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Industries

Motor Feedback

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More than half of all the electricity used by industrial plants goes to power electric motors; they’re found in nearly every manufacturing plant and commercial operation. Consequently, the most common application of rotary encoders is for the control of speed and direction of electric motors, from small frame steppers to large AC induction vector-duty NEMA motors. Today’s sophisticated drives and control systems can use feedback from a single motor mount encoder to control multiple axes of motion.


Mechanically, shaft encoders mount directly to the motor via a bell housing, and attach to the shaft via a flexible coupling. Also, a shaft encoder also can be indirectly applied to the motor via a chain and sprocket or belt and pulley. In recent years, most motor manufacturers have opted for thru-bore or hollow bore encoders due to the compact design and reduced bearing loads. In this case the encoder attaches to the motor via a thin, flexible 1, 2, or 3-point flex-mount, while the encoder is fixed to the shaft via a collar. C-Face encoders have flange and bolt circle features that permit direct application to C-Face motor surfaces, providing a seamless, integrated encoder/motor assembly.


Electrically, incremental quadrature encoders with resolutions of 1024 and 2048 CPR are commonly used, with commutation tracks and other resolutions used when needed to accommodate controller input requirements. High voltage line driver (EPC’s HV output) is an excellent output type for motor applications due to its resistance to electrical noise. Certain control systems and motor applications may require absolute shaft position for motor feedback, but incremental signals are used for the vast majority.


Environmentally, motor feedback can be very demanding on encoders due to high temperatures, especially when enclosed in an unventilated servo-motor housing. Thus, EPC recommends specifying the encoder’s highest available temperature rating for motor applications.


Linear Measurement

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Rotary encoders are widely used to provide feedback for linear measurement. As the encoder generates pulses in response to linear displacement of the material or object to be measured, it is a matter of simple math for the receiving device to convert those pulses into distance.


Mechanically, a primary consideration is how to effectively obtain feedback from the item to be measured. One common method is to apply a measuring wheel to the encoder. The wheel either contacts the surface to be measured (direct feedback) or a shaft that moves in conjunction with the material (indirect feedback). Measuring wheel applications need a means of mounting the encoder and maintaining adequate wheel pressure at all times. Separate brackets, pivot arms and springs can be used, but they can be cumbersome. EPC's Model TR1 TruTrac™ is an all-in-one solution that makes for fast and easily installation.


Another means of using a rotary encoder for linear measurement is to attach a thru-bore or hollow bore encoder to a roller shaft, such as a conveyor head-roll. In such cases, a clear understanding of the relationship between shaft rotation and corresponding linear displacement, as well as system mechanical tolerances, is essential.


For reciprocating linear measurement, a measuring wheel may not be the best choice; there is always the potential for slippage during start/stop cycles. In such cases, a solution that eliminates or limits backlash, such as a pinion gear and rack (as with the TR2 TruTracTM), a belt and pulley, or a chain and sprocket may be preferred. Another solution is the Linear Cable Encoder (LCE), where a spring-driven retractable cable spool is attached to a shaft encoder.


Electrically, incremental encoders are most often specified for linear measurement, with some specialized applications requiring absolute positioning. For applications with frequent start/stop or bi-directional travel, quadrature output is required.


Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress.


Web Tensioning

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The process of monitoring and adjusting the tension applied to material being wound onto a spool, reel or drum is known as web tensioning. In industries where materials such as paper, plastic film, aluminum, fiber or wire must be wound on to a reel, web tensioning is a key portion of the manufacturing process that contributes to uniformity, quality and productivity. Rotary encoders are often applied in conjunction with other feedback devices and sensors to control web tension.


A typical web tensioning application involves one encoder mounted on a drive motor and a second encoder mounted to a tensioning roller arm or pinch roller. Both encoders supply speed data to the controller. If variations in the rotation speed of the motor and roller occur, the controller adjusts the drive motor in order to maintain a constant level of tension on the material.


Mechanically, shaft, thru-bore or measuring wheel encoders can be applied, depending on what design is most readily integrated into the system. Integrated encoder-measuring wheel solutions such as EPC's Model TR1 or TR3 TruTracTM are well suited for web tensioning applications.


Electrically, variables such as resolution, output type, channels, voltage, etc., should all be specified to meet the individual application requirements. In the vast majority of installations, incremental encoders are most suitable, with quadrature output being useful in order to avoid edge jitter during stoppage. Special attention should be given to the potential for static discharge, grounding and isolation of the encoder.


Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress. However, consider a stainless steel or polymer composite housing to mitigate the effects of harsh cleaning chemicals and solvents.


