Maintenance Matters: Laboratory Balances

Keeping your laboratory balances up to snuff is pretty simple, but there are a few things to remember to ensure the process goes smoothly.

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Calibration and cleaning are essential

“The most important thing to remember in lab balance maintenance is to keep the balance clean and calibrated,” says Tom Storey, director of marketing at Adam Equipment. “You should follow any specific manufacturer’s recommendations that come with the balance.”

He adds that the user’s manual is a great place to start when maintaining your balance as it outlines all of the proper maintenance tasks for that specific balance.

As for how frequent maintenance should be, Andrew Hurdle, laboratory market manager for OHAUS Corporation, recommends that, in general, most facilities should service and calibrate their balances on an annual basis.

“This is also dependent upon how often you use your balance, the working environment, and any other regulatory mandates for your industry,” he says. “Some facilities may need to have routine calibration conducted more frequently, such as monthly or even daily.”

Hurdle stresses that any time the balance is not performing as it did when the lab first began using it, users should contact their local service provider to have it checked out.

“Most manufacturers tell you to calibrate a brand-new balance before using it,” as the simple process of shipping can affect the mechanics of the balance, Storey adds. “Frequent calibration ensures consistent results and maximizes precision in your measurements. If you notice your balance is delivering readings that are inconsistent or less repeatable, it’s definitely time for calibration.”

If a user’s lab experiences frequent temperature or barometric changes, they will need to calibrate their balances more often as such fluctuations mean inaccurate results.

“Fluctuations in barometric pressure can wreak havoc with the results from a precision or analytical balance that hasn’t been calibrated,” Storey says. “And if the location in which you’re working has a different gravitational force than that of the factory producing the balance, calibration is necessary for precise measurements.”

As with other lab instruments, there are plenty of mistakes users make when looking after their balances. Hurdle notes that not using a certified technician to perform routine maintenance or not using certified weights to perform the calibration when doing it themselves are common errors he sees users make.

“Always be sure to use a company that has been properly trained to work on balances by the manufacturer of your balance,” he stresses, adding that, “It is also important to store calibration weights in the proper containers where they will remain free from dust or smudges and at the proper ambient temperatures. Calibration weights should also be handled with the proper gloves and forceps where applicable to prevent damage.”

Storey says users need to be careful when cleaning, storing, and moving their balances, as applying more pressure or weight to the pan than it can handle can cause damage.

“It’s best to remove the pan when cleaning or storing your balance,” he says. “If you don’t, you might accidentally set something on top of it, and then wonder why it’s not working.”

Simply forgetting to calibrate your balance is another mistake that can lead to large issues, but is easily solved by keeping a log to record maintenance tasks, Storey adds. A maintenance log is “very beneficial, especially if there are multiple users operating the balance,” he says. “Also, if you need professional repairs done, it’s helpful for the technicians to know exactly what you’ve done and when you did it.”

Apart from the user’s manual, calling the manufacturer for maintenance tips or to help solve any issues you have is a good resource in caring for your balance. Overall, just remembering to do maintenance and being gentle are the keys to a happy balance.

“Rough handling of a balance is one of the leading factors to a balance not performing at optimum levels,” Hurdle says. “If possible, once your balance is initially set up, it should not be disturbed.”

Other Ways to Safeguard Your Balance

  • Using the balance in harsh environments (exposing to corrosive materials, temperature extremes, exposed to water or moisture, dirt/dust getting inside of product, etc.) can lead to balance damage and inaccuracy. Use the appropriate cleaning agents to routinely clean your balance. Some agents can significantly damage balance surfaces, so be sure to consult the balance’s service manual before using a cleaning solvent on the balance.
  • Plug your balance into a power surge protector.
  • Allow the balance to warm up to room temperature levels before use.
  • Do not leave items on the balance weighing pan for an extended amount of time.
  • Most manufacturers’ standard warranties cover the balance from manufacturer defects, but often repairs fall outside of that warranty. Whether or not you should purchase an extended warranty depends on the value of the balance, how you use it, the level of wear and tear on the instrument and risk of damage, and how critical the balance is to your daily operations

Check back with us next month as we share the essentials of maintaining laboratory cold storage equipment.

Categories: Maintenance Matters

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Published: November 13, 2014

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