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Kevin Hill

Metrology

Eight Tips to Use and Maintain an Analytical Balance

Any precision measuring instrument is only as accurate as the person operating it

Published: Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - 12:02

Analytical balance scales are a part of many laboratories. If you use them regularly, you need to keep the analytical scales well-maintained. They are extremely sensitive, and factors like dust, vibration, and air drafts will throw off the accuracy of the scales. This is why it is important to maintain and calibrate them regularly so that you get accurate weights every time you measure.

An analytical balance will work efficiently only if it is maintained properly. Follow the specific manufacturer’s recommendations that come with the balance.

Apart from that, follow these eight tips.

Keep it in the right environment
Keep the analytical balance in an area that is free of vibration and has controlled temperature and humidity.

Don’t place the balances next to doors or windows because opening or closing them will result in air drafts or temperature fluctuations that can lead to inaccurate measurements.

Keep it clean
Keep the analytical balance clean. Debris inside the weighing chamber can affect the weighing results.

Clean the weighing platforms and glass draft shields using a lint-free and nonabrasive microfiber towel. Remove the weighing pan before you clean it. Use a mild cleaning agent for the same. After the weighing pan dries, gently put it back into its place.

When you put back the weighing pan, do not put too much pressure on the balance. This could damage the internal weighing components. Lastly, ensure there is no fluid or debris under the weighing pan or in the weighing mechanism.

You need to clean the outside of the analytical balance as well. Use a mild detergent for that. Ensure that no dust finds its way inside the balance after you clean it.

Check calibration sticker’s expiry date
Before using the balance, look at the expiration date on the balance’s calibration sticker. If the balance calibration is out of date and requires calibration, calibrate it before use. Otherwise, the balance won’t be fit for use. Anything measured on a balance with an expired calibration sticker is suspect, and depending on your processes, may have to be remeasured once the balance is calibrated.

Level it
The balance needs to be positioned horizontally. Use the built-in spirit level to check whether it is exactly horizontal or not. Center the bubble of the spirit. The balance will have adjustable feet that you can turn individually. Use these feet to raise or lower the side to bring the bubble to the center of the level. A balance that is out of level may give inaccurate results.

Don’t measure with bare hands
Don’t throw off the tare of sample pans by touching them with your bare fingers. The oil on your fingers can lead to an incorrect reading. Instead, use gloves or pan holders. This caution applies to handling test weights as well for manually calibrated analytical balances. Use gloves or tweezers to handle the test weights.

Calibrate
Choose standardized weights to calibrate the weighing balance. You can use one weight that is approximately the same weight as the desired substance weight. Or, you can weigh a variety of items across a wide range to ensure accuracy across the range.

Some industries, or some customers, require that calibrations are traceable to NIST standards. If your in-house calibration tech is not able to do this, you will need to send your balances to a reputable calibration lab that can perform NIST-traceable calibrations.

Store the balance properly
If you won’t be using the balance for a long period, unplug it and keep in a place where it cannot be disturbed. You can use a dust cover to keep the balance clean while storing it. Place the balance away from busy workstations where it can be prone to accidental falls or bumps.

Power up the balance and calibrate it from time to time to make sure it is always in good working condition.

Train the operators
Any precision measuring instrument is only as accurate as the person operating it. Be sure your operators are all trained in the proper use of the balance. When possible, using the same sample, periodically check that all operators get the same results, within measurement tolerances. This can help you spot an operator who might need more training.

If you face any problem with the balance and are unable to fix it, call a professional. She will answer your questions and make sure the problems are fixed before they cause major problems. An expert will also guide you on how to address common weighing errors you may face while using laboratory scales and balances.

Operators must know about balance calibration as well to ensure that the scales measure accurately.

Whether you use your scales every day or once in a while, maintain and calibrate them regularly. This ensures that the scales provide accurate weight measurements every time you use them. Call scale calibration services if you need professional help for calibration.

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About The Author

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Kevin Hill

Kevin Hill heads up the marketing and provides technical expertise to the sales and service teams at Quality Scales Unlimited in Byron, California.