What Is an Encoder and How Does It Work?

What Is Encoder
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Do you want to clear your confusion regarding what an encoder is? If so, then you have come to the right place. You’ll see a large and complicated range of answers if you search for an encoder on the internet. Basically, we use encoders for motion response and motion regulation in hardware. Encoders are being used in equipment within all constructions. You will find that encoders are used in cut-to-length systems, plotters, robots, packing, presenting, processing, arranging, filling, photography, and plenty more. Maybe you’ve rarely seen them, even though they’re present almost everywhere. In this article, all your questions will be answered related to an encoder. So, keep reading to find out!

Image from Encoder Manufacturers:

What Is Encoder 2


What Is An Encoder?

In simple terms, a sensory device that gives feedback is called an ‘encoder’. Encoders transform movement to an electric wave that may be interpreted by any sort of control unit within a movement control mechanism, like a meter or PLC. An encoder delivers an input signal that could be utilized for a place, number, velocity, or path determination. This knowledge may be used by a control system to deliver an order for a specific function. Usually, encoders are designed to calculate either one or all of an item’s specific variables, such as its speed, location, trajectory, as well as offer an object number or a similar value.

How Does An Encoder Operate?

Encoders use various kinds of innovations to generate a signal, such as electrical, optical, resistive as well as magnetic – out of which optical is the most popular. In optical processing, the encoder generates feedback depending on the obstruction of lighting.

Simple Layout of an Incremental Rotating Encoder Incorporating Optical Engineering

A flash of light released via an LED travels through the Software Disk, which is modeled with opaque outlines (similar to the bearings on a bicycle wheel). When the encoder shaft spins, the light ray through the LED is blocked because of the opaque outlines on the Software Disk until being collected by the Photo detecting panel. A stimulus signal is generated by this: illumination=on; no illumination=off. This signal is transmitted to the monitor or operator to deliver the message for the required function to be generated.

Types of Encoders

The encoders are of two main kinds: linear and rotary. Continue reading the next section for the details of the kinds of encoders.

  1. Linear Encoder

A linear encoder is a detector, a transmitter as well as a redhead coupled with a position-encoding unit. To turn the encoded orientation into an electronic or analog signal, the detector scans the scale that may then be processed into orientation by an electronic reader or motion operator.

  1. Rotary Encoder


A rotating encoder, also termed as a shaft encoder, is an electrical machine-like device that transforms the angular displacement or movement of an axle to either analog or automated feedback signals. Rotary encoders are being used in several applications that involve limitless precision shaft movements, like industrial automation and electronics. The two significant kinds of rotary encoders are:

  • Absolute
  • Incremental

Absolute Encoder and Incremental Encoder: What’s the Difference?

The rotary encoders can generate either absolute or incremental signals. The difference is that, in incremental encoders, specific positions are not implied. It only tells that the location has shifted. In contrast, absolute encoders have been using a different “term” for every location, indicating that this encoder offers both an acknowledgment that the location has shifted as well as an acknowledgment of the encoder’s actual position.


Applications of Encoders

Linear Motion Tips Encoders help linear motion stages reach higher levels of accuracy
image source

Encoders are frequently used in several applications, particularly in automobile, scientific and health equipment, machinery, industrial technology, as well as electrical motors. The mechanism is identical in every system: the encoder creates a number and it is delivered to the operator, which further delivers the signal to the device to execute a task. Below are some applications of encoders:

  1. In a cut-to-length system, the encoder with a measurement wheel informs the control machine how much substance has been delivered, therefore the control machine recognizes when to remove.
  2. In an observation deck, the encoders inform sensors what location an adjustable mirror is already in by offering placement information.
  3. On railway lifting bolts, precision-motion input is generated by encoders, so that the bolts rise in synchronization.
  4. Inside an elevator, encoders notify the operator whenever the vehicle has arrived at the right floor, in the right location. Such that, the encoder movement information to the operator of the elevator guarantees that now the gates of the elevator should open parallel with that specific floor. If there will be no encoders, you may see yourself jumping in and out of the elevator, instead of just stepping around on your desired floor.
  5. On robotic production lines, encoders supply robots with movement feedback. On this production line, this could imply verifying the robotic manufacturing arms get accurate information to solder in the right positions.
  6. With a massive crane, encoders attached to an engine shaft offer orientation feedback so that the crane recognizes when to grab or drop its burden.
  7. In a system in which jars or cans are being loaded, Feedback indicates the location of the bottles to the loading devices.
  8. In a printer program, input from within the encoder stimulates a display head to establish a label at a particular position.
  9. In a precise servo tag application device, an encoder message is often required by PLC to manage the duration and pace of bottle spinning.

So, it can be seen that encoders are used in many systems and therefore are of extreme importance.


In this article, we have provided you detailed information about an encoder, its types, applications, and its working. We hope that we have cleared all your confusion regarding an encoder. Encoders may be small in size but their function is of significant importance. If you want to know more about encoders, you can visit our website.



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