The differences between two of LOADRITE’s most popular wheel loader scales explained
LOADRITE scales are the best in the business when it comes to on-board weighing on loaders. But choosing the correct one might be a daunting task. Thankfully, whenever a K&R technician comes to install a loader scale, they’ll have options and can help you choose based on your needs. It never hurts to have some background knowledge though. There are quite a few different loader scales LOADRITE has to offer including the L2150, Force, and Sprint models, but this article will only cover the L2180 and L3180 models.
Why use a loader scale?
Before we start diving into the differences between the two models, it’s worth taking a look at what a loader scale is meant to do. A loader scale is meant to weigh the material in the bucket of a loader while it’s lifting. A landscape supply or quarry charges customers based on the weight of the material loaded. Construction sites must weigh material they are hauling away to make sure their trucks aren’t exceeding the weight limit of the roads they are driving on.
The traditional way of weighing this material is to essentially guess how much material you’ve loaded into a truck and drive the loaded truck over a weigh bridge. It can be a giant headache and time waster when a truck drives over the weigh bridge to find that it is overloaded. The truck driver either has to return to where the loader is and unload some of the material or, worse yet, the driver will hop on the back of the truck and manually dump material out of the truck. Needless to say, it’s a huge advantage to put a scale on the loader itself and get an accurate weight before the truck even hits the weigh bridge.
Overview of the two scale systems
The L2180 and L3180 are made up similar components. They both have a weight indicator. This is mounted in the cab of the loader like a fuel gauge. The indicator is the brain of the system. It reads the information from all other components in order to display weight and other data on the screen. It’s also responsible for storing this data. In the case of the L3180, it also transmits that data to a cloud where it can be accessed in the form of reports by managers (the L2180 can also transmit data but it needs an additional piece of equipment, more on that later).
Both the L3180 and L2180 utilize two pressure transducers. These are responsible for measuring the hydraulic pressure in the cylinders of the loader. These are relatively small, which means less chance they might get caught on something and damaged. The transducers also utilize a bleed block which allows mechanics and technicians to remove air from the lines without spilling oil (safety and ecologically responsible as well as a huge time saver when any maintenance on the loader is necessary).
The L2180 utilizes a rotary trigger whereas the L3180 utilizes two angle sensors. Both are used to track the position of the loader arm and trigger the indicator to read the weight of the material in the bucket. Having two angle sensors has the advantage of being able to compensate for the slope or tilt of the machine and is therefore a little more accurate. The accuracy difference isn’t very much, but when it comes to this kind of work, every little bit counts. The angle sensors are compact and fully enclosed, whereas the rotary trigger is mechanical and bulky in comparison. In some operations, like waste transfer, debris can get caught in the rotary trigger causing damage resulting in downtime or lost production.
The differences between the L2180 and L3180
In this section, we’ll go over the differences between the two systems in depth and how that may affect your choice between the two scales.
As we talked about earlier, the indicator is in the cab where the operator can view the weight and other metrics. Both the L2180 and L3180 indicators are made to stand up to the harsh environments they are utilized in. They both have large display screens and robust buttons, although the L3180 utilizes a rubbery type of button.
The screen on the L3180 is a touch screen. This is very useful for navigating menu options in the indicator. An example of this is when the operator needs to select the product they are loading. In the L2180 you would have to navigate to a menu item using arrows and numbers on its keypad (similar to an old flip phone) from there they select the product from the list with the same keypad on the indicator. On the L3180, the operator simply needs to tap on the screen where the product is listed and select the new product from the menu that pops up, all on a touch screen. This is more akin to how newer smart phones work.
The L3180 indicator has built in Wi-Fi and GPS. This makes it easier to connect the L3180 to InsightHQ (the online reporting software available with all LOADRITE scales). In order to connect the L2180 to IHQ, you would need to purchase a communication controller (currently the LD354). When the indicators are connected to IHQ, they can transmit all the data stored in the scale. This includes products, weights, customers, truck numbers and a number of user defined data fields that can be customized to your particular operation. This data can be used to generate reports on a daily, weekly, monthly, or as-needed basis.
