What are optical encoders?

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By Andy Lampkin | Aug 11, 2016
Disk optical encoders

Although optical encoders are found in a vast number of products across multiple industries, few people know what optical encoders do or what products use optical encoders. Even in the manufacturing industry, many are either unfamiliar with optical encoders or do not know how often they are used in everyday machines and equipment.

Optical encoders measure different types of motion and tell devices when, how, and where to move. Two types of encoders include disk encoders, which measure rotation and strip or line encoders, which measure linear motion. Optical encoders are manufactured using metal, glass, polycarbonate, or polyester film, with each material having different advantages and uses.  

What you may not know is optical encoders are not just found in the world of printing, although optical encoders are used for both ink jet printers and laser printers. Optical encoders are found in medical pumps, sunroofs, automation equipment, memory seats, car speedometers, and encoder modules. The world of robotics also uses optical encoders to automate movement. All of these products need to measure position, acceleration, or velocity and require optical encoders to measure this motion. As automation grows, we will continue to see optical encoders used for more devices.    

GMN ships millions of disk and strip encoders every month and is one of the leading manufacturers in the disk and strip encoder industry. Find out more about optical encoders by visiting our capabilities page