A Guide on Types of Balances and Scales

Various Scales and Balances

Weighing instruments come in many different shapes and forms, each adapted to specific tasks and applications. Learn about the various types of scales and balances used in different industries, and the functions that differentiate them. Some of these categories intersect, as many scales can fulfill different tasks depending on their functionality and applications. This guide can help you find the right type of weighing instrument adapted to your needs.

Analytical and Semi-Micro Balances

Designed to measure mass with a high degree of accuracy and precision, analytical and semi-micro balances usually feature readabilities between 0.01mg (0.00001g) - 0.0001g. They tend to have a lower capacity since they’re built to weigh fine samples in laboratories that provide a stable environment for measurements. Analytical and semi-micro balances are equipped with a draft shield to prevent the slightest movements (including air currents from a lab’s HVAC system) from disturbing the samples.

To complement their acute precision, analytical and semi-micro balances often offer features that simplify complex weighing tasks, such as formulation, statistical analysis, density determination, purity analysis or conformance testing. Their display can show a lot of different information and simple graphical data. Because these balances are designed for laboratory usage, they’re compliant with GLP guidelines, which means they include specific information (such as time, date and balance ID) in printouts or data exports.

Precision Balances

Precision balances are a step below analytical balances in terms of accuracy and precision. Their readability is not as fine (usually between 0.001g – 0.1g), but they feature higher capacities and can handle more rigorous conditions if needed. These instruments are often used in fields like quality testing, construction, food processing or production. They range from compact models with draft shield to top-loading models with large platforms for bigger samples.

Portable Compact Balances and Scales

As you might have guessed, these instruments are primarily designed to take very little space. Portable balances feature compact footprint allows for easy transport, so they’re well-suited for weighing tasks in catering/food service, construction and other moving job sites, as well as classrooms and kitchens. With readabilities between 0.001g and 0.05kg, and capacities that can go up to 200kg, they can weigh objects heavier than samples.

Compact scales can range from basic weighing scales to instruments capable of more advanced features such as counting or dynamic weighing. Scales designed for portability often include a long battery life and alternate power sources (like USB or batteries). They take little time to stabilize so users can start working quickly.

Analytical, Precision and Compact Balances

Bench Scales

Bench scales are used on tables, counters, workbenches and other surfaces. They take more space than compact scales, but usually feature a higher capacity and include features designed for industrial, manufacturing, business, warehouses or outdoor environments. These are designed for productivity and efficiency in the workplace, so they have a short stabilization time, long battery life and intuitive operation. Their capacities can range between 1.5kg to 60kg and readabilities as precise as 0.05g.

These scales can include many different options, from pillar-mounted displays or two displays for dual operation. They often feature visual or audible signals to help users quickly react to results and can be integrated into various systems via their RS-232 interfaces.

Floor Scales

With capacities that can go up to 600kg, floor scales provide dependable weighing solutions for a wide variety of industries. Simple to operate, these industrial scales offer the functions and features needed to improve efficiency and increase productivity in industrial warehouse environments, on assembly lines or loading docks, shipping and receiving activities, and in manufacturing locations.

They’re durable and have a large stainless steel weighing platform, often available in different sizes for user convenience. Like bench scales, floor scales are designed for productivity in working environments, so they’re often equipped with a variety of features like counting or checkweighing. Floor scales are perfect for repetitively weighing heavy objects in demanding industrial settings.

Counting Scales

While many balances include a counting feature, dedicated counting scales are primarily made to make counting tasks quicker and easier. They often have three displays to show the unit weight, total weight and number of pieces. Some counting scales include a full numeric keypad for easy sample entry. Counting scales also include practical feature such as zero-tracking, preset tare and parts counting optimization. Some of them also include memory storing and recall to make inventory management tasks easier. They’re well-suited for tasks with small parts and pieces that must be counted like packaging or filling. Counting scales are available as bench or floor scales.

Floor, Bench and Counting Scales

Checkweighing Scales

Like counting scales, checkweighing scales are built for a specific function. Available in bench and floor models, checkweighing scales are versatile weighing products that can be implemented in manufacturing and industrial processes like quality testing, filling, packaging, processing and more. Checkweighing scales feature LEDs or displays that change color to quickly indicate if a sample is under, over or within preset limits. Some checkweighing scales include audible alarms as well. They’re often combined with relays to speed up repetitive tasks (for example, if a box must contain exactly 500g of material, the relay box can activate a switch on a conveyor belt to move the box to labeling when the weight is 500g).

