What Are Encoders and in Which Industries Are They Popularly Used?

Companies are increasingly relying on high-tech equipment and devices to streamline operations, increase productivity, and ensure accuracy. A good example is the growing reliance of many industries on magnetic and optical rotary encoders.

Why Different Industries Buy a Rotary Encoder

Some industries require a high-tech device that provides feedback on the measurement and communication of speed and position for a specific system. Although these devices work differently according to type, most measure rotary and linear motion.

To get accurate measurements, optical rotary encoders and magnetic rotary encoders are the two most popular options. Not only does the detection method vary depending on which one a company uses, but the encoders also differ in how they signal readings. That includes an open- or closed-loop circuit, which affects the speed, accuracy, and even format for delivering feedback.

Often, a company will buy a rotary encoder for a particular application. However, it can also mix and match encoders based on a specific application. Even the design and construction vary. For example, exposed encoders work best for controlled operations. Sealed and rugged encoders are another option, which are ideal for harsh environments to protect sensitive measuring bearings and hardware.

Industries Relying on Top-quality Encoders

During the early 1960s, many industries could already buy a rotary encoder. Thanks to advances in technology, today’s versions are smaller yet more powerful and accurate. As a result, they offer precision measurements to a much broader range of industries.


Viewing galaxies is quite challenging from a technical perspective. To do this, the space industry must obtain precision measurements for horizontal alignment, vertical elevation, and Cassegrain axes. For something like this, Heidenhain optical rotary encoders are the go-to solution.

This industry usually turns to the Alma Correlator, which is one of the fastest supercomputers in existence. Even the Discovery Channel uses a Heidenhain brand encoder as a way of controlling axes movement.

Industrial Robotics

This is another industry that relies on rotary encoders for various applications, such as material handling, grinding, welding, and assembly. Since seldom do humans monitors these tasks, robots use encoders that carefully guide their intricate movements. Overall, the device enhances a robot’s capabilities.


The medical sector also depends on either an optical or magnetic rotary encoder for research and development purposes. This makes it possible to produce new medicines used to diagnose and treat patients. The compact size combined with extreme accuracy allows for faster testing that leads to the development of highly advanced machinery and wearable devices.

For instance, encoders reduce the risk of cross-contamination. They also assist with DNA sequencing. One particular device has even changed the way that medical experts treat cancer patients.

Buy a Rotary Encoder From a Trusted Source

Optical and semiconductor, machine tool building, and other industries also rely on optical or magnetic rotary encoders. Maintenance Diagnostic Systems, Inc. (MDS), a leading provider of rotary encoders, has an impressive product lineup. Call us today to learn more.