Examples:

Paper manufacturing

Steel coil winding

Flexible packaging film converting

Cut-to-Length

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A rotary encoder is an ideal feedback device for cut-to-length applications. A fixed number of pulses is generated as the code disc rotates. These pulses can easily be correlated via scaling or simple counting to determine length of travel. When the desired number of pulses has been received by the control system, the cutting device is activated.


Mechanically, both shaft and thru-bore encoders are good candidates for cut-to-length applications. The encoder can be applied to the drive motor used to advance material, to a head-roll shaft, to a pinch-roller, or to a lead screw. Additionally, an encoder and measuring wheel assembly can obtain feedback directly from the material itself or from a conveyor surface. An integrated solution such as EPC's TR1 TruTracTM simplifies encoder installation and adjustment for cut-to-length applications.


Electrically, when specifying encoder resolution for cut-to-length applications, the desired accuracy should be factored in. For example, in a system with a roller that is exactly one foot in circumference, the roller would feed one foot of material for every revolution of the roller. The resolution of the encoder would directly reflect the accuracy of the cut. In this example, 96 Cycles Per Revolution would yield cuts to a 0.125" accuracy. Depending on the material, consideration should be given to static build up, including proper precautions for grounding and isolating the encoder from potential damage from static discharge.


Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress.


Examples:

Corrugated cardboard trim

Spooled cable cut-off

Pre-fabricated roofing panel cut-off


Registration Mark Timing

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For registration mark timing, a rotary encoder is used to determine the position of an object relative to a known point, referred to as a registration mark. Encoder feedback is then used to determine the speed of an axis of motion in relation to the registration mark.


Mechanically, shaft, thru-bore, hollow bore or measuring wheel encoders can be used for registration mark timing applications. Any number of mechanical means can be used to obtain encoder feedback from the axis of motion, including wheels, gears, belts, chains or direct action.


Electrically, incremental and absolute encoders are suitable for registration mark applications. Generally, for incremental feedback, a quadrature encoder is used to ensure bi-directional feedback. An index pulse is also recommended for applications that require the ability to locate home position. Single turn absolute encoders can be also be applied, but for applications that require determining absolute location in the event of power-off scenarios, a multi-turn absolute encoder should be used.


Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress.


Examples:

Antenna positioning

Automated welding and assembly equipment

Robotic arms


Backstop gauging

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In backstop gauging, a rotary encoder is used to ensure that the unit to be controlled, such as a machine tool, does not exceed a preset position or direction of travel. Very often, this encoder function is combined with determining the speed of travel of the table, tool head, or similar component. Other sensors may be used for backstop gauging, such as a limit switch or optical sensor; however, properly configured rotary encoders can prove to be more durable and accurate.


Mechanically, both shaft and thru-bore encoders can be used for backstop gauging, with the preference for one or the other depending on the particular features of the application. EPC's Model TR2 TruTracTM with an integrated pinion gear and rack system is a good candidate for backstop gauging applications.


Electrically, variables such as resolution, output type, channels, voltage, etc., should all be specified to meet the individual application requirements. Due to reciprocating motion, quadrature output is preferred since direction must be determined. Additionally, an index pulse should be specified to ensure the ability to find a home position. Both incremental and absolute encoders are suitable for backstop gauging, with some applications favoring multi-turn absolute feedback due to the ability to determine exact position, even in the event of loss-of-power scenarios.


Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress. However, consider a stainless steel or polymer composite housing or shielding the encoder to mitigate the effects of harsh cleaning chemicals and solvents.


Examples:

Machine tool turret placement

Press-brake positioning

Gantry positionin


Filling

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In many filling applications, a rotary encoder is used for table positioning. Feedback from the encoder helps ensure that the item to be filled is in the correct position prior to activation of the filling mechanism. For example, bottles, tubes, cans or cartons can be transported to a filler via a conveyor, rotary table or other delivery system. The encoder can be mounted to a motor, drive shaft, or another suitable axis. When the proper number of counts is detected, the controller sends a command to activate the fill system. In many designs, the fill process is completed while the containers are still moving.


Augers, rotary fluid dispensers, and peristaltic pumps may utilize encoder feedback. Often other sensors such as vision, proximity or laser, are also used to detect container orientation and container location. Rotary encoders may also be used to control the motion of a fill nozzle or dispenser that needs to be lowered to and withdrawn from the container. Additionally, some filling mechanisms travel in sync with containers as they are transported, and this motion also usually requires encoder feedback.


Mechanically, shaft, thru-bore or measuring wheel encoders can be applied, depending on what design is most readily integrated into the system.


