What is Rotary Encoder? Construction & Working of Rotary Encoder

Construction Working Rotary Encoder (Last Updated On: March 23, 2019)

What is Rotary Encoder?

In this post we will learn about Rotary Encoder as well as its types. We will also learn about Construction & Working of Rotary Encoder. Apart from all this the applications, advantage & disadvantage of Rotary Encoder is also explained.

Rotary Encoder

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 analog or digital output signals. There are two main types of rotary encoder: absolute and incremental. The output of an absolute encoder indicates the current shaft position, making it an angle transducer. The output of an incremental encoder provides information about the motion of the shaft, which typically is processed elsewhere into information such as position, speed and distance.


Rotary encoders are used in a wide range of applications that require monitoring or control, or both, of mechanical systems, including industrial controls, robotics, photographic lenses, computer input devices such as optomechanical mice and trackballs, controlled stress rheometers, and rotating radar platforms.


Encoder Technologies:

1. Conductive: A series of circumferential copper tracks etched onto a PCB is used to encode the information. Contact brushes sense the conductive areas. This form of encoder is now rarely seen except as a user input in digital multimeters.

2. Optical: This uses a light shining onto a photodiode through slits in a metal or glass disc. Reflective versions also exist. This is one of the most common technologies. Optical encoders are very sensitive to dust.

3. On-Axis Magnetic: This technology typically uses a specially magnetized 2 pole neodymium magnet attached to the motor shaft. Because it can be fixed to the end of the shaft, it can work with motors that only have 1 shaft extending out of the motor body. The accuracy can vary from a few degrees to under 1 degree. Resolutions can be as low as 1 degree or as high as 0.09 degree (4000 CPR, Count per Revolution). Poorly designed internal interpolation can cause output jitter, but this can be overcome with internal sample averaging.



4. Off-Axis Magnetic: This technology typically employs the use of rubber bonded ferrite magnets attached to a metal hub. This offers flexibility in design and low cost for custom applications. Due to the flexibility in many off axis encoder chips they can be programmed to accept any number of pole widths so the chip can be placed in any position required for the application. Magnetic encoders operate in harsh environments where optical encoders would fail to work.


Types of Rotary Encoder:

Absolute Encoder:

An absolute encoder maintains position information when power is removed from the encoder. The position of the encoder is available immediately on applying power. The relationship between the encoder value and the physical position of the controlled machinery is set at assembly; the system does not need to return to a calibration point to maintain position accuracy.

Absolute Rotary Encoder

An absolute encoder has multiple code rings with various binary weightings which provide a data word representing the absolute position of the encoder within one revolution. This type of encoder is often referred to as a parallel absolute encoder.

A multi-turn absolute rotary encoder includes additional code wheels and gears. A high-resolution wheel measures the fractional rotation, and lower-resolution geared code wheels record the number of whole revolutions of the shaft.



Incremental Encoder:

Incremental Rotary Encoder

An incremental encoder will immediately report changes in position, which is an essential capability in some applications. However, it does not report or keep track of absolute position. As a result, the mechanical system monitored by an incremental encoder may have to be moved to a fixed reference point to initialize the position measurement.


How Rotary Encoder Works?

The encoder has a disk with evenly spaced contact zones that are connected to the common pin C and two other separate contact pins A and B, as illustrated below.

Construction Working Rotary Encoder

When the disk will start rotating step by step, the pins A and B will start making contact with the common pin and the two square wave output signals will be generated accordingly.

Any of the two outputs can be used for determining the rotated position if we just count the pulses of the signal. However, if we want to determine the rotation direction as well, we need to consider both signals at the same time.

Rotary Encoder Pulse Waveform

We can notice that the two output signals are displaced at 90 degrees out of phase from each other. If the encoder is rotating clockwise the output A will be ahead of output B.

So if we count the steps each time the signal changes, from High to Low or from Low to High, we can notice at that time the two output signals have opposite values. Vice versa, if the encoder is rotating counter clockwise, the output signals have equal values. So considering this, we can easily program our controller to read the encoder position and the rotation direction.



Applications of Rotary Encoders:

An encoder can be used in applications requiring feedback of position, velocity, distance, etc. The examples listed below illustrate the vast capabilities and implementations of an encoder:

1. Assembly Machines
2. Packaging
3. X and Y Indication Systems
4. Printers
5. Testing Machines
6. CNC Machines
7. Robotics
8. Labeling Machines
9. Medical Equipment
10. Textiles
11. Drilling Machines
12. Motor Feedback


Advantages & Disadvantages of Rotary Encoders:

Advantages of an Encoder
1. Highly reliable and accurate
2. Low-cost feedback
3. High resolution
4. Integrated electronics
5. Fuses optical and digital technology
6. Can be incorporated into existing applications
7. Compact size

Disadvantages of an Encoder
1. Subject to magnetic or radio interference (Magnetic Encoders)
2. Direct light source interference (Optical Encoders)
3. Susceptible to dirt, oil and dust contaminates



Follow this few examples on using Rotary Encoder with Arduino:
1. How to use Rotary Encoder with Arduino
2. RGB LED Color Control using Rotary Encoder and Arduino


Video Tutorial & Explanation:

So this was all about rotary encoder construction & working as well as types, applications, advantage & disadvantages. If you have any question comment down below.

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