An incremental encoder delivers a selectable number of pulses on a rotated revolution or linear length.
An incremental encoder makes it possible to measure speed, position or angle. Unlike an absolute encoder, which announces the exact position of each pulse, with an incremental sensor you only get information with a new pulse for each movement (rotary or linear).
Regardless of the chosen technology (eg optical, magnetic or inductive), the sensor emits a digital pulse train, where each pulse looks the same on the entire revolution. For example, if you have 360 pulses in one revolution, you get an accuracy of 1 ° (degree) for each movement / pulse that the sensor gives off (1-360 pulses) and then it starts counting from 1 again. With a higher number of pulses, you thus get higher measurement accuracy.
The big difference, however, is that since the pulses are the same for each movement, the system must return to a reference point in case the current should be interrupted. A reference pulse can be integrated in the encoder, or taken from an external sensor. Absolute sensors have a unique code for each position, which means that the encoder knows where it is, even if the power is cut off and switched on again.
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