The Silent Power Of Encoders

Encoder code image

Just about any piece of robotics technology utilises some variant of an encoder.

Everything from the mouse that you use on your computer to the equipment and technology that is implemented on a production assembly line contain some form or another of an encoder.  One of the most important functions that the encoder provides is a sort of reference of measurement for the internal mechanisms of a device to gauge their progress.

Some of the more standard types of encoders that you will encounter throughout industrial services include encoders that are known as absolute and incremental. Optical, cylindrical, linear scale and even rotary are all different types of words that are used to describe encoders. While encoders can be made simply from home for educational purposes, the implication of them into the industrial arena has allowed us to make the most of robotics and automated industry.

From Simple to Complex

An example of this is the mouse of your computer which uses an optical encoder that incorporates two sensors to measure the distance the mouse is moved. These gauge the x and y-axis and then signal this information through so that you see your pointer move on the screen. The digital information that is sent is the product of the sensorâ??s capacity to measure light or dark on a wheel that is rotated.

The wheel has a several â??spokesâ?? that are black and as well as solid white spaces between them. The number of spokes is going to provide the divisions necessary to signal to the sensors a unit of measure. When viewing just the wheel it appears to be more of a pattern for an optical illusion than something that is able to provide much needed information for mechanics.

Up a Level

When you are beginning to step up or increase the complexity and accuracy of the processes for which you need an encoder there are other types beyond the optical encoder. When you are applying the encoder to a closed loop system for the purpose of position or velocity you can employ an absolute linear encoder that is cylindrical. This type of encoder system is commonly used whenever you are dealing with any sort of hydraulic system. There is certainly a decrease in encoder simplicity, but the difference allows you an increase in accuracy and a thorough improvement on system tolerance.

Use Rotary for Multiple Outputs

The absolute rotary encoder is perhaps one of the most accurate and efficient means of being able to measure distance and adequately determine the specific position or location of an element. The accuracy is derived from the completely integrated manner in which this encoder provides feedback.

The result is an encoder that provides very low system error and has a quick start up time whenever process has begun.  Absolute rotary encoderâ??s are ideal when you have to employ several different outputs. The information that the encoder is able to provide can easily be transported to several different system protocols. The varying output options are one of the stellar components of employing an absolute encoder into your system.

Test Often

Despite what type of encoder you are utilising there is much to be said about implementing a test rig. A test rig is going to give you the obvious capabilities to make sure that your encoder is calibrated properly and running smoothly. Even the slightest error in alignment quickly grows to a large scale position differentiation. The simple fact that the difference quotient magnifies exponentially upon the slightest deviation requires proper testing. Obviously if the encoders are out of place in your computerâ??s mouse then it is not near the dilemma as that of a faulty encoder in a construction crane or on an assembly line.

Ian Appleton is a writer who understands the power that encoders have in everyday items such as the mouse and monitor. He recommends approaching a company like Go Tronic LTD if you want to test or repair these products.


Image courtesy of digitalart /

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