Difference Between Absolute and Incremental Encoders

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Absolute and Incremental Encoders

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What is an Encoder?

The encoder is a device used in modern machines to detect motion feedback and control movement. They are available in every modern machine in every industry. In simple terms, the device is a sensor that provides feedback and converts movement into an electrical signal that can be easily read by any type of control device in a motion control system such as a PCL. Sends a response signal that can be used to set, calculate, direction or machine speed.

The connector uses a variety of technologies to create signals such as mechanical, magnetic, optical and resistive; the optical console is widely used as it provides feedback based on light disturbance.

The encoder is an electro-mechanical feedback device used to provide information about location, speed, calculation or route. Encoders are a type of local sensor. Encoders are used within a wide range of devices in many different industries and convert motion into an electronic signal to be read by a system control device that allows for a task or process. Encoders often include plastic or metal housings to protect electrical items, usually operating on magnetic or optical systems and a variety of mounting surface options depending on the application requirements.

As a general term, the encoder is a device that converts given data from one form to another. But with the local sensor, the encoder converts the location into an electrical signal. The encoders will use the movement under various technologies and convert you to an electronic signal that is sent back to the control device and interpreted as representing a value that can be used later in the system. The two most common types of encoders are complete and incremental codes.

What are the Different Types of Codes?

The location of the converter encoder can be measured in two ways - the line encoder or the rotating encoder.

The line encoder is a sensor or readable subject paired with a scale that writes the code or reads the scale and converts the encoded area into an analogue or digital signal, which can be converted into a dynamic control or digital readout (DRO). Movement can be achieved in this form by gradually changing the location. It is of two types, namely the growing coders or the complete coders. Line coders are used in metrology tools, moving systems, high precision instrumentation and inkjet printers, CNC mills, semiconductor steppes and gantry production tables. Line coders take advantage of a few physical features to ultimately give us a measure of space. Visual line coders provide the most accurate information and are often used in automated industrial applications. Magnetic line connectors have active or inactive scales and areas are audible using sensor coils, Hall impact, or magnetic reading heads. Powerful line coders provide data by feeling the power between the reader and the scale yet more sensitive to unequal contamination. Inductive technology is a major waste that allows calliper and other measuring instruments to cool evidence. The line encoder basically has two main functions: measurement (CMM, laser scanners, DROs, etc.) and moving systems (robots, machine tools, wire bonders, etc.).

A rotating encoder is also known as a shaft encoder and is an electromechanical device that converts the angular shape of a shaft or axle to analog or digital signals. They are used in many different applications that often require monitoring or control of telephone equipment. However, its two basic components are the same as those of linear encoders: the absolute encoder and the incremental encoder.

Difference Between Absolute Encoder and Incremental Encoder in Tabular Form

Properties Absolute Encoder Incremental Encoder
Function It has a unique code for each shaft position that represents why it is called absolute. It generates the output signal every time the shaft rotates.
Output Velocity and absolute position. Speed, displacement, velocity and direction.
Complexity Very complex. Not very complex.
Resolution Higher resolution. Lower resolution.
Cost is Expensive due to its complex structure. Comparatively cheaper than an absolute encoder because it does not have a very complex structure.
Homing No homing is needed for positioning. Homing is needed for positioning.
Position Absolute position and angle. The relative position and angle.
Revolution Multi-turn. Up to one revolution for initial position.
Electricity Only needs power when the reading is being taken. Needs power all the time.
Information Does not lose the information even when the power has been cut for a while. Loses all the readings if the electricity is lost.
Programmable Yes. Yes.

Absolute Encoder vs. Incremental Encoder

One of the most common differences between any method is how it works and if two things we equate equally work can be a minor problem. But when it comes to our encoders we can see that as the name suggests that an absolute encoder can enclose the exact location of the rotating shaft at any time of the day, on the other hand, the incremental encoder reports a location change. Let's take a very common example to understand this concept very clearly. Both are like stopwatches and clocks. Here the stopwatch is an ascending deck because it tells us the exact time from the beginning to the end as the stopwatch does. And a perfect instinct is like a clock that tells you when and where to look. The difference may not seem too big but it can cause serious problems to the machine if something goes wrong. How dangerous it would be to add salt to a completely baked cake. So let's take salt as an absolute encoder and sugar to become an incremental encoder, both look the same but if not properly understood can ruin the whole diet. Although the two encoders do not look the same when we think they will not be dangerous if they are considered insignificant, we are surprised. An incremental encoder can cause problems while converting information when there is a power outage but a complete encoder requires power only when reading. The cost of a full encoder is also high considering the complexity of the code matrix but the incremental encoder is less expensive due to its less complicated feature. There should be a consistent power supply for incremental encoders but there is no such need for absolute encoders.

