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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE

MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

Anchor Load Cells Installation - considerations

This article outlines the main points to check during installation of load cells to control tensions
while installing and service life, applied on bar and cable ground anchors as well as prestressing
and post tensioning tendons. It is only a practical guide based on experience and is not intended
to replace any Engineers’ design.

However simple they may appear, load cell installations pose unexpected questions. These
challenges include load range, alignment, positioning and diameter consistency, as well as
temperature effects, all of which will have significant impacts on the outcome.

No one load cell installation is the same and careful planning of each project should be carried to
ensure a successful installation.

Load cells are the preferred system to monitor anchor behaviour. The more complex the engineering
design laying behind the more meticulous and precise installation must be.
The main considerations are:
 Type of structure to anchor
 Expected anchor loads
 Anchor head: dimensions and terminology
 Anchor: bar and cable dimensions
 Unexpected readings

NOTE: There are outstanding issues to be considered when installing load cells.
KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

TYPE OF STRUCTURE TO ANCHOR

Item Considerations Possible solutions

Structural concrete elements Pre and post tensioning multi strand Ensure the dimensions of the load
anchor blocks are designed specifically cell will effectively fit to the anchor
Compressive forces can be applied
to the number of tendons / strands. block.
to concrete elements either before
Load cells are used regularly to control
concrete casting, i.e. pre tensioning Frequency of load cell calibration
tensions applied to the tendons at the
at the precast concrete plant, or must be kept to once every six
precast concrete plant. In this use, the
once the concrete is casted, i.e. months or higher when used in
difference between Outer (OD) and Inner
post tensioning usually onsite. production at the precast concrete
Diameters (ID) is usually small so the
plant.
available circular crown section is thin.

Ground Engineering structures It is a priority to learn: Chosen load cell type and
dimensions are a function of the type
Tension load is used to stabilize  type of anchor that will be in
of anchor and its service load.
and to retain ground deformation place, i.e. bar or cable anchor,
using bar or cable / strand anchors, passive or active, above or below Protection at the anchor head is
i.e. support and retaining walls, groundwater level; mandatory for service lifespans in
slopes or embankments, bridge excess of two years.
abutments, slabs subjected to  loads the anchoring element will
bear. Automatic data acquisition is of great
under pressure, etc.
help for those spots difficult to
Temporary ground anchors are those access or located in remote sites.
with a service life of up to two years.
Permanent ground anchors have a
service life longer than two years.

Strut monitoring It takes a lot of expertise to install a load Monitoring outcome from load cells
cell to monitor a strut. installed in a strut easily correlates to
Loads in (excavation) struts can be
measurements obtained using strain
monitored using a load cell, Placing a load cell in a strut may alter
gauges.
measuring the full load on the full the loading conditions both in the strut
section of the strut. and in the cell. Strain gauges properly installed on a
strut give an idea about moments in
the element –flexion, compression,
torsion-, additionally to load.

NOTE: The kind of structure to anchor and the kind of anchoring element determine the
definitive design for the load cells.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

TYPE OF STRUCTURE TO ANCHOR

Item Considerations

Type of anchor load cells The factors to take into account when deciding which load
cell type to use are:
There are three types of load cells provided by
Geosense:  Duration of monitoring;
 Hydraulic load cells;  Accuracy required;
 Strain gauge load cells;  Data logging requirement;
 Vibrating Wire (VW) load cells.  Robustness.

Possible solutions

Hydraulic load cells


These are low cost but they are the least accurate as they are significantly affected by temperature. Hydraulic load
cells are useful for monitoring anchors on long term projects where any changes in load are likely to be significant.
They can be upgraded to be data logged by attaching a Vibrating Wire (VW) or analogue pressure sensors. When
fitted with a Bourdon gauge they offer quick and simple readings.
Standard output from hydraulic load cells: manometer for pressure indication.

Strain gauge load cells


Should be used if dynamic monitoring is required. This is because they give a constant output and do not have to be
polled for information. Strain gauge load cells are very accurate over the short term but may be prone to drift in the
long term. This is due to glue drift of the attached sensors but also down to electrical drift of the sensors and other
electronic components. They can be easily and cheaply data logged and are, arguably, the easiest and cheapest to
use for wireless monitoring applications.
Output signal from strain gauge load cells: mV/V; Ω for thermistor if in place.

Vibrating wire (VW) load cells


These are the highest in cost. VW load cells are also the most robust and suitable for civil engineering applications.
Bearing this in mind, VW load cells certainly are our choice for loads of 1000 kN and bigger. Sensors used are
electromechanical, mechanically attached in the sensor, so they are very stable over the long term. Due to the fact
that each load cell has either three or six gauges, individually read, eccentric loading is also easily spotted. In terms of
accuracy, VW load cells are the equal of strain gauge load cells. VW load cells cannot be dynamically monitored.
Output signal from VW load cells: Hz or Digits; Ω for thermistor if in place.

