In the last few years, Eilersen Electric A/S, a Danish family-owned weighing business has experienced high growth rates. A number of patent applications are currently being processed, and they have built a new head office. The plan is to maintain momentum and develop more weighing solutions – all based on the capacitive technology developed by the founder 40 years ago, which the company is still the only one in the world to master.
By Helle Friemann Nielsen
Eilersen Electric A/S in Kokkedal is the only company in the world to fully master the capacitive weighing technology. The company's founder, Nils Eilersen, invented the technology, which is now 40 years old.
“Obviously we’ve refined and developed the technology since then, but it’s basically still the same patented weighing principle that is the foundation of our company and our weighing solutions – and that has secured us a leading position in the global load cell market,” says Frederik Eilersen, son of the founder and now CEO of the company.
This is a position the company is constantly working to maintain and, hopefully, expand. They do this through constant product development. Around 15% of the revenue is invested directly into product development, with a department of experienced engineers assigned to this field. In the past year alone, this resulted in several new load cells and two new global patents. They also have another patent pending.
The company’s focus on technological development has been one of the factors behind recent double-digit growth rates. The growth has also enabled a brand-new 2000 m2 head office, recently opened for the 30 or so employees at this location.
“We’d simply outgrown the existing buildings. We’ve expanded the production area almost fivefold, so now we’re ready for the continued growth which our strategy is expected to create,” continues Frederik Eilersen.
The capacitive measuring principle
On the global stage, Eilersen is alone in fully mastering the capacitive weighing principle.
Originally patented in 1979, the capacitive weighing principle is based on an accurate and stable ceramic sensor that is not in direct contact with the load cell housing, allowing the load cell to withstand both shock and high overloads. The capacitive principle measures a change in capacity at the ceramic sensor in the load cell as load is applied on the load cell.
“My father, who can be found in the company on a daily basis, had, and still has, a great understanding of the capacitive principle and the details of this weighing technology – and he patented both the design of the load cell and the capacitive measuring principle early on. The patents have given us a head-start in this area and allowed us to establish the market position we have today,” says Frederik.
Eilersen has obtained a total of 10 patents and, as mentioned, more are on the way.
From analog to digital
All the company's weighing solutions and innovations are rooted in the capacitive weighing principle. The Eilersen load cells used to be analog, but since the mid-’90s, they’ve been digital.
“In this respect also, you have to say that my father was ahead of his time. The digital mindset wasn’t prevalent in the early ’90s, but his foresight has certainly benefitted us since we’ve all now entered the digital age,” says Frederik.
In terms of software, controllers and processors, there has been massive progress since the ’90s, and a lot of effort has especially gone into the development processes in this area. Indeed, one of the company's more recent patents is based on the microprocessor in the load cell. Today, the load cells have their own built-in intelligence and the entire portfolio is ready for Industry 4.0.
The necessity for weighing
In a world of high demands for data acquisition, quality control and traceability, sensors – including load cells – play a big role. They are used in far more quality inspection tasks than you might think. In many places, weight is measured as a control parameter.
Eilersen's portfolio consists of 15 different digital load cells performing tasks from one tenth of a gram up to 500 tonnes per load cell; from controlling enzyme dosages to weighing silos by the tonne.
“We’re not industry-specific, and our load cells are used in countless processes across all industries. We have customers all over the world with a wide diversity of applications - from the food/pharmaceutical area, in offshore and logistics, to smartphone manufacturing.
Eilersen’s load cells are made of stainless steel, hermetically sealed with laser welding to IP68, can withstand up to 10 times overload and, as an option, are offered in OIML, ATEX and IECEx certified versions.
The strength of the Eilersen digital load cells is their robustness, reliability and accuracy.
“And we offer the complete measuring chain - load cells, instrumentation and software,” adds Frederik Eilersen.
The new set-up in Kokkedal, north of Copenhagen will also allow upgrading of the production in-house. Two new laser welders have been acquired, giving a total of five. These are used to laser weld the load cells together hermetically. Moreover, the welding process is vision controlled.
The load cell housing and the electronics are not manufactured at the location, but Eilersen assembles, tests, calibrates and welds all the load cells at their own facilities. In addition, all product development takes place in-house.
“In the near future, the aim is to produce more than 10,000 load cells per year. And the plan is for us to maintain recent growth rates for the next five years,” says Frederik.
“There’s still huge market potential for our digital load cells,” he continues. “For example, the US offers huge opportunities, including east-coast biotech companies and the entire Silicon Valley area with equipment for wafer and microprocessor production, where weighing is increasingly used as a control parameter.
In recent years, Eilersen has developed their distribution network, and this will be expanded further in the coming years. Moreover, Eilsersen has several partnership agreements with leading companies that market the company's load cells as their own, as part of a total solution.
“We certainly rely on the food and pharmaceutical industry, which our new portfolio of hygienic load cells, specifically designed for these industries, has given us a firm foothold in. And the most recent patent filed in the US and Europe is for a hygienic load cell with integrated compensation for unbalanced load. Unbalanced loads can often produce large measuring errors, but they can be difficult to avoid in practice.
The issue is usually resolved through complicated surrounding mechanics. With our new solution, this is now incorporated in the cell, making not just installation and maintenance but also cleaning easier. We’re expecting great things from this weighing solution,” says Frederik Eilersen.