Postal workers could work more quickly with spring scales than
balance scales because they could be read instantaneously and did not have to be carefully
balanced with each measurement.
By the 1940s various electronic devices were being attached to these designs to make
readings more accurate. These were not true digital scales as the actual measuring of weight
still relied on springs and balances.[8][9] Load cells, small nodes that convert pressure to a
digital signal, have their beginnings as early as the late-nineteenth century, but it was not until
the late-twentieth century that they became accurate enough for widespread usage.[10]

Balance
The balance (also balance scale, beam balance and laboratory balance) was the first mass
measuring instrument invented.[11] In its traditional form, it consists of a pivoted horizontal
lever of equal length arms, called the beam, with a weighing pan, also called scale, scalepan,
or bason (obsolete[12]), suspended from each arm (which is the origin of the originally plural
term "scales" for a weighing instrument). The unknown mass is placed in one pan, and
standard masses are added to the other pan until the beam is as close to equilibrium as
possible. In precision balances, a slider mass is moved along a graduated scale. The slider
position gives a fine correction to the mass value. Although a balance technically compares

weights, not masses, the weight of an object is proportional to its mass, and the standard
weights used with balances are usually labeled in mass units.

## Masses of 50, 20, 1, 2, 5 and 10 gram

Balances are used for precision mass measurement, because unlike spring scales their
accuracy is not affected by differences in the local gravity, which can vary by almost 0.5%[13]
at different locations on Earth. A change in the strength of the gravitational field caused by
moving the balance will not change the measured mass, because the moments of force on
either side of the balance beam are affected equally. In fact, a balance will measure the
correct mass even on other planets or moons, or any location that experiences a constant
gravity or acceleration.
Very precise measurements are achieved by ensuring that the balance's fulcrum is essentially
friction-free (a knife edge is the traditional solution), by attaching a pointer to the beam
which amplifies any deviation from a balance position; and finally by using the lever
principle, which allows fractional masses to be applied by movement of a small mass along
the measuring arm of the beam, as described above. For greatest accuracy, there needs to be
an allowance for the buoyancy in air, whose effect depends on the densities of the masses
involved.
The original form of a balance consisted of a beam with a fulcrum at its center. For highest
accuracy, the fulcrum would consist of a sharp V-shaped pivot seated in a shallower V-shaped
bearing. To determine the mass of the object, a combination of reference masses was hung on
one end of the beam while the object of unknown mass was hung on the other end (see
balance and steelyard balance). For high precision work, the center beam balance is still one
of the most accurate technologies available[citation needed], and is commonly used for calibrating
test weights.
To reduce the need for large reference masses, an off-center beam can be used. A balance
with an off-center beam can be almost as accurate as a scale with a center beam, but the off-

center beam requires special reference masses and cannot be intrinsically checked for
accuracy by simply swapping the contents of the pans as a center-beam balance can. To
reduce the need for small graduated reference masses, a sliding weight called a poise can be
installed so that it can be positioned along a calibrated scale. A poise adds further intricacies
to the calibration procedure, since the exact mass of the poise must be adjusted to the exact
lever ratio of the beam.

An aluminum, mass-produced balance scale sold and used throughout China. Note the larger
ring beneath the user's right hand. The scale can be inverted, and held by this ring. This
produces greater leverage, and is used for heavier loads. This scale is sold with an aluminum
pan, but this is rarely used. The cost approximately 12 yuan (\$2 USD) in 2011. Photo taken in
Hainan Province, China.
For greater convenience in placing large and awkward loads, a platform can be floated on a
cantilever beam system which brings the proportional force to a noseiron bearing; this pulls
on a stilyard rod to transmit the reduced force to a conveniently sized beam. One still sees
this design in portable beam balances of 500 kg capacity which are commonly used in harsh
environments without electricity, as well as in the lighter duty mechanical bathroom scale
(which actually uses a spring scale, internally). The additional pivots and bearings all reduce
the accuracy and complicate calibration; the float system must be corrected for corner errors
before the span is corrected by adjusting the balance beam and poise. Such systems are
typically accurate to at best 1/10,000 of their capacity, unless they are expensively
engineered.[citation needed]
Some mechanical balances also use dials (with counterbalancing masses instead of springs), a
hybrid design with some of the accuracy advantages of the poise and beam but the

