Force and Load Sensors Information

Force and load sensors are electrical sensing devices that are used to measure tension, compression, and shear force. They are available as sensors and sensor elements, instruments and meters, gauges and indicators, and recorders and totalizers.


The Engineering360 SpecSearch database enables industrial buyers to source these types of force and load sensors.

  • Tension cells are used for measuring a straight-line force "pull apart" along a single axis, and are characterized typically as positive-force devices.
  • Compression cells are used to measure a straight-line force "push together" along a single axis, and are characterized typically as negative-force devices.
  • Shear cells measure sheer, which is induced by tension or compression along offset axes. Some load cells measure force along only one axis, however. There are three kinds of shear cells: shear beam, bending beam, and single-point bending beam.

Biaxial and triaxial devices also provide load measurements, along two or three (typically orthogonal) axes.

Load Cell and Shear Cell Packages

When selecting load cells or shear cells, industrial buyers need to specify a package.

Load Cell Packages

Select one of these options.

  • S-beam units are shaped like a squared-off letter S. Variable resistors are bonded to the regions of maximum strain, and change resistance as a load is applied.
  • Pancake cells are short, low-profile cylinders. They are capable of measuring very small through very large loads. Donut cells are like pancake cells, but have a through-bore or hole.
  • Canister cells are instrumented cylinders. They have a considerably higher aspect ratio than pancake cells.
  • Bolt load sensors have one or two threaded ends for attachment to measured systems. These load cells measure force along the long axis of the bolt.
  • Link cells are designed for the in-line measurement of tension or compression.
  • Tank weighing load cells are designed specifically to support tanks.

Other types of load cell packages include male and female rod ends.

Shear Cell Packages

Select one of these options.

  • Shear beam sensors measure shear, but not a bending or single-point beam.
  • Bending beam sensors are configured so that shear is determined from the measurement of the bending moment of a beam.
  • Single-point bending beam sensors measure the vertical component of applied force. 

Sensor Technologies

In addition to type and package type, load cells are classified by sensor technology.

  • Capacitive load cells use the separation between two conductive surfaces to measure the force applied. As the force increases, the separation between the surfaces decreases and the capacitance increases.
  • Magnetoelastic load cells detect changes in permeability by measuring changes in their own magnetic field. They are sometimes called pressductor load cells.
  • Piezoelectric load cells use a piezoelectric material that, when compressed, generates a charge that is conditioned by a charge amplifier.
  • Strain gages are bonded to the part of the structure that deforms during measurement. They typically require an excitation voltage, and provide output sensitivity proportional to that excitation.

Buyers should also specify the desired sensor output when selecting load cells.