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How to Pick the Right Scale for Your Needs

Posted in: Equipment Mastery and Hacks
How to Pick the Right Scale for Your Needs

There are many things that vary from one scale to the next. When picking which scale to buy or use, there are a few things to take into account: the two biggies being the maximum capacity and the readability range (also known as how sensitive the measuring system of the scale is).

As both these feature go up, you get a scale that is able to measure larger weights and is also able to weigh things with increasing levels of accuracy. However, the price will also shoot up, so it’s worth figuring out what your needs are before you buy a MegaUltraSuperDeluxe MicroBalance 2000 that the sales rep assures you you’ll absolutely need. Hmmm…

Let’s talk about how to pick the right scale for you.

Buying a scale

When scrolling through the different models of a website, you might notice that your needs limit you to certain choices.  These can be broken down into 5 areas.

Decision 1: Where am I?!

What type of lab is this scale for? R&D? Quality control? Metrology?

Decision 2: Biggest and smallest

Consider the maximum and minimum weights you’ll need to measure. You might want to talk to your boss and/or colleagues.

Decision 3: For good measure…

Decide on the degree of accuracy you need. If you require an extremely exact model, you need to filter the possibilities down to meet your specs. Top end models can read to within 0.0001g of accuracy and the lower end of the price scale reads to 0.1g of accuracy, so keep this in mind when shopping. Some times, the accuracy is given in percentages from about 0.1-10% with 1% being the standard.

Decision 4: A scale that makes toast and even adds butter

Keep in mind any unusual needs you might have. Perhaps you need a scale that reads in an uncommon unit, such as Newtons or Tola. You might want to check that the scales you’re looking at can be set to give readings in these units or that they are customisable.

Another specific need might be USB or Ethernet ports; how the unit is powered (batteries or a lead or either); how easy it is to clean; how quickly it measures samples; how small or large the unit is; and if you need a portable, light-weight model.

Decision 5: Money, money, money. Must be funny. In the rich man’s world.

Decide what your budget is. There is no point in getting your heart set on a scale that is way out of the lab’s price range. On a similar note, your lab may be able to get a discount from certain companies (and if not, you can always ask. Everybody loves a tryer!) I’m putting this at the end because you may not know what kind of price range your product will be until you’ve seen a list of models that suit your needs.

If after you take all these things into account, but your requirements produce a list of different products, consider checking with similar labs what they use. You may also need to consider buying more than one model.

A helpful tip: many companies have online quizzes to help you pick the product(s) that fits your needs. If you can’t find one on the company’s website, have a list of answers ready and brave a chat with a sales rep.

If you’re planning on sharing the scale with other labs, be sure to find out what their needs are too!

Using the correct scale

The same principles apply when picking which scale to use as which one to buy.

  • Make a list of your needs using the points above and write down the models available to you.
  • Look them up.
  • Which one fits your needs the best?
  • Do you need to get your boss a coffee in the morning with a request for a new scale?
  • Is there a lab nearby that has a scale you need and would like permission to use?

Hopefully these tips and questions will help you in weighing your decisions.

Good luck!

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Image Credit: Serge Melki

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