What is an Absolute Encoder?

  • An absolute encoder is a type of connector used in electronic devices that helps to display a different amount of location or data in all circuits. Provides readings from when the device is turned on and specifies the exact location measured around the shaft. It continues to collect data even when electricity is not available, however, power needs to be present at the time of recording. It can be used with linear and angular displacements, but in all of them, its functionality is different.
  • The absolute encoder has a unique code for each shaft which also includes the design of this type of encoder. The unique code of all shafts gives you the advantage of providing a digital output that directly represents complete removal. The actual location is measured as soon as the system is turned on, so it does not need an additional calculator to take measurements because the value is already measured by the finished pattern. The statistically relevant digital output is easily provided. Each code represents the complete angular shape of the shaft in its rotation process and each part is encoded individually by its LEDs. The disk used in the absolute encoder uses the Gray code where one-bit changes at a time, this prevents errors that occurred during reading and provides more accurate data. They are more expensive than mounting brackets because of the complexity of their complex structure. Complete encoders can also be split into single-circuit and multi-encoder encoders.
  • single-turn encoders are ideal for electrical devices that measure less than 360 degrees of rotation such as measuring the pivot point of a door or sea-saw.
  • Unlike a single rotation encoder, a multi-rotor encoder can track and record information on multiple rotator codecs, so they are often used with axes or rotating axes with an infinite number of rotations as only one-sided conveyors.
  • It has a strong effect on speed and perfect location. It has high resolution and it is not necessary to reset the application to zero point after a power cut. It simply keeps recording data and is not lost, but a power should be present when encoded information is monitored manually. Location and angle of the complete encoder. Rotation angle comes out of proportion as a whole value and direction in which rotation occurs and can be detected with the help of a complete installer. Rotation direction is calculated during the output of sections A and B with the help of a growing coder and the decrease or increase of the code with the full encoder.

What is an Incremental Encoder?

  • The incremental encoder is one of the two sets of encoders that are commonly used to convert angular or shaft motion into an analogue or digital code to identify the location or movement of a machine. It is also one of the most widely used codecs in the industry. It gives good feedback on distance and speed. It is a more sophisticated model of encoding than an absolute encoder, which is probably why it is often used on an industrial basis.
  • It is an electromechanical device and produces a certain number of pulses per revolution, which gives us pulse pulsation with each turn associated with rotation. It can only measure the location change, not the actual shaft location as it does with the actual encoders, so it cannot specify the location of the reference. Used where speed or speed and direction information are required as well as speed and departure. Electricity is required to keep this encoder running. When the power goes out, it starts counting from zero and usually needs to adjust the output manually. Because it has a slightly less complex form, it is cheaper than an absolute encoder. It can make one change in the first place. It produces an output signal every time the shaft rotates and has an angle-related area with low adjustment. It can only measure location changes. Incremental encoders are less dense due to their constant electricity demand. Because when power is cut off, it loses all data and starts again from the beginning or freezes which slows down the operation of the encoder. The incremental codec is a standard encoder. It is divided into two parts - quadrature encoders and tachometers.
  • A quadrature encoder is a two-way connector that is used when a motion sensor is required for standard defaults. Each of these two channels provides a certain number of pulses equally divided by revolution (PPR) and the direction of movement is obtained by the phase relationship leading to another channel. They are often used to detect dual location and applications where the length is measured and to obtain positioning data.
  • Tachometers, on the other hand, are a device used to measure rotation speed in a shaft and display revolutions per minute (RPM) in the dial but digital displays replace the dial speed. It is derived from the Greek words ‘tachos’ meaning speed and ‘metron’ meaning measurement, thus obtaining a speed measuring tool tachometer. As we already know, the rising encoder has two effects, in the automotive industry, one of which is used for car speed and the other for the engine. In short, it is used to measure the speed of a rotating angular shaft.


An absolute encoder can let you know the precise function of the shaft in its rotation at any given time (and how many rotations have transpired on a multi-flip absolute encoder). An incremental encoder can handiest record exchange in function. It cannot sound like a big distinction, but it’s nighttime and day if the device has a loss of electricity. Once electricity is restored, an absolute encoder can file the exact positions without any motion. An incremental encoder will need to find an Index or domestic role before it may achieve this – and if it doesn’t have an index, it won’t have the ability to tell you its role in any respect.


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"Difference Between Absolute and Incremental Encoders." Diffzy.com, 2024. Wed. 19 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-absolute-and-incremental-encoders-688>.

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