Record the weight from a scale or balance to a file – Simple Data Logger software

Connecting your scale to a PC and recording the weight should not be a difficult task. However, data logging software available from scale manufacturers or third parties is often expensive, difficult to use or frustratingly unreliable. We developed Simple Data Logger (SDL) to address these issues.

SDL writes the weight received from a scale or balance to a file, optionally adding the date and time. The CSV files generated by SDL can easily be opened in Excel and other spreadsheet applications for further processing and visualization.

Recording the weight from a precision balance using Simple Data Logger

SDL currently supports the following connections:

  • COM port: RS-232, USB virtual COM port, Bluetooth SPP, etc.
  • TCP/IP: Ethernet, WLAN (raw TCP format only).

Note: Your scale has to send data in ASCII format.

Get started recording weight values with Simple Data Logger

Connect your scale to your computer, download and install SDL, then follow these steps to configure the software (updated on December 7, 2019 – please refer to the documentation on the SDL website for the latest instructions):

  1. Input tab:
    Input tab: A&D scales and balancesIf your scale or balance is listed in SDL, simply select it and press the set default parameters for device button. Otherwise, select “generic measuring instrument” and enter the interface parameters manually. Set the radio button to match your connection: COM port (RS232, USB VCP, Bluetooth SPP) or TCP/IP.Make sure that you’ve specified a terminator (a.k.a. delimiter, the last character your scale sends in each line of data) or a timeout (e.g. 100ms, SDL will process received data if no additional data is received during this time).
  2. Output tab:
    Output tab (English US)Choose a file for the recorded data. SDL will create if for you if it does not exist (otherwise, data will be appended). Choose (or enter) a date and time format or select “None” from the list if you do not want SDL to add the date or time. Pick a decimal separator (for numeric values) and value separator (used to separate values from each other). The correct settings for your locale can be made automatically by clicking on the set values button.
  3. Start tab:
    Start tab: A&D FX-300i balancePress the start button to start recording data. Press the “PRINT” button on your scale or balance to send the weight to SDL. Depending on you scale, this button might have a different name (e.g. “DATA”). Some scales like the A&D FX-300i used in this example also have to ability to automatically transfer each (stable) weight. Data received will be shown in the event log (with the captured weight value shown in blue) and the weight will be written to the chosen file. Press stop to stop data logging and to close the file.

    Note: SDL can also handle continuous streams of weight data if this is what your application calls for (we’ve tested it with a scale which sends 100 values per second). The total number of recorded values is only limited by your disk space (but please keep in mind that Excel cannot open files containing more than 1,048,576 rows).

Process the weight values in Excel (or other spreadsheet applications)

Provided that you’ve made the right format settings in the output tab, you can easily open the CSV file in Excel (or other spreadsheet applications like Google Docs, OpenOffice/LibreOffice Calc). The weight will be recognized as a number, allowing you to make further calculations (i.e. calculating the total weight as shown below):
Everything shown here can be done with the “Basic” version of SDL (which is free for personal, non-commercial use). The “Plus” version has additional features including a timer to request the weight from the scale in user-defined intervals.

Very affordable licences can be purchased from our partner FastSpring (immediate license delivery).

 

Links and further information

Free software for scales and balances with RS-232 and USB

Are you still manually entering weight readings from your scale or balance on your PC? Is your scale equipped with a RS-232 or USB (virtual COM port) interface? If yes, you can eliminate manual data entry by connecting your scale to your computer and using our free software 232key.

232key automatically types the weight into any application

Our software runs in the background, listens to the COM port (serial port) your scale is connected to and waits for measurement values sent by the scale. Those values are then filtered, formatted and typed into the application running in the foreground at the current cursor position as simulated keystrokes. This means that 232key can be used to transfer the weight (or other measurement values) into any application that accepts keyboard inputs, e.g. Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice / LibreOffice Calc, Google Docs, a form on a website, etc.

In the following example, I used A&D’s FG-60KBM scale with an optional RS-232 interface (FG-OP-23). I connected it to my laptop with A&D’s serial cable (AX-PC09-SCA) and an inexpensive converter to USB (as my laptop doesn’t have a serial port). Upon pressing the “PRINT” key on the scale, the weight was typed directly into an input field on a website:
Transferring the weight from a scale to a website

Compatibility with scales and balances

To use 232key, you’ll need a scale with a RS-232 interface (aka. serial port, COM port, EIA-232) or an interface which appears as a (virtual) COM port when the scale is connected to your PC. This is the case for many (but not all) scales with a USB interface and for scales which support the Bluetooth Serial Port Profile.

Your scale or balance also has to send the weight in ASCII format. The weight has to be the first numeric value sent* and it should only be sent once (after you’ve pressed a key on the scale), not continuously.