NOTE: Service duration, precision needed, type of readings output, and robustness are
factors to consider when choosing a type of load cell.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

TYPE OF STRUCTURE TO ANCHOR

load cell

ground

load bearing
plates

anchor head

retaining
structure

An anchor is an installation capable of transmitting an applied tensile load to a load


bearing structure or to the ground.

NOTE: In case a load cell is installed, the anchor becomes a measurement anchor.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

EXPECTED ANCHOR LOADS

Item Considerations Possible solutions

Capacity of the load cell It is recommended that the chosen load In case it is found that the percentage
cell should work within 50% to 80% of of the calibrated load to the design
It is crucial to know the service
the calibrated range of the load cell. load is over 100%, the load cell with the
and maximum expected loads
next highest load range must be
at the anchoring element.
chosen.

Base readings Onsite unloaded reading is the reference Take several unloaded base readings
value any future reading will be (load, temperature) right before
In addition to the base reading
subtracted to in order to get the actual installation. With no significant
showing on the calibration
load. Both load and temperature must be environment and temperature changes,
certificate the unloaded, onsite
recorded. these base readings should all be within
base values must be known and
±0.25% Full Scale F.S.
taken as base reference.

Test loads During all testing the load shall be Always follow onsite written test
applied and released smoothly. Loading procedures approved by Client’s
Investigation test: a load test to
velocity is a key factor to control during Technical Representative.
establish the ultimate load
stressing and destressing and will
resistance of an anchor. Load cells should not be over loaded by
certainly affect anchors’ behaviour.
more than +50% F.S.
Suitability test: a load test to
Over range capacity for Geosense load
confirm that a particular anchor Anchor load cells’ readings –load and
cells is +20% Full Scale F.S.
design will be adequate in temperature- and their times, strands’
particular ground conditions. displacements and any significant data
must be carefully recorded during
Acceptance test: a load test to
tensioning operations.
confirm that each anchor
conforms with the acceptance
criteria.

Linear versus polynomial Due to environmental factors that may Whenever beginning a new project, it is
calculation affect the reading of a load cell, site base interesting to use both linear and
readings should always be used as the polynomial calculations to compare the
Depending on the kind of
reference starting value, including load values obtained, if possible.
output signal obtained from the
(Hz/Digits, mV/V) and temperature.
anchor load cell, values can be If some extra degree of accuracy is
calculated using a linear or a Readings from the readout unit directly required, polynomial conversion shall
polynomial conversion. display the average reading for the be used.
vibrating wire or strain gauges active in
Conversion formulae and factors are
the load cell.
available in the calibration certificates
At the lower range of loading 1%↔10% and in the corresponding manuals.
F.S., some anchor load cells appear to be
less precise compared to the same load
cell working in its mid load range.

NOTE: Ensure expected load range is fully understood and proper unloaded base readings
are taken right before installation.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

ANCHOR HEAD: DIMENSIONS

Item Considerations Possible solutions

Sizing The important information for deciding If the diameter of the bolt or cable
your load cell size is the outer diameter anchor is x, it is recommended that the
It is essential to choose the
OD of the bolt or cable anchor being smallest load cell inner diameter ID be
right diameters for the load
measured and the expected load at the IDmin = x + 5 mm .
cells before putting forward a
anchoring element.
Purchase Order.
Different manufacturers may have
different cell sizes for equivalent loads.

Load distribution plates Uneven or deformed load bearing plates For loads up to 4500kN, load bearing
will affect the readings in the load cell. plates should be 1”½ ↔ 2” thick.
To ensure load is applied
equally over the annular loading Different types of load cells may need
surface of the cell. one or two load bearing plates.

Hydraulic jack↔load cell Outside diameters for multi strand A fully comprehensive document is
reading hydraulic jack and load cell should be the needed onsite showing all the
same. dimensions and technical features for
Anchors are loaded using a
the hydraulic jack.
hydraulic jack. It is common Ø jack < Ø load cell ≡ higher load values
practice to make straight Before used onsite, both the hydraulic
Ø jack = Ø load cell ≡ true load values
comparisons between load jack and the load cell should come with
values showing on the jack to Ø jack > Ø load cell ≡ lower load values their up-to-date Calibration Certificates.
loads measured by the load cell.

Eccentric loading Eccentric loading will affect the readings Effects are minimised by having several
in the load cell as the load cell is under sensors within the load cell and
Load is not applied at the axis
higher loads in one portion with respect averaging, the use of load bearing
of the anchor + load cell
to the other. plates and proper installation
setting.
procedures.

NOTE: Check that design of anchor loading and anchor tests together with dimensions for
the hydraulic jack, load cell and load bearing plates are correct.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

ANCHOR HEAD: TERMINOLOGY

strands
wedge plate

wedges

load cell

load distribution plates

anchor load bearing


plate / abutment plate

Anchor load cell and load bearing plates.

