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In this article we explain how force sensors work, the various types available and their applications.

What is a Force Sensor?

A force sensor is a tool used to measure the force applied to an object.

Given the critical relevance of precise measu­re­ment of tension and compres­sion forces in various appli­ca­tions, force sensors are used in count­less diffe­rent working areas.

Among them are:

  • Manufac­tu­ring
  • Quality control
  • Research and development
  • Safety monito­ring
  • Optimiza­tion of devices and machines

Diffe­rent terms

Force sensors are also known under a variety of diffe­rent terms such as load cell, force trans­ductor or simply as force measu­ring device.

This is how Force Sensors work

The function­a­lity of specific force sensors can vary based on the measu­re­ment principle but the inten­tion remains the same.

To deter­mine the force acting on an object in diffe­rent direc­tions, a force measu­ring device is attached or integrated.

Within the force measu­ring device, a strain gauge with an arran­ge­ment of sensors on a metal struc­ture is installed.


As soon as force is applied to the struc­ture, the sensors measure the strain and produce an electrical signal corre­spon­ding to the applied force.

The electrical signal is then regis­tered and processed on specia­lized devices or computers.

Generally, force sensors are very precise and capable of measu­ring both small and large forces.

However, varia­tions may occur.

Accuracy class

This is why manufac­tu­rers provide an accuracy class in the datasheet, defining the poten­tial maximum devia­tion of the measu­re­ment in percen­tage terms.

As with other instru­ments used for testing, the regular inspec­tion and calibra­tion of force sensors are essen­tial to ensure accurate measurements.

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Calibra­tion at DSM

Diffe­rent Types of Force Sensors

Force sensors used to achieve optimal force trans­mis­sion, where a force should act predo­mi­nantly in the measu­ring direc­tion without inter­fe­rence from lateral forces or bending moments.

This requi­re­ment leads to various designs utili­zing diffe­rent measu­re­ment princi­ples such as:

  • Load cells
  • Ring force trans­du­cers / Donut load cell
  • Force measu­ring tabs
  • Load pins
  • Thread force sensor

Often the force sensors need to be minia­tu­rized to ensure an easy integra­tion into machines.

They are charac­te­rized by a flatter design and a smaller diameter.

There are numerous varia­tions, including:

  • Tension bars
  • Measu­ring rings
  • Load cells
  • Bending bars

Importance of appli­ca­tion area

In many cases, the appli­ca­tion area deter­mines the most suitable form to deliver optimal results.

Depen­ding on the needed force sensors, prices can vary significantly.

While in some cases a standard model is suffi­cient, in other cases only custom-made ones can meet all the needed requirements.

Measu­re­ment Princi­ples in Force Sensors: Table and Applications

The most common force sensors and their measu­re­ment princi­ples are summa­rized in the follo­wing table:

NameMeasu­re­ment PrincipleSuita­bi­lity
Strain Gauge or Spring Body Force SensorsStrain Gauge force sensors utilize a support plate equipped with thin metal foils. The applied force deforms the metal, leading to a measurable change in resistance.Among the most common types of force sensors, they excel in high accuracy and good long-term stability.
Piezo­elec­tric Force Sensors (Piezo)Piezo force sensors incor­po­rate crystals that generate electrical charges when subjected to force. The electric charge forms the basis for calcu­la­ting the force.Parti­cu­larly suitable for measu­ring dynamic tension and compres­sion forces.
Hydraulic Force TransducersMeasu­re­ment involves the compres­sion of liquids in a chamber subjected to pressure. Evalua­ting the pressure increase allows for the calcu­la­tion of force.Capable of measu­ring various types of forces, such as lateral or compres­sion forces. They are robust and highly reliable in diffi­cult weather condi­tions or when tempe­ra­ture fluctua­tions occur.
Magne­toela­stic Force SensorsThe measu­ring body consists of ferro­ma­gnetic material connected to a coil. The effect of force is detected through a change in induction.Cover a wide measu­ring range and are suitable for mass produc­tion due to their cost-effectiveness.
Induc­tive Force SensorsInduc­tive force sensors measure the change in distance that occurs when force is applied to two points.Often used in labora­to­ries due to high sensitivity.

For simul­ta­neous, multi-axis measu­re­ment of more than one force, multi-compo­nent force sensors are used.

All press-in units of the DSM SMP and XMP series are equipped with digital force sensors to guarantee the highest precision possible.

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