The Importance of Proper Scale Handling for College Laboratories:
Colleges around the country offer science related courses and degrees that require the use of a laboratory. Lab experience is essential for the hands-on learning that is vital in solidifying the concepts of sometimes abstract scientific and biological processes.
The variety of scales on the market is almost as diverse as the applications for which they are used, but in every case the proper calibration and care of these weighing scales is paramount. Science and research departments have budgets just like the rest of us and choosing the best place to buy a scalemight take some research. The following tips will also aid in stretching those budgets, at least as they pertain to weighing apparatuses.
We like to call the steps listed below "The 3 C's of Proper Scale Handling". They should be introduced to students and reiterated to research staff at the start of their tenure in the laboratory.
The first "C" is "Care". By Care, we mean turning the scale off when not in use. Even better is to set up the machine to turn off automatically if it was manufactured with the auto-off feature.
Another element of Care is placing the scale on a level and smooth surface. Many scales are equipped with "level feet", which simply means the feet of the scale can be adjusted up or down with the simple twist of a screw. Other scales are specifically made for rugged environments such as field training or testing. This, however, does not mean they are bulletproof.
And this brings us to the third prong of Care, which we could call "protection". Many high precision scales are packaged with a wind cover that protects the weighing platform and the delicate sensors technology underneath. Wind covers also defend the weighing area against the elements and can be very important in eliminating such things as wind and dirt from your variables. A dust cover may also be included or can be purchased separately. At the end of each day dust covers should be employed to deter bugs and dust from settling in the previously mentioned sensitive components of your weighing machine.
Cleaning is essential to the care and maintenance of precise instruments like scales. Laboratory environments invite all manner of caustic, sticky, biohazardous, and generally damaging substances. A lot of scale manufacturers are now recognizing the need for faceplate and platform covers to minimize the need for cleaning. Check with your brand manufacturer to see if disposable in-use covers are available to fit your model. Despite the best precautions, scale units will still need to be wiped down occasionally with damp cloths.
Calibration is the crown jewel of proper scale handling. After all, a scale's raison d'etre is to provide accurate weight measurements! If a scale does not measure precisely, it is little more than a paperweight. Always be sure to have the appropriate calibration weights on hand. Calibration and calibration weight instructions can generally be found in the scale's manual. Calibration is different for each scale so contact your manufacturer or retail representative regarding this procedure if the included instructions have been misplaced. Calibrating your scale should be completed at least once per year. With heavy use, calibration is advised semi-annually. With the adherence to the "The 3 C's of Proper Scale Handling", scales should live through many cycles of laboratory students.