What do an ultrasound machine, a quartz watch, and the big screen TV monitors on the Dr. Phil show have in common? No, it’s not a joke. All three devices use a piezoelectric load cell as a part of their makeup. Piezoelectricity (pronounced “pee-ay-zo-electricity”) uses crystals to transform mechanical energy into electricity.
These funky-sounding electric modules run much of the sound equipment we use during the day. You probably didn’t realize it, but you likely used piezoelectricity a few times today. If you used Siri, Cortana, Alexa, or Google Home, the voice recognition software and microphone use piezoelectricity. Any phonograph you use also does. The speech-to-text software and the mic on your computer use this technology, too. This common electrical process and its components power many devices so if you want to learn audio engineering or become an electrician you need to understand this process and the parts involved.
Load Cell vs Strain Gauge
Don’t get confused if you see load cell and strain gauge used interchangeably. This happens because a load cell is an application of a strain gauge. A load cell is also a type of force transducer. Many types of load cells exist. Piezoelectric load cells get used in these audio/visual applications because of their load cell range. A piezoelectric load cell measure wide ranges well.
When transmitting information electronically, you need the device processing the information to obtain a force measurement. Parts work together to translate the sound of your or another individual’s voice into electrical information that a microphone can duplicate, transmit, and potentially send to a recording device. Your voice sounds different whether you whisper or shout, and different words sound different and mean different things. When you speak to voice recognition software, a lot happens inside your tiny smartphone. Your speech applies force on a load cell. That causes the strain gauge to deform. That deformation generates a potential difference. Each millisecond or nanosecond of speech, every syllable creates a slightly different sound. Each one is a force on a load cell, deforming the strain gauge and generating a potential difference. Your smartphone goes through one load cell calculation after another to process your voice. And how about those two massive TV screens on the Dr. Phil set?
A renowned technology company is one of the main reasons that millions each day are privy to the unique perspective of psychologist Dr. Phil.
According to AV Interactive, the iconic video wall featuring two giant screens located directly behind Dr. Phil during his popular daytime talk show is made with the help of a load monitoring technology known as Straightpoint.
The company behind the technology, Advanced Industrial Solutions, is a distributor for force measurement, load monitoring, and suspended weighing load cells. Straightpoint is a complex software that is compatible with the large screens featured behind Dr. Phil.
The software provided by the company allows for simultaneous control, display, and real-time data logging of up to 100 telemetry load cells. While this may sound like gibberish to fans of the show, it is an integral part of the videos they see every single day.
It’s a good thing Straightpoint’s load cells can handle a wide range of temperatures, considering the hot seat Dr. Phil often puts his guests on. Load cell and torque sensor units are designed to operate in any condition, from -452 degrees F to 450 degrees F.
According to OMEGA Engineering, a load cell is a transducer that converts force into measurable electrical output. In other words, there would be a bunch of stagehands cranking levers backstage if it wasn’t for this technology.
Trevor Smith, a sales manager for the company, said that Straightpoint’s ability to deliver to a short lead time was crucial in securing their place on the show.
“Lead time for equipment with this complexity is usually a six to eight-week turnaround. We had the system field-tested and installed in approximately nine days.”
The company had the system built just in time to entertain the Dr. Phil fanatics who tune in every single day to see some high-definition drama play out on the video screens.
The installation was a collaborative effort between the executive management of the Dr. Phil show, Paramount’s grip department, Spragg Industries, Larry Clark Construction, Columbia Winch, and Advanced Industrial Solutions.
Smith went on to explain how his company secured the coveted job, and how Advanced Industrial Solutions proved the industry wrong.
“A colleague in the aerospace industry recommended me for the project to the construction manager for the Dr. Phil show after everyone else in the industry was saying equipment like this couldn’t be designed and installed in that short period of time. It was a fun project that required a lot of fast engineering and manufacturing.”
As the great Dr. Phil would say: Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to come up with a crisis plan.