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What is a Digital Scale?

Daniel Liden
Updated May 16, 2024
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A digital scale is a measurement device used to measure the weight or mass of an object or substances. Digital scales are often more compact, durable, and precise than other kinds of scales, such as spring scales or balances, which often wear out and give different readings over time. Digital scales require a power source and may not always be completely accurate, but they are generally quite accurate and consistent even when used over extended periods of time. A digital scale may be used for many different purposes ranging from the measurement of ingredients in the kitchen to the precise measurement of substances in a lab.

Most digital scales make their measurements based on an internal strain gauge. A thin foil piece that conducts electricity and is sensitive to deformation is attached with some adhesive to a flexible surface. When weight is applied to the digital scale, various mechanisms within the digital scale ensure the weight is evenly distributed on the strain gauge. The weight bends the flexible surface, deforming the foil piece, which alters the flow of electrical current. Other mechanisms within the scale are able to interpret the degree of deformation and current change and translate it into a weight or mass.

The sensitivity of a given digital scale may vary greatly based on the purpose for which it's used. Scales that are used to measure people generally do not need to be extremely precise as the difference of a few grams—or even, in some cases, a few pounds—is not extremely significant. Kitchen scales, on the other hand, are often used to measure considerably smaller masses; the difference of a few grams of some ingredients could irreparably damage a meal. Scales used in stores that price items, such as produce, by weight need to be quite accurate, as people pay money based on how much the scale says an object weighs.

The scales used in laboratory settings, particularly those used for chemistry, physics, and medical research, need to be extraordinarily accurate. Problems can result from inaccuracies as small as the mass of a few grains of sand. Chemical reactions often require precise amounts of particular substances to successfully run to completion. A digital scale used for laboratory purposes often includes a glass case around the measurement surface to prevent any changes in measured mass resulting from air currents applying slight pressure to the measurement surface. This often occurs when warm or hot objects or substances are measured as the temperature differences can cause air currents that alter the weight measurements.

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Daniel Liden
By Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden, a talented writer with a passion for cutting-edge topics and data analysis, brings a unique perspective to his work. With a diverse academic background, he crafts compelling content on complex subjects, showcasing his ability to effectively communicate intricate ideas. He is skilled at understanding and connecting with target audiences, making him a valuable contributor.
Discussion Comments
By OeKc05 — On May 28, 2012

@shell4life - I agree with you. A few pounds on her body can mean a lot to a woman. I would be upset if I had been working hard to lose the weight and then saw an increase instead.

I use a digital scale to determine my weight, and I also use a small digital scale in my kitchen. Normally, I just measure out ingredients with measuring cups, but when I’m making bread, getting the exact ounces right is critical.

When measuring flour, you can’t get an accurate measurement with a cup, because flour packs differently every time. The only way to get it exactly right is to use a digital scale.

I have to clear the scale after each time I weigh an ingredient, but this is so much easier to do on a digital scale than on a mechanical one. Instead of having to twist a knob and get it to land right on zero, all I have to do is hit a button.

By cloudel — On May 27, 2012

My friend has a home business, and she uses a digital shipping scale to determine how much to charge her customers for their shipment. She makes jewelry and purses, and she takes orders online.

As soon as a customer places an order, she takes their items to the scale and places all of them on it at once. The weight determines the exact cost for shipping them, and she can pass this along to the person placing the order.

This is a different way of doing things than most big businesses do. They have a predetermined amount to charge, but my friend just lets her customers know that once they place an order, she will contact them with the shipping cost via email, and then the order can be processed.

By StarJo — On May 26, 2012

My digital weighing scale will remember data from earlier. So, I can compare what I weighed last time to what I weigh currently and see how many pounds I’ve lost.

It’s easy to forget exactly how many pounds and ounces you weighed a few days earlier. I don’t care enough to write it down, but it is nice to have a digital copy of this information stored in my scale. I can access it by simply tapping a certain area of the scale with my foot.

This feature also helps prevent me from gaining too much before realizing what is happening. If I gain two or three pounds between the times that I weigh myself, then I know I need to modify my diet or portion size.

By shell4life — On May 26, 2012

Ask any woman and she will tell you that a few pounds does make a difference! Maybe guys don’t care as much about it, but I know that if I am on a diet and my scale tells me I have gained a pound or two, I will be distraught!

I got a digital weight scale a few years ago because of its accuracy. My old scale had a little hand that would point to the weight when I stepped on it, and it was so old that it started reading about ten to twenty pounds off my actual weight, which I got from the scales at my doctor’s office.

One thing I love about my digital scale is that it will give me the same reading if I step on it more than once in a row. My old scale would differ by about five pounds, and that was from one moment to the next!

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden, a talented writer with a passion for cutting-edge topics and data analysis, brings a unique perspective to...
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