Exploring the Different Types of Encoders: Rotary, Linear, Position and Optical

The world of encoders is a fascinating one, with a variety of types to choose from. The four main types used in various industries today are rotary, linear, position, and optical. Each type has its pros and cons, depending on the application it’s being used for. Let’s take a look at each of these encoders in more detail, from rotary to optical.


Rotary encoders are commonly used for motor speed control and machine position feedback applications. They’re usually mounted on a rotating shaft, with an internal gear or magnet that detects the shaft’s rotation and converts it into electrical signals. The signals are then sent to a controller or logic circuit, which can be used for various applications such as speed control and position feedback.

Linear encoders are often utilized in industrial machines, robotics, and automation systems. They measure linear motion instead of angular motion like rotary encoders do. Their output is usually converted into an electrical signal, which can then be used for things like position control or position feedback.

Position encoders are often used in robotics and automation applications. They measure the exact position of a machine’s components, such as its motors, arms, or wheels. Position encoders typically feature optical sensors that detect changes in light levels at different points along the encoder’s length. This allows them to accurately determine the machine’s position and relay that information to a controller or logic circuit.

Lastly, optical encoders are used for motion control, distance measurement, and speed monitoring applications. They measure rotation in much the same way rotary encoders do but use optical sensors to detect rotation instead of magnets or gears. This allows them to be more precise and accurate, making them ideal for use in industries like robotics, automation, and machine vision.