Analytical balance
An analytical balance is a class of balance designed to measure small mass in the submilligram range. The measuring pan of an analytical balance (0.1 mg or better) is inside a
transparent enclosure with doors so that dust does not collect and so any air currents in the
room do not affect the balance's operation. This enclosure is often called a draft shield. The
use of a mechanically vented balance safety enclosure, which has uniquely designed acrylic
airfoils, allows a smooth turbulence-free airflow that prevents balance fluctuation and the
measure of mass down to 1 g without fluctuations or loss of product.[citation needed] Also, the
sample must be at room temperature to prevent natural convection from forming air currents
inside the enclosure from causing an error in reading. Single pan mechanical substitution
balance maintains consistent response throughout the useful capacity is achieved by
maintaining a constant load on the balance beam, thus the fulcrum, by subtracting mass on
the same side of the beam to which the sample is added.[citation needed]

Scales
Spring scales
In a spring scale, the spring stretches (as in a hanging scale in the produce department of a
grocery store) or compresses (as in a simple bathroom scale) in proportion to how hard the
Earth pulls down on the object. It is therefore affected by the local gravity. By Hooke's law,
every spring has a proportionality constant that relates how hard it is pulled to how far it
stretches. Weighing scales use a spring with a known spring constant (see Hooke's law) and
measure the displacement of the spring by any variety of mechanisms to produce an estimate
of the gravitational force applied by the object, which can be simply hung from the spring or
set on a pivot and bearing platform. Rack and pinion mechanisms are often used to convert
the linear spring motion to a dial reading.
Spring scales measure force, which is the tension force of constraint acting on an object,
opposing the force of gravity. They are usually calibrated so that measured force translates to
mass at earth's gravity. They have two sources of error that balances do not; the measured
weight varies with the strength of the local gravitational force, by as much as 0.5% at
different locations on Earth, and the elasticity of the measurement spring can vary slightly
with temperature. Spring scales which are legal for commerce either have temperature
compensated springs or are used at a fairly constant temperature, and must be calibrated at
the location in which they are used, to eliminate the effect of gravity variations.

## Pendulum balance scales

Pendulum type scales do not use springs. This design uses pendulums and operates as a
balance and is unaffected by differences in gravity. An example of application of this design
are scales made by the Toledo Scale Company[14]

## Mettler digital analytical balance with 0.1 mg readability.

Electronic analytical scales measure the force needed to counter the mass being measured
rather than using actual masses. As such they must have calibration adjustments made to
compensate for gravitational differences.[15] They use an electromagnet to generate a force to
counter the sample being measured and outputs the result by measuring the force needed to
achieve balance. Such measurement device is called electromagnetic force restoration sensor.
[16]
This makes calling it an "analytical balance" a misnomer, because it should actually be
called an "analytical scale", due to it measuring force, rather than gravitational mass.[citation
needed]

## Digital kitchen scale, a strain gauge scale

In electronic versions of spring scales, the deflection of a beam supporting the unknown
weight is measured using a strain gauge, which is a length-sensitive electrical resistance. The
capacity of such devices is only limited by the resistance of the beam to deflection. The
results from several supporting locations may be added electronically, so this technique is
suitable for determining the weight of very heavy objects, such as trucks and rail cars, and is
used in a modern weighbridge.

## Hydraulic or pneumatic scale

It is also common in high-capacity applications such as crane scales to use hydraulic force to
sense weight. The test force is applied to a piston or diaphragm and transmitted through
hydraulic lines to a dial indicator based on a Bourdon tube or electronic sensor.

## Testing and certification

Main article: Verification and validation

Scales used for trade purposes in the State of Florida, as this scale at the checkout in a
cafeteria, are inspected for accuracy by the FDACS's Bureau of Weights and Measures.
Most countries regulate the design and servicing of scales used for commerce. This has
tended to cause scale technology to lag behind other technologies because expensive
regulatory hurdles are involved in introducing new designs. Nevertheless, there has been a
recent trend to "digital load cells" which are actually strain-gauge cells with dedicated analog
converters and networking built into the cell itself. Such designs have reduced the service
problems inherent with combining and transmitting a number of 20 millivolt signals in hostile
environments.
Government regulation generally requires periodic inspections by licensed technicians using
weights whose calibration is traceable to an approved laboratory. Scales intended for nontrade use such as those used in bathrooms, doctor's offices, kitchens (portion control), and
price estimation (but not official price determination) may be produced, but must by law be
labelled "Not Legal for Trade" to ensure that they are not repurposed in a way that
jeopardizes commercial interest.[citation needed] In the United States, the document describing how
scales must be designed, installed, and used for commercial purposes is NIST Handbook 44.
Legal For Trade certification usually approve the readability as repeatability/10 to ensure a
maximum margin of error of 10%.
Because gravity varies by over 0.5% over the surface of the earth, the distinction between
force due to gravity and mass is relevant for accurate calibration of scales for commercial
purposes. Usually the goal is to measure the mass of the sample rather than its force due to
gravity at that particular location.
Traditional mechanical balance-beam scales intrinsically measured mass. But ordinary
electronic scales intrinsically measure the gravitational force between the sample and the
earth, i.e. the weight of the sample, which varies with location. So such a scale has to be recalibrated after installation, for that specific location, in order to obtain an accurate indication
of mass.