NOTE: Load cells are the stethoscopes for anchors.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

ANCHOR HEAD: TERMINOLOGY

anchor load bearing / abutment plate

load distribution plates


anchor nut

Terminology for a ground bar anchor.

thread bar

bearing plate

bar anchor VW load cell

Ground bar anchor terminology.

NOTE: Expected loads and anchor dimensions must be understood to choose the right load
cell.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

ANCHOR HEAD: TERMINOLOGY

anchor load bearing / abutment plate

wedge plate
anchor nut
wedges

cables /
strands

bearing plate
load distribution
plates

cable anchor VW load cell

Cable / strand ground anchor terminology.

NOTE: To install a load cell on a cable anchor may take a little bit more than to install it on
a bar anchor.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

ANCHOR: BAR AND STRAND DIMENSIONS

Item Considerations Possible solutions

Different sizes for bar and cable Anchoring elements are manufactured It is advisable to double check anchor
anchors using different steels and overall designs. bar, cable and head dimensions
before deciding for any load cell. All
Different bar and cable anchor
technical documents must be at hand
manufacturers have different sizes
when ordering anchor load cells.
for their anchoring elements.

The figures below are for information purposes only, not to be taken for granted or for calculation. Please check
manufacturer’s specifications and Project Technical requirements when going through design of anchors and / or
choosing a load cell.

BAR Ø

DSI Prestressing Steel GEWI Steel bar GEWI Plus Steel bar
Ø OD Yield Force Ø OD Yield Force Ø ODcables /
Yield Force
mm kN mm kN mm kN
15 159 16 100 18 strands 170
20 283 20 157 22 255
26.5 523 25 245 25 329
28 308 28 413
32 764 32 402 30 474
36 967 35 645
load distribution
40 1194 40 630 43 973
47 1648 50 980 57.5 1740
plates 63.5 1758 63.5 2122

NOTE: It is advisable to double check any technical documents before ordering a load cell.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

ANCHOR: BAR AND STRAND DIMENSIONS

The figures below are for information purposes only, not to be taken for granted or for calculation. Please check
manufacturer’s specifications and Project Technical requirements when going through design of anchors and / or
choosing a load cell.

BAR Ø

Ischebeck hollow CTS/Titan Williams Form Eng. 150 KSI Williams Form Eng. B7X
Ø OD Yield Force Ø OD Min. Ultimate Str. Ø OD Yield Force
mm kN mm kN mm kN
30 471 - 583 26 567 32 210
40 592 - 597 32 834 32 294
52 546 36 1054 38 404
73 500 - 594 46 1734 51
cables / 677
103 500 - 572 57 2727 strands
127 603 65 3457
130 550 75 4568 76 1466

load distribution
plates

NOTE: It is advisable to double check technical specifications before ordering a load cell.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

ANCHOR: BAR AND STRAND DIMENSIONS

The figures below are for information purposes only, not to be taken for granted or for calculation. Please check
manufacturer’s specifications and Project Technical requirements when going through design of anchors and / or
choosing a load cell.

STRAND Ø 0.5" (13 mm) diam. - 7 wires per strand


0.6" (15 mm) diam. - 7 wires per strand

DSI Williams Form Eng.


# Strands Ultimate Str. Ø Wedge Plate # Strands Ultimate Load Ø Wedge Plate
kN mm kN mm
1 261 120 1 261 108
2 521 120 2 522 108
3 782 120 3 783 108
4 1043 120 4 1044 127 cables /
5 1303 143 5 1305 127
6 1564 143 6 1566 127 strands
7 1825 143 7 1827 127
8 2085 141 8 2088 187
9 2346 161 9 2349 187
10 2610 187
11 2871 187
12 3128 161 12 3132 187

NOTE: It is advisable to make sure load cell match Project Technical Requirements.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

UNEXPECTED READINGS

Item Considerations Possible solutions

Unsynchronized readings The load applied by the jack diminishes It is recommended to carry out Lift
during the load wedge locking process. Off Testing for load cell reading
The reading on the jack is taken at
In case the load is applied too fast, some versus hydraulic jack reading to
a different time from that taken on
accommodation time is needed for all identify any loss of load transfer.
the load cell. The strands are
the load to be distributed along the
tensioned using the jack, the
anchoring element.
wedges are put in place and the
load locked.

Hydraulic jack longer than the The load is over registered by the jack, Load cells come calibrated from the
load cell setting often taken as under registering in the factory before use onsite. The
load cell. hydraulic jack ram has been used to
This is prone to inaccurate load
install many anchors after its
measurement due to eccentric
calibration, so it must be assumed
loading, resulting in bending and
that the calibration certificate
causing some friction between the
corresponding to the load cell is
ram and the seal, i.e. binding of the
more up-to-date than the calibration
seal of the jack –see Anchor Head
certificate for the hydraulic jack.
Dimensions-.

