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ConstructionofasimpleBalanceBeamScale

Introduction
PrincipleoftheBalanceBeamScale
Figures
ConstructionDetails

Beambalancescalethatwasbuiltforaccurateweighingofpropellantconstituents.

Introduction

Ihadrecentlybeeninvestigatingthepropertiesofdextroseasapossiblealternativetosucroseasafueland
binder.Thisinvestigationinvolvedpreparingmanypropellantsamples,oftenwithdifferentoxidizer/fuel(O/F)
ratios.Thebatchsizeofthesesamplesweretypicallysmall,intheorderof50to100grams.ThescalethatI
initiallyusedtoweighouttheconstituentswasaPelouzedigital(postal)scale,witha2kg.capacity.Even
thoughthisscaleisveryaccurate,theproblemisthatithasa2gramresolution.Abatchsizeof100grams,for
a65/35O/Fratio,requires35gramsofdextrose.Thus,at2gramresolution(i.e.thescalewouldindicate
readingsin2gramsteps:34,36,etc.)thiscouldleadtoappreciableerror,aswellasvariationinactualO/F
ratioobtained,frombatchtobatch.
Aftergivingthissomethought,IsoonrealizedthatwhatIreallyneededwasabalancescale.SinceIwantedto
measureratiosofonequantitywithrespecttoanother(oxidizertofuel),ratherthanspecificquantities,the
functionofthescaleisgreatlysimplified.Calibrationisnotnecessarywiththisbalancescale.

PrincipleoftheBalanceBeamScale

Thescalethatispresentedhereisanequalarmbalancebeamscale.Inordertomeasureacertainmassof
sample,weightshavingatotalmassequaltotherequiredsamplemassisplacedintheweightspan.Aquantity
ofthesampleisthenslowlyaddedtothesamplepanuntilthearmisperfectlybalanced,asindicatedbythe
pointer.Justaboutanysmallidentical(=mass)objectscanbeusedastheweights.Perhapsthemostconvenient
iscoins.IusedCanadianonecentcoins,ofrecentvintage,Thosedated19861997areidenticalinmass,
accordingtotheRCM,butIlimitedtheonesIusedto19901997thosewithnosignificantwear.The
approximatemassofthiscoinis2.5grams,withthisvalueobtainedbyweighing100coinsonthePelouze
scale.Notethatitisnotnecessarytoknowtheprecisemassofthecoin,butitisusefultoknowthe
approximatemass,todeterminehowmanycoinsarerequiredtoobtainasampleofacertainmass.
Forexample,toobtainasampleofroughly100gramsof60/40O/Fpropellant,100/2.5=40coinsequivalent
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mass.Toweighouttheoxidizersample,use0.6x40=24coins,and0.4x40=16coinstoweightoutthefuel
sample.Thisresultsinanexact60/40(=24/16)O/Fratio.

Tinywashersmaybeusedasfractionalweights(e.g.5washers=1coin).
Resolutionofthisbalancebeamscaleispotentially1/5gram,orbetter.

Figures

FrontviewofBeambalancescale

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SideviewofBeambalancescale

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Basicdimensions(frontview).Dimensionsareinmillimeters.

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Basicdimensions(sideview).Dimensionsareinmillimeters.

Constructiondetails
TheSupportStructureandBasearemadefrom15mmparticleboard,fastenedtogetherwith#8x50mm
particleboardscrews.
TheSamplePanisastainlesssteelbowl,of1/2litrecapacitytheWeightsPanisa250ml"tin"can.Bothare
attachedtothebeamwithfinewiretiedtoanelectrical"eye"connector,securedtothebeamwitha#6screw.

TheBeamisformedsteelCchannel,asshownbelow.Thisismadefromalengthof"stiffeningchannel"thatis
usedasacomponentofasteelstudframingforhousewalls(availableat"HomeDepot",etal).

Atoneendofthebeam,alengthofthreadedrodisepoxied.Thisistofacilitateanumberofnuts,usedforfine
balancingofthebeam(aligningtothezeromark).

Thebeamrestsonthebalanceblade.Thisisalengthofutilityknife(Olfa)blade,mountedwiththecutting
edgeup,epoxiedtothebeamsupport.Thesharpedgeisslightlydulledwithveryfine(320grit)emerypaper,
sufficienttomakeitsafetothetouch.Twolengthsof#1032threadedrodareusedto"lock"thebeamin
positionwhenthescaleisnotinuse,bytighteningthestop/locknutsslightly.Wheninuse,thenutsarebacked
offafewturns.Theserodsfitthrough10mmholesdrilledinthebeam.

Thebeamhasveenotchesfiledintothebeamflangesattheexactmidpointbetweenthetwopanattachment
points.Thecompletedbeamassembly(beam,finebalancenuts,samplepan,weightspan)isplacedonthe
bladeandcarefullybalancedbyadjustingthebalancenuts.

Thepointerismadefromalengthofsteelwire,1.3mm(.050")indiameter.Itisepoxiedtothetopsurfaceof
thebeamexactlyabovetheveenotches.

LastupdatedJune.21,2001

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