Incremental vs. Absolute Encoders: How to Choose

There are many aspects to weigh when deciding between incremental and absolute encoders. First is figuring out how to get the required precision, accuracy, and resolution out of your motion-control system. The choice between absolute and incremental linear encoders is usually the first step in adjusting these variables.

Both absolute and incremental encoders have the same function. A sensor reads a disc or scale’s markings, graduations, or slots. It sends that information to a power source, controller, and readout, where it can process the data. However, they each accomplish this in their unique way. So, let’s look at the differences.

Incremental Encoders and Their Functions

Incremental encoders make consistently uniform markings at regular intervals. These rely on pulse generators to determine the rate and distance of rotation or linear motion from the starting position. The higher the resolution of an incremental encoder, the more markings it will have.

Absolute Encoders and Their Functions

Absolute encoders have more complex markings, graduations, or slots built into their designs. Motion feedback is improved, thanks to the increased granularity made possible by the new details. For example, the encoder assigns a different code to each position. The unique benefits it offers go beyond its high degree of accuracy.

Which One to Choose?

Both incremental and absolute encoders measure motion’s fundamentals — position, speed, distance, starts, and halts. Both absolute and incremental encoders are usable in the same fields.

Incremental encoders are less expensive and easier to interface with digital electronics. One can use them in applications where speed or direction sensing is more critical than precise position measurement. However, they are subject to errors if there is any slippage between the shaft and the encoding disk.

Absolute encoders are more expensive but provide more accurate position measurements. They find everyday use in applications where precise positioning is crucial, such as CNC machines and robotics. However, it can be more difficult to interface with digital electronics.

To sum it up, the type of encoder you need depends on the nature of your processes. You need an absolute encoder if your operation requires precise, repeatable positioning. Otherwise, an incremental encoder will suffice.

Maintenance Diagnostic Systems Offers High-Quality Incremental Encoders

Maintenance Diagnostic Systems Inc. has high-quality incremental linear encoders for automotive, aerospace, and industrial applications. MDS helps equip businesses with the necessary resources to boost productivity and efficiency.

We offer a wide range of laser linear encoders in various sizes, resolutions, and output types. Whether you need exposed linear encoders or optical linear encoders, we strive to meet the specific needs of your target application.

Our encoders are known for their reliability and durability, and they have found use in many industries worldwide. Contact us today for more information on how we can help improve your processes.