Load Cells

Boisen, B. P.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1982
INTRODUCTION The rapidity of onset, rate of increase, and magni¬tude of loads in an underground support system can be measured using load cells or pressure cells, whichever is appropriate to the type of support. These instruments should be installed at the various instrumented station locations immediately after excavation. If the loading of a member is of interest, the load should be measured, whereas if the deflection or strain of a member is of interest, the strain should be mea¬sured. It makes as little sense to use a load cell to allow computation of strain as it does to measure the strain and then back calculate the load. Tunnel steel set de¬signers today invariably rely on the early work of Karl Terzaghi, the basis for which is load, so load measure¬ment should be the main concern. The current trend of using strain gages on steel sup¬port systems stems from the inability by some to eval¬uate unusual loading conditions caused by uneven block¬ing. In fact, uneven blocking will obscure almost any attempt (whether with load cells or strain gages) to properly evaluate support performance. The load curve in Fig. I shows the development of a characteristic early peak load sometimes called the "rear abutment load" seen in many underground open¬ings. It is thought that the peak reflects the coupling of the rock and the support system, and that the magnitude will increase until some yielding, or minor failure, of the support system occurs. At that time, the slight deforma¬tion of the support system promotes the formation of minute shears in the opening walls, and these shears tend to distribute stress between the support system and the adjacent rock in proportion to the relative rigidity of the support elements and the rock. In normal rock, as a result of this stress redistribu¬tion, subsequent load magnitudes generally do not reach the magnitude of the early peak load. In physically unstable (squeezing) or chemically un¬stable (swelling) rock, however, the loads experienced after passage of the early peak load may in fact show a slow, continuous increase. One of the very important purposes of load instrumentation is to provide the means for recognizing such long-term adverse trends, thus enabling the proper remedial steps to be taken. Another purpose of load instrumentation is to pro¬vide a comparison between the magnitudes of the early peak load and the subsequent stable load. The ratio of these two loads is analogous to a safety factor, and may be used to evaluate the efficiency and economy of the support system design. Aside from considerations of economy, it may be well to design support systems which do not have excessively high ratios of early peak load to subsequent stable load. Should these ratios be exces¬sively high, the support system may be so rigid that the yield or failure associated with stress redistribution may occur with explosive violence. Load cells for use in mines, tunnels, and on con¬struction projects come in many forms. Almost all, however, employ the same procedures for installation, readout, etc. Therefore the following comments are almost universal in application. LOAD CELL INSTALLATION Load cells should be installed with bases parallel to the surfaces against which they bear. Care must be taken to orient the cells so that their signal cables are protected from accidental damage as a result of con¬struction, maintenance, or cleanup activities. Most electronic load cells are compensated for tem¬perature variations likely to be encountered during nor¬mal operations. However, if a large difference is an¬ticipated between the calibration temperature [21°C (70°F)] and the average operating temperature, the cells should be conditioned to the operating temperature for at least 8 hr prior to installation. This is to insure that the initial reading, made under no-load conditions prior to installation, provides a stable value to which subse¬quent measurements can be referred. Hydraulic load cells tend to be temperature sensitive and should be used with that in mind. Also, hydraulic load cells tend to be soft compared to electronic types and will sometimes allow movement to take place in a system intended to be semirigid. Furthermore, hydrau¬lic load cells tend to be difficult to read remotely. Care must be taken to use bearing plates on both sides of load cells which are sufficiently rigid and of high enough bearing capacity to prevent bending and crush¬ing under load. This is very important with tieback load cells (basically a ring of steel) which can easily dig into bearing plates. MAINTENANCE AND TROUBLESHOOTING Except for a direct hit by a miner's axe or flyrock from a blast, most hydraulic load cells are nearly in¬destructible and require little, if any, maintenance. Hy¬draulic oil on the bearing plates is a good indication of a leak and the need for corrective action. Field maintenance of electronic load cells involves protecting the instrument and signal cable from mechani¬cal damage and from unnecessary exposure to dirt and moisture, and recognizing and correcting damage and the effects of normal wear and tear.
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