Supermarket/retail scale

These scales are used in the bakery, delicatessen, seafood, meat, produce, and other
perishable departments. Supermarket scales can print labels and receipts (in bakery
specially), marks weight/count, unit price, total price and in some cases tare, a supermarket
label prints weight/count, unit price and total price. Some modern supermarket scales print an
RFID tag that can be used to track the item for tampering or returns. In most cases these type
of scales have a sealed calibration so that the reading on the display is correct and cannot be
tampered with - in the USA the approval is NTEP, for South Africa it is SABS, in the UK it is
OIML.

Sources of error

A two-pan balance.
Some of the sources of error in weighing are:

Buoyancy, Objects in air develops buoyancy force that is directly proportional to the
volume of air displaced. The difference in density of air due to barometric pressure
and temperature creates errors.[17]

## Error in mass of reference weight

Air gusts, even small ones, which push the scale up or down

Friction in the moving components that cause the scale to reach equilibrium at a
different configuration than a frictionless equilibrium should occur.

## Settling airborne dust contributing to the weight

Mis-calibration over time, due to drift in the circuit's accuracy, or temperature change

components

## Magnetic fields acting on ferrous components

Forces from electrostatic fields, for example, from feet shuffled on carpets on a dry
day

Chemical reactivity between air and the substance being weighed (or the balance
itself, in the form of corrosion)

## Convection of air from hot or cold items

Gravitational differences for a scale which measures force, but not for a balance.[18]

## Vibration and seismic disturbances

Symbolism
The scales (specifically, a two pan, beam balance) are one of the traditional symbols of
justice, as wielded by statues of Lady Justice. This corresponds to the use in metaphor of
matters being "held in the balance". It has its origins in ancient Egypt.[citation needed]
Scales are also the symbol for the astrological sign Libra.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Weighing scales
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopdia Britannica article Balance.

Microbalance

Ampere balance

Apparent weight

AutoAnalyzer

Combination weigher

Fairbanks Scales

## Mass versus weight

Nutrition scale

Roberval Balance

Steelyard balance

Tare weight

Truck scale

Watt balance

Footnotes
1.

## ^ Sanders, L. A Short History of Weighing. Birmingham, England: W. & T.

did=6249

2.

^ Petruso, Karl M. Early Weights and Weighing in Egypt and the Indus
Valley, M Bulletin (Boston Museum of Fine Arts,), Vol. 79, (1981), pp. 44-51
(http://www.jstor.org/stable/4171634)

3.

^ Petruso, Karl M. Early Weights and Weighing in Egypt and the Indus
Valley, M Bulletin (Boston Museum of Fine Arts,), Vol. 79, (1981), pp. 44-51
(http://www.jstor.org/stable/4171634)

4.

2012-10-05.

5.

## ^ Avery Weigh-Tronix. The History of Weighing. (http://www.averyweightronix.com/main.aspx?p=1.1.3.4)

6.

^ Petruso, Karl M. Early Weights and Weighing in Egypt and the Indus
Valley, M Bulletin (Boston Museum of Fine Arts,), Vol. 79, (1981), pp. 44-51
(http://www.jstor.org/stable/4171634)

7.

^ Brass, Brian (2006): Candlesticks, Part 1, Equilibrium, No. 1, Pp. 30993109 (http://www.isasc.org/Equilibrium/Back_Issues/2006-1.pdf)

8.

^ Petruso, Karl M. Early Weights and Weighing in Egypt and the Indus
Valley, M Bulletin (Boston Museum of Fine Arts,), Vol. 79, (1981), pp. 44-51
(http://www.jstor.org/stable/4171634)

9.

10.

11.

did=6249

12.

p.1069

13.

## ^ Hodgeman, Charles, Ed. (1961). Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 44th

Ed.. Cleveland, USA: Chemical Rubber Publishing Co.. p.3480-3485

14.

^ [1]

15.

16.

^ Sensors Mag

17.

18.

## National Conference on Weights and Measures, NIST Handbook 44, Specifications,

Tolerances, And Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices,
2003

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Machine and
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