An encoder is a communication device that controls the motion of an operating device. Encoders can help determine the speed or position of a motor, or other moving equipment.
Encoders convert motion to an electrical signal that can be read by some type of control device in a motion control system, such as a counter or PLC. The encoder sends a feedback signal that can be used to determine position, count, speed, or direction. A control device can use this information to send a command for a particular function.
There are two different types of encoders: linear and rotary. A linear encoder responds to motion along a path, while a rotary encoder responds to rotational motion.
A linear encoder is a sensor, transducer or readhead paired with a scale that encodes position. The sensor reads the scale in order to convert the encoded position into an analog or digital signal, which can then be decoded into position by a digital readout or motion controller.
A rotary encoder, also called a shaft encoder, is an electro-mechanical device that converts the angular position or motion of a shaft or axle to an analog or digital code. Rotary encoders are used in many applications that require precise shaft unlimited rotation—including industrial controls and robotics.
Encoders may produce either incremental or absolute signals. Incremental signals do not indicate specific position, only that the position has changed. Absolute encoders, on the other hand, use a different “word” for each position, meaning that an absolute encoder provides both the indication that the position has changed and an indication of the absolute position of the encoder.
An incremental encoder generates a train of pulses which can be used to determine position and speed. An absolute encoder generates unique bit configurations to track positions directly.
Encoders are used widely throughout many applications, including automotive, laboratory and medical equipment, robotics, factory automation and electric motors.
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