The vast majority of scales and balances available on the market today fulfills these requirements. Just to give you a few examples, you should be able to use 232key with most or all scales and balances made by A&D (RS-232 only), Adam Equipment (RS-232 and USB), Ohaus** (RS-232 and USB), Kern**, MyWeigh (RS-232 only) and other well-known brands. New device profiles are constantly added!

Finally, an easy way to transfer data from your scale to your PC

We designed 232key to make your life easier. No complicated configuration is required. If your scale manufacturer or model is included in the list of predefined devices, you don’t even have to manually enter the interface parameters: Simply select your scale and click on “Default” to load the settings.
Interface settings

Not sure which COM port you scale is connected to? Press the “Auto” button and 232key will try to detect the port automatically (works with all devices which have some sort of hardware handshaking functionality, e.g. scales and balances made by A&D and MyWeigh’s popular HD series).

Do you know which decimal separator (point or comma) your scale is using? Why should you! 232key understands both input formats and lets you choose which output format you want.
Decimal separator

Would you like 232key to press an additional key after typing the weight, e.g. the “Enter” key to jump to the next row in a spreadsheet? No problem, simply specify the desired key in the “Format” tab.
Additional key

All of these useful and user-friendly features are available for free! Additional functionality is available in the paid “Plus” version of 232key.

Download and documentation

Please visit our product website 232key for further information and to download our free software. Should you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to post them in our support section or as a comment below.


* We’ve added an exception to this rule for scales and balances made by Adam Equipment.
** Affiliate links.

Update May 2018: Write the weight to a file

232key is a great solution for sending the weight from your scale to an application running on your PC (as simulated keystrokes). In some cases, however, it makes more sense to record the weight to a file which is later opened in Excel (or other applications).

This is particularly true for unattended data logging applications running over long periods of time. Another example are applications with high data rates (several weight values per second) which would overwhelm a virtual keyboard wedge like 232key.

For these use cases, we’ve recently released Simple Data Logger, an easy to use solution for recording the weight sent from your scale to a CSV file. You can read more about it on this blog or on www.smartlux.com/sdl.

RS-232 troubleshooting: fake chips

RS-232 is still the most popular interface for balances and scales. It is often described as “simple”, however, when things don’t work as expected, finding the cause can be difficult.

This article does not aim to be a comprehensive RS-232 troubleshooting guide (for this purpose, please refer to this PDF document from Agilent Technologies or the troubleshooting section on our 232key website). Instead, it is supposed to raise awareness of an issue that is often ignored: counterfeit ICs.

When you’ve tried everything and still can’t reliably communicate with your scale via RS-232, there’s a chance a fake chip may be the cause.

Just a few weeks ago, the thought of encountering counterfeit ICs in digital scales had not crossed my mind. Thanks to FTDI’s recent attempt to “brick” counterfeits via Windows Update, fake chips are now a hot topic on the web. While I don’t agree with the way FTDI tried to punish the end user, I wish the controversy had occurred a few weeks earlier. This would have saved me a lot of time.

Back then I was doing the final QC for several scales which were about to be shipped to a customer. The last item on my checklist was “bidirectional communication using RS-232”, something I had done many times before with this exact model. What should have taken a few minutes ended up taking me several days and nearly drove me crazy because the problems I encountered were difficult to replicate. Eventually, I arrived at the conclusion that something was very wrong with the MAX232CPE+ chips, which are responsible for converting TTL signals to RS-232 levels. After doing some research on the internet*, I started to suspect those chips were counterfeit. It seemed like a far-fetched idea** at the time, but I still desoldered them, took a few pictures and sent them to Maxim Integrated.

Fake MAX232CPE+ and MAX232EPE+

Counterfeit MAX232CPE+

Fake, fake and fake.

Thankfully, I received a reply in less than two hours:

“Yes these parts are counterfeit, they do not match markings of lots we manufactured.”

Now extremely suspicious of all MAX232s***, I disassembled a few more scales from 4 different suppliers. 3 contained ICs belonging to the MAX232 family, so I sent the pictures to Maxim Integrated, too. In addition to the chips used by the scale manufacturer which had prompted me to start this investigation, one chip used by another manufacturer was also flagged as counterfeit.

Counterfeit MAX232EPE+

Counterfeit MAX232EPE+

To be fair, my sample size is too small to draw meaningful conclusions regarding the entire weighing industry. However, if you’re in the business of making weighing instruments and were blissfully unaware of this issue, I hope this article serves as a wake-up call.


* I found documents like this one (16 MB PDF presentation by SMT Corporation) or this one (100 KB PDF, University of Conneticut), this article by Maxim Integrated and even videos of YouTubers walking through huge electronic component malls in Shenzhen where almost everything is counterfeit.

** Though not quite as far-fetched as the manufacturer’s idea that “static build up from the polystyrene packaging in road transportation” was to blame.

*** And also seriously angry at having wasted so much time doing something the manufacturer should have done. I won’t do any naming and shaming here, though.


Update October 3, 2017: Several articles concerning this issue have appeared since I originally wrote this blog post.