Hydraulic jack ram different This causes bending of the distribution Match the load cell and the hydraulic
from load cell diameter plate which in turn causes over or under jack ram diameters. Usually, this is
measurement of load depending on the not easy to achieve as we will have to
The ram size varies from the load
ratio load cell / jack areas. bear with the means available onsite.
cell size –see Anchor Head
Dimensions-. Suitable, thick load distribution plates
must be used to distribute the load
as even as possible to the load cell –
Uniformly Distributed Load UDL-.

Temperature effects Thermal influences are complex to One way to understand the effects of
discern because it is not only the load temperature changes is to record the
Changes in environment
cell that is affected but any structural installed load cell readings together
temperature will have several
elements surrounding the load cell, i.e. with both ambient and cell
effects on the readings registered
brick, concrete or steel structures. temperatures when no other changes
by the load cell.
are taking place.
An option is to take the readings
always at the same time of the day,
preferably early morning right before
sunrise.

NOTE: Check points have to be allowed for onsite to make sure the system “anchor + load
cell” works properly.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
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UNEXPECTED READINGS

Centred load cell in an anchor installation.

Avoid eccentric loading!

Eccentric load cell in an anchor installation.

NOTE: Eccentric loading must be avoided when installing load cells in anchors.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
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UNEXPECTED READINGS

Item Considerations Possible solutions

Load cell is giving unstable Are the readings alright with a different If yes then suspect low battery.
readings readout?

Are the load readings outside the range Make sure the expected loads and
of the load cell? the load cell range match.

Is there a source of electrical noise Have any electrical noise source


nearby, such as a generator or a motor? removed away.

Is there any significant temperature See “Temperature effects” in this


effect? document.

VW load cell: unstable readings Is the correct swept frequency being Check swept frequency coming from
used? readout and / or datalogger.

Strain gauge load cell: unstable Is the load cell part of an unexpected Check insulation resistance between
readings electrical loop? the cell body and any cable. The
reading should be >500 MΩ.

Hydraulic load cell: unstable Manometer Check the needle return to zero with
readings no load.
Were manometer fitted check for
damage? Check for leaks on the cell.

Vibrating Wire VW Check swept frequency coming from


readout and / or datalogger.
Is the correct swept frequency being
used?

NOTE: Changes in environment conditions will have several effects on the readings
registered by the load cell.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
MC, GC, TL 31/05/2017 V0.0

LOAD CELLS’ APPLICATIONS

Single strand hydraulic jacks tensioning an active, multi-stage ground anchor.

Multi strand hydraulic jack tensioning an active ground anchor with a load cell.

NOTE: It is crucial to foresee convenient onsite conditions before installing load cells.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
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LOAD CELLS’ APPLICATIONS

Vibrating wire VW anchor load cell installation in


an active, multi-stage strand ground anchor (1/2).

Vibrating wire VW load cell installed to control an


active, multi-stage strand ground anchor (2/2).

Vibrating wire VW bar anchor load cell load to


monitor a ground bar anchor. Strain gauge anchor load cell to monitor
a passive ground bar anchor.

NOTE: Clean and tidy installations favour reliable readings.

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KNOWLEDGE ARTICLE
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SUMMARY

Ensure design for the anchor block and the load cell elements are
TYPE OF STRUCTURE Structure
the same -OD & ID, load-.

Chose your load cell bearing in mind service load, kind of anchor
Type of load cell
and lifespan.

Take a series of unloaded base readings right before onsite instal-


ANCHOR LOADS Base reading
lation.

Load Follow approved onsite testing and loading procedures.

Loads below 10% F.S. may result in imprecise readings.

Load cells should not be overloaded by more than +50% F.S.

Linear ↔ polynomial cal-


Agree with the Client which one to use.
culation

ANCHOR HEAD DIMEN-


Jack ↔ load cell reading ODs for jack and load cell should be the same.
SIONS

Load bearing plates Bearing plate thickness should be 1”½ ↔ 2”.

Always avoid eccentric loading. Having several sensors fitted in the


Eccentric loading
load cell and averaging minimises the effects of eccentric loading.

Bar and cable anchor manufacturers produce anchoring elements


Bar and strand anchor
in different sizes.

UNEXPECTED READINGS Dimensions Anchor, load cell and hydraulic jack diameters must be consistent.

Take readings from anchor load cell always at the same time of the
Temperature effects
day, preferably right before sunrise.

Load cells including a thermistor allow for more accurate tempera-


Types of sensors
ture compensations.

Check for easy to understand subjects when a load cell is giving


Troubleshooting
unstable readings.

NOTE: Positive installations need planning and good care onsite.

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