Electrically, variables such as resolution, output type, channels, voltage, etc., should all be specified to meet the individual application requirements. While incremental encoders with quadrature output are frequently used, absolute encoders are gaining favor with some machine designers. When powders and other bulk solids are handled, proper attention should be given to static discharge potential and proper grounding and isolation of the encoder.


Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In filling applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress. However, consider a stainless steel or polymer composite housing to mitigate the effects of harsh cleaning chemicals and solvents.

Examples:

Food and beverage bottling

Personal care products tube filling

Household chemical powder dispensing


Conveying

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Because conveyors are widely used throughout almost all industries, and because they require varying degrees of control, conveyors are avery common application for rotary encoders. Often, the encoder is applied to a motor and provides speed and direction feedback to the drive. In other instances, the encoder is applied to another shaft, such as the head-roll, either directly or via a belt. Finally, feedback can also be obtained by applying an encoder with a measuring wheel that rides on the conveyor belt; however,some segmented conveyor systems may not be suitable for measuring wheels.

Mechanically, both shaft and thru-bore encoders are good candidates for conveying applications. The encoder can be applied to the drive motor used to advance material, to a head-roll shaft, to a pinch-rolleror to a lead screw. Additionally,an encoder andmeasuring wheel assembly can obtain feedback directly from the material itself or from a conveyor surface. An integrated solution, such as EPC'sTR1 TruTracTM, simplifiesencoder installation and adjustment for conveyor applications.

Electrically, variables such as resolution, output type, channels, voltage, etc., shouldallbe specified to meet the individual application requirements. If the conveyor regularly stops, indexes or changes direction in the course of operation, a quadrature encoder is required. In the vast majority of installations, incremental encoders are most suitable.

Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In filling applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress. However, consider a stainless steel or polymer composite housing to mitigate the effects of harsh cleaning chemicals and solvents.


Examples:

· Automated carton or case-packing systems

· Label or ink-jet print application

· Warehouse distribution systems

· Baggage handling systems


Spooling or Level Wind

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Inspooling or level-windapplications, material such as cable or flat roll-stock is wound onto a spool. It’s critical to maintain the proper relationship between the speed of the take up spool and the supply spool, since the material onboth reels changes diameter as it is winding. Also, most operations require monitoring of thelength of material. Finally, in many instances it is necessary to maintain the proper tension on the material to avoid stretching, breaking or winding too tightly or loosely. Rotary encoders can supply the necessary feedback for all these functions.

Mechanically, shaft, thru-bore or measuring wheel encoders can be applied, depending on what design is most readily integrated into the system. The encoders may be applied to drive motors, the reel shaft, pinch rollers or tension rollers. EPC'sModel TR1 TruTracTM, an integrated encodermeasuring-wheelpivot-arm assembly, is well suited for spooling or level-wind applications.

Electrically, variables such as resolution, output type, channels, voltage, etc., shouldallbe specified to meet the individual application requirements. In the vast majority of installations, incremental encoders are most suitable. Withuni-directional travel, a single-channel encoder is adequate; however,quadrature output is recommended in order to avoid edge jitter during stoppage.

Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress. However, consider a stainless steel or polymer composite housing to mitigate the effects of harsh cleaning chemicals and solvents.


Examples:

· Electrical cable reeling or marking

· Flexible packaging roll stock converting

· Flat steel coiling


X-Y Positioning

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In X-Y positioning applications, such as automated pick-and-place, rotary encoders provide feedback on two axes of motion in order to determine X-Y coordinates. The encoder can be attached to the shaft of a ball screw or the drive motor of an actuator. In some cases a pinion gear and rack system or measuring wheel can be used to provide position information.

Mechanically, shaft, thru-bore and even measuring wheel encoders can be applied, depending on what design is most readily integrated into the system.

Electrically, variables such as resolution, output type, channels, voltage, etc., shouldallbe specified to meet the individual application requirements. Due to the reciprocating motion, quadrature output is a must since direction must be determined. Additionally, an index pulse should be specified to ensure the ability to find a home position. Both incremental and absolute encoders are suitable for X-Y positioning.

Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress. However, consider a stainless steel or polymer composite housing or shielding the encoder to mitigate the effects of harsh cleaning chemicals and solvents.


Examples:

· Pick and place packaging robots

· SMT (surface mount technology) machines

· Automatedmicrobiology testing machines


Ball Screw Positioning

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The principal use of ball screw assemblies is to mechanically convert rotary motion into linear motion. They can serve for table positioning or linear actuator applications. A rotary encoder, when attached to the end of the ball screw shaft or the drive motor, provides feedback used to determine linear speed, direction, rate and position.


