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A scale or balance is a device to measure weight or mass. These are also known as mass scales, weight scales, mass balances, weight balances.
The traditional scale consists of two plates or bowls suspended at equal distances from a fulcrum. One plate holds an object of unknown mass (or weight), while known masses are added to the other plate until static equilibrium is achieved and the plates level off, which happens when the masses on the two plates are equal. The perfect scale rests at neutral. A spring scale will make use of a spring of known stiffness to determine mass (or weight). Suspending a certain mass will extend the spring by a certain amount depending on the spring's stiffness (or spring constant). The heavier the object, the more the spring stretches, as described in Hooke's law. Other types of scales making use of different physical principles also exist.
Some scales can be calibrated to read in units of force (weight) such as newtons instead of units of mass such as kilograms. Scales and balances are widely used in commerce, as many products are sold and packaged by mass.
Electronic digital scales display weight as a number, usually on a liquid crystal display (LCD). They are versatile because they may perform calculations on the measurement and transmit it to other digital devices. In a digital scale, the force of the weight causes a spring to deform, and the amount of deformation is measured by one or more transducers called strain gauges. A strain gauge is a conductor whose electrical resistance changes when its length changes. Strain gauges have limited capacity and larger digital scales may use a hydraulic transducer called a load cell instead. A voltage is applied to the device, and the weight causes the current through it to change. The current is converted to a digital number by an analog-to-digital converter, translated by digital logic to the correct units, and displayed on the display. Usually the device is run by a microprocessor chip.
A digital bathroom scale is a scale on the floor which a person stands on. The weight is shown on an LED or LCD display. The digital electronics may do more than just display weight, it may calculate body fat, BMI, lean mass, muscle mass, and water ratio. Some modern bathroom scales are wirelessly or cellularly connected and have features like smartphone integration, cloud storage, and fitness tracking. They are usually powered by a button cell, or battery of AA or AAA size. Self-weighing is an effective strategy for weight loss, and over time, adults who engaged in frequent self-weighing found it to be more positive, more helpful, and less frustrating.
In electronic versions of spring scales, the deflection of a beam supporting the unknown mass 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 mass of very heavy objects, such as trucks and rail cars, and is used in a modern weighbridge.
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