The L3180 is specifically designed to connect to IHQ. Therefore, the indicator itself provides few options for printing reports and data. The detailed reporting is all taken care of by the IHQ software. The L2180 has the ability to print more detailed reports right from the indicator (provided you have the LP950 printer hooked up). This can be an advantage if you don’t want to purchase a subscription to the IHQ software. Although, once customers have tried the software, they rarely want to return to printing reports straight from the indicator.
The indicators also house the weighing algorithm. In the L2180, the bucket gets to a certain height (dubbed the Trigger Point), and the indicator performs all the calculations at that point and gives the operator a weight. The L3180, by comparison, has an algorithm which measures in real time throughout the lift. Once that bucket hits the trigger point, the weight is recorded.
An advantage to this is that the trigger point on the L3180 can be changed at will, whereas the L2180 needs to be recalibrated when changing the trigger point. Though rare, there are some instances where this is necessary. An example of this is if the operator is loading on a grade or slope, and the trigger point is set to 8 feet in the air, the operator may feel it is unsafe to raise the loader arm that high and therefore the trigger point would need to be set to a lower height. Again, this is a rare occurrence. The technician who installs your scale will survey your operation before setting the trigger point and will be able to set the trigger height appropriately. Still, if your operation varies from time to time, it may be necessary to change the trigger point.
Trigger / Angle Sensors
The L2180 utilizes one LR908 Rotary Trigger. This trigger moves and touches the boom of the machine. It can track boom position, and boom speed. They are very sturdy mechanical devices, but they are mechanical all the same which means they have the potential to wear out at some point (although this is very rare).
The L3180 utilizes two LR970 Angle sensors that work in conjunction to capture the x and y tilt on the machine. One is mounted to the chassis and one on the boom. The sensors look at the distance between each other to figure out boom speed, position, and the slope of the machine. As mentioned earlier, this gives the scale system the ability to compensate for when a loader is working on a slope.
Mechanicals and other differences
The L2180 is essentially an analog system. One of the consequences is that every sensor has its own cable running into the cab and into the indicator. The L3180 utilizes CAN Bus communication which means all the sensors can be daisy chained to one cable. Less cabling means less opportunity for something to snag or break. This also allows for better diagnostics. You can see if a component is getting ready to fail easier. With the L2180 system, you may have to wait for a part to actually fail before you can address it.
The L2180 has a tip-off feature which the L3180 doesn’t have. This is useful in the event the operator has too much product in their bucket and have already passed the trigger point. The operator can hit the tip-off button and shake material off of the bucket. It’s not as accurate as an actual lift but can still give you a good idea of how much weight you have in the bucket. The L3180 doesn’t utilize this feature. Instead, it gives you a preview of the weight before the bucket hits the trigger point. This allows the operator to shake off weight from the bucket before the bucket hits the trigger point.
The L2180 also features a dedicated operator data field. This functions similarly to a time clock will where the operator has to log in whenever they use the scale. The L3180 doesn’t have a dedicated operator field, however it’s possible to use one of the many user-defined data fields instead. It’s not quite as straight-forward but is still fairly easy to utilize.
So… which one?
As you’ve probably gathered by this article, the L3180 is essentially the new version of the L2180. There are but a few features that haven’t been improved with the new L3180. Therefore, the answer to “which scale should I choose” is usually the L3180. You might want to stick with the L2180 is if your operation is already using the L2180 on other machines. This means less of a learning curve for your operators and therefore no downtime to your operation.
Another reason you may want to choose the L2180 is the printing capability mentioned earlier. The L2180 has the ability to print out detailed reports using data stored in the indicator. The L3180 does not offer this same flexibility, however, when the L3180 is connected to IHQ, the reporting exceeds the L2180’s native ability.
Thanks to Brent Horton, K&R Technician, for the valuable technical knowledge of the LOADRITE scale systems