Mechanically, both shaft and thru-bore encoders can be applied to ball screws, depending on what design is most readily integrated into the system. However, hollow bore or thru-bore encoders tend to be used more prevalently.


Electrically, variables such as resolution, output type, channels, voltage, etc., should all be specified to meet the individual application requirements. Due to the reciprocating motion typical of ball screw assemblies, quadrature output is required to determine direction of travel. Additionally, an index pulse should be specified to ensure the ability to find a home position. In situations where position is needed during power-off scenarios without cycling back to a known home position, a multi-turn absolute encoder is required.


Environmentally, proximity of the encoder to potential exposure to liquids, fine particulates and extreme temperatures will dictate specification. In applications with washdown requirements, an IP66 or IP67 seal can offer protection against moisture ingress. However, consider a stainless steel or polymer composite housing, or shielding the encoder, to mitigate the effects of harsh cleaning chemicals and solvents.


Aerospace

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In the aerospace industry, encoder applications combine demands for high-precision feedback with the ability to operate in extreme environmental conditions. Whether installed on airborne systems , ground support vehicles, testing fixtures, maintenance equipment, flight simulators or automated manufacturing machinery, rotary encoders are widely applied in aerospace. Encoders used in aerospace applications generally require housings and environmental ratings consistent with the presence of shock, vibration, and extreme temperatures.


The aerospace industry typically uses encoders to provide feedback for the following functions:

Motor Feedback – Actuators, ground support vehicles, antenna positioning systems

Conveying – Baggage handling systems

Registration Mark Timing – Antenna positioning, airborne guidance systems

Backstop Gauging – Automated assembly systems

X-Y Positioning – Automated assembly systems


Material Handling

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Actions such as conveying, lifting, pick-and-place, and other automated functions represent one or more axes of rotary motion found in material handling equipment. For accurate control, often a rotary encoder is a preferred sensor for motion feedback.


Many material handling functions are driven by servo or vector duty motors. These usually have integral encoders for closed-loop motion control feedback. Alternatively, the encoders can be applied to a non-motor axis. Both incremental and absolute encoders are widely used in material-handling equipment.


The Material Handling industry typically uses encoders for the following functions:

Motor Feedback – Conveyors, automated guided vehicles, forklifts

Conveying – Drive motors, head roll shafts, belt speed monitoring

Registration Mark Timing – Automated palletizers, shrink wrappers, case packers, pick-and-place robotics

Backstop Gauging – Gantry systems, automated palletizers

X-Y Positioning – Pick-and-place robotics, palletizers, case packers


Mobile Equipment

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Automated and electronically controlled systems abound in modern mobile equipment used in industries such as construction, material handling, mining, rail maintenance, agriculture and firefighting. It’s critical that sensor technology be robust enough to handle the shock, vibration, dust, moisture and other hazards common to mobile equipment operating environments. For accurate control, often a rotary encoder is the preferred sensor for motion feedback.


The Mobile Equipment industry typically uses encoders for the following functions:

Motor Feedback – Automated guided vehicles, mobile lifts, hoists

Registration Mark Timing – Hoist turrets, firefighting spray turrets, harvesters

Backstop Gauging – Railway inspection systems, extendable booms

Spooling – Crane/hoist reel monitoring, pipe inspection equipment


Packaging

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Encoder Packaging Application FillingThe packaging industry typically utilizes equipment involving rotary motion along several axes. This includes actions such as spooling, indexing, sealing, cutting, conveying and other automated machine functions that usually represent an axis of rotary motion. For accurate control, often a rotary encoder is the preferred sensor for motion feedback.


Many packaging machine functions are driven by servo or vector duty motors. These usually have their own encoders to provide closed-loop feedback for the control system. Alternatively, the encoders are applied to a non-motor axis of motion. Both incremental and absolute encoders are widely used in packaging machinery.


The Packaging industry typically uses encoders for the following functions:

Web Tensioning – Flexible packaging, form-fill-seal machines, labeling equipment

Cut-to-Length – Form-fill-seal machines, cartoning machinery

Registration Mark Timing – Case packing systems, label applicators, ink jet printing

Conveying – Filling systems, printing machinery, label applicators, carton handlers

Motor Feedback – Cartoning systems, automated filling equipment, conveyors


Textiles

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In textile manufacturing machinery, rotary encoders are employed to provide critical feedback for speed, direction, and distance. High-speed, precisely controlled operations such as weaving, knitting, printing, extruding, seaming, gluing, cut-to-length, and others are typical applications for rotary encoders.