Mechanical Scales

Unlike digital scales, mechanical scales function without electricity. They’re sturdy and easy to use, but they lack the wide variety of features available on digital scales. Mechanical scales can be used for basic weighing tasks in classrooms, kitchens, gyms, locker rooms or offices. They’re a good low-cost option for limited budgets, demanding conditions and basic weighing needs.

Medical Scales

Medical scales can be mechanical or digital. They can be made to measure adults, children, or babies for medical monitoring. A lot of medical scales designed to weigh people include height measurement as well. Digital scales can even include a BMI function. Digital medical scales also can communicate with computers and transfer patient data to management system with the information necessary to maintain privacy and medical protocols. These instruments usually have a few accessories for the patient’s comfort, such as non-slip mats or removable cradles for weighing babies.

Checkweighing, Medical and Mechanical Scales

Veterinarian Scales

Just like animals, these scales come in many different shapes and forms. From compact balances to measure food or medicine to large platforms to weigh heavy animals, veterinarian scales are versatile and robust. To weigh animals, they feature sturdy construction with stainless steel platforms that can be washed easily and can withstand animals moving and scratching. A dynamic weighing feature allows to capture weight results even if the animal is in motion during the process. They can be used in veterinarian offices, in zoos or animal shelters.

Crane Scales (also called Hanging Scales)

As their name indicates, hanging scales measure items that are suspended from their steel hook. They’re usually constructed of some metal alloy or polycarbonate since they need to be sturdy for heavy-duty weighing on construction sites or industrial plants. Crane scales can weigh as much as 10000kg. Their display is bright and highly visible from a distance, and they can even be remote-controlled for additional safety measures. Their rotating steel hook allows for easy integration to a variety of machinery.

Retail Scales

Retail scales feature trade-approval, which allows users to sell a wide variety of goods by weight. From grocery stores to ice cream shops, retail scales help users stay productive and competitive in busy commercial environments. They frequently feature multiple displays to clearly show information such as weight, price per weight and unit cost to both the user and the customers. The second display can be mounted on the rear of the scale or on a pillar. Retail scales often have full numeric keyboards to enter PLUs that can store or recall product information. They’re compact enough to fit on countertops, easy to clean between customers, and can have a long battery life for farmer’s shops or fairs. They can quickly and efficiently calculate price based on weight.


Legal-for-Trade Scales

Legal-for-trade scales also feature trade-approval such as NTEP (North America), Measurement Canada (Canada) or CE (Europe). The organization that dictates metrological norms vary from country to country, so be sure to check local laws if you decide to buy a retail scale. Legal-for-trade scales are not always retail scales. In some settings, such as jewelry or pharmacy, approval in required to ensure customers get what they pay for and follow regulations. They encompass a wide variety of instruments, from precision balances to measure precious metals to floor scale for raw products. You can quickly see if a scale is approved by looking for the black “M”. Make sure that your scale features the approval needed in the region it will be used in.

Pallet Scales

Used in shipping facilities, postal offices, warehouses and docks, pallet scales are designed to combine transport and weighing to streamline productivity. Pallet truck scales feature wheels and a handle, with an indicator showing weight. They’re sturdy and maneuverable. Features like label printing or checkweighing can reduce the amount of stops users have to make while handling heavy objects, which can help improve safety and productivity.

Platform Scales

These platforms are available in various sizes and are built to weigh heavy or oversized items. Made of mild or stainless steel, they’re robust and easy to clean. Platform scales can be used in industrial, agricultural or shipping and receiving facilities. Some platforms include ramps or wheels for easy mobility and loading, while others are designed with a reinforced frame to be set in specific stations.



Indicators feature the display, keypad and the features that use the platform’s load cell to interpret results for the user. Some indicators are connected to the platform by cables, mounted on the wall or on a pillar. Indicators are usually paired with large platforms for versatile operation even in high capacities.

Washdown Scales

Durable and solidly built, washdown scales provide reliable weighing results in wet, dusty or humid environments. Their ingress protection rating (IP) feature two digits that indicates the conditions in which it can operate. Washdown scales are well-suited for operations in docks, fisheries, food processing or medical facilities because they can withstand frequent, in-depth cleaning in order to maintain strict hygienic protocols. Most washdown scales are rated IP66 or above.

Do you have questions about our scales and balances? Do you need help choosing the right instrument for your weighing needs? Don’t hesitate to contact us.

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