Encoders 002 - Encoder Applications-Robotics

Wire Measuring from 1910-1920
Wire Measuring Machine from 1910-1920

Encoders 002-Encoder Applications-Robotics

In the previous blog, we offered many definitions of encoders and based on the definition chosen, the above wire measuring machine qualifies as an encoder. For now, ignore that picture and we will chat about it later in this blog.

My plan is to post the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month. The 2nd Tuesday will focus on encoder related concepts and the 4th Tuesday will focus on real world applications and solutions. Per that plan, today's post will discuss current uses of encoders which are happening all around us. Unless otherwise specified, the normal definition we will use when talking about encoders is the US Digital definition of encoder. "An encoder is a sensor which translates either rotary or linear mechanical motion into electrical signals, so a control system can determine the speed, acceleration and/or position of a mechanical system."

One very enjoyable part of my job is viewing the wide spectrum of industries which employ encoders. In fact, it is difficult now for me to think of an industry that cannot benefit from the use of encoders somewhere in their operation. Can you think of one?

One of the most popular usages of encoders is direct installation onto the rear of a motor. That application by itself can be used in a myriad of industries on both AC and DC motors. Robotics are one industry which uses a ton of motors and encoders to accomplish the automation required. The picture below shows a delta robot made by US Digital which was used at SPS 2018 to showcase some their encoders and motor driver. Note that each of the three motors have an encoder on it which is used to monitor the angle of the shaft and corresponding robot arm.



Speaking of robots, one of the fastest growing segments in robotics is that of the cobots (collaborative robots). In the past, cages were required when using robots in production, to isolate the robot from anyone in the area. Cobots on the other hand are robots which are designed to work right alongside workers with safety features built in to prevent injury to the workers. Some of those safety features include stopping when contacting an obstruction and moving at a much slower speed. Universal Robots is a major player in this industry. You may have seen one of their robots ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange last year. But that function, although it was fun to watch, is almost an insult to the ability of these cobots as they are designed to do much more complicated tasks. The picture below shows the LMI Gocator which is used to scan 3D images of objects. Click on the picture below to see a video of it going through it's paces.



As innovative as these designs and use of available technologies are today, so was the wire measuring machine pictured at the top of this blog in its day. Last year I wanted to purchase a tool to measure cable for fabricating custom garage door cables. I found this "Improved Wire Measuring Machine" made by the John J. Waldman Company at a local auction and purchased it. I set it up and after testing the measuring tool found it to be quite accurate. I was oblivious to its significance at the time of the purchase, but if we define an encoder as a device which translates physical movement into useful information, this tool qualifies as an encoder. Below is a picture of the three parts making up the complete fabrication assembly including the spindle, the measuring machine and the coiler.



It is my goal to make this blog as informative, engaging and as accurate as possible. If you ever have some additional or contrary information, please contact me directly at steve.mathis@usdigital.com, and I will be glad to make any appropriate corrections in a future post. Previous Post →

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