Incremental encoders are predominantly used in textile machinery, with absolute feedback becoming more common as more complex controls systems are implemented.


The Textile industry typically uses encoders for the following functions:

Motor Feedback – Weaving machinery, printing, knitting machinery

Registration Mark Timing – Seaming, gluing, cut-to-length systems

Backstop Gauging – Extrusion machinery, cut-to-length systems

X-Y Positioning – Cutting tables, gluing equipment


Timber Products

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A demanding industry for machinery and machine components, timber products manufacturing machinery often requires robust rotary encoders. Mobile timber processors, loaders, hoists, de-barkers, conveyors, saws and planers all involve high-powered, high-intensity motion in order to transport and process logs and timber products. In almost every operation, some form of rotary motion is required. Among the various sensor technology options available, such as transducers or proximity switches, rotary encoders are often selected for feedback requirements due to their precision.


Encoders used in timber products applications generally require housings and environmental ratings consistent with the presence of shock, vibration, moisture, dust, debris and oil. Whenever possible, an industrial housing should be used.


The Timber Products industry typically uses encoders for the following functions:

Motor Feedback – Saws, planers, mills, conveyors, hoists

Conveying – Dimensional lumber transport, sheet goods transport

Registration Mark Timing – Gantry systems, stackers

Backstop Gauging – Sheet goods handling

X-Y Positioning – Log scanning systems, log mills


Converting

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In converting machinery, rotary encoders are employed to provide critical feedback for speed, direction, and distance. High-speed, precisely controlled operations such as spooling, laminating, folding, seaming, gluing, die-cutting, cut-to-length and others are typical applications for rotary encoders.

The Converting industry typically uses encoders for the following functions:

· Motor Feedback– Drive motors for converting machinery

·Conveying– Feeders for converting machinery, cut-to-length machinery

· Registration Mark Timing– Die cutters, stampers, auto-stacking equipment

·Web Tensioning–Laminate filmconverting, coating, slitters, re-winders


Metal Forming & Fabrication

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As an industry that dates back to the Bronze Age, metal forming and fabrication still has a place for manual processes. Like most modern industrial sectors, however, automated equipment is used by most commercial metal product producers. With automation comes the need for feedback devices, such as rotary encoders. In metal forming and fabrication, rotary encoders are used in automated machinery such as extruders, tube benders, presses, punches, drills, die formers, roll formers, folders, mills, welders, solderers, plasma cutters and waterjet cutters.

Metal Forming and Fabrication machinery typically uses encoders for the following functions:

Motor Feedback – Vertical mills, lathes, punches, presses, extruders, welders

Conveying – Drive motors, belts, roll formers, folders, die formers

Registration Mark Timing – Vertical mills, welders, extruders

Backstop Gauging – Presses, extruders, tube benders, presses

X-Y Positioning – Punches, welders, solderers' drills

Web Tensioning – Spooling systems, roll formers


Printing

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The wide variety of automated machinery used in the printing industry presents innumerable application points for rotary encoders. Commercial printing technologies such as offset web, sheet fed, direct to plate, inkjet, binding and finishing involve rapid feed speeds, precise alignment and coordination of multiple axes of motion. Rotary encoders excel in providing motion control feedback for all of these operations.


Printing equipment generally measures and generates images with resolutions measured in dots per inch (DPI) or pixels per inch (PPI). When specifying rotary encoders for certain printing applications, the disk resolution is usually correlated to print resolution. For example, many industrial ink jet printing systems employ a rotary encoder to track the motion of the object to be printed. This enables the print head to apply the image to a precisely controlled location on the object.


The Printing industry typically uses encoders for the following functions:

Registration Mark Timing – Offset presses

Web Tensioning – Web presses, roll-stock printing

Cut-to-Length – Binary systems, offset presses, web presses

Conveying – Ink jet printing

Spooling or Level Wind – Web presses


Food & Beverage

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Machinery in the food and beverage manufacturing industry includes a wide range of operations such as processing, filling, packaging, material handling and labeling. Depending on the particular stage of the manufacturing process and the operating environment, rotary encoders in food and beverage manufacturing may need to be specified with features such as stainless steel housings, high or low temperature ratings, or IP67 environmental sealing.


Some examples of encoder applications in Food and Beverage manufacturing include:

Filling – In-line fillers, auger fillers, peristaltic fillers, rotary fillers

Motor Feedback – Capping, bottling, processing

Conveying – Metal detection, inspection, machine feed systems

Registration Mark Timing – Pick-and-place robots, rotary tables for filling, bottle labeling

X-Y Positioning – Pick-and-place robotics