Why can’t I see my Optical Encoder Output Signals?

A simplified schematic of the externalized (op...

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Why do my incremental encoder signals disappear?

Today I was called to the production floor after one of the test Technicians noticed that the encoder signals disappeared from the oscilloscope when they ran the encoders “unloaded”.

I asked one of the techs if the encoders being tested were of the open collector variety. The answer was  “No, they’re line drivers”

I immediately pictured our standard 26C31 line drivers, which are push-pull devices.

When I checked the label on the line driver IC on the encoder. I saw that it was an ET7273. This meant that the right answer was that they were both a line driver and an open collector device. The ET7273 is used in our optical encoder when a customer wants complementary open collector outputs, or incremental side open collector outputs

The problem was that I, as well as the Tech I talked to, am guilty of using the term “line driver” to synonymously mean “push pull” outputs.

Open collector style outputs are used when you want to be able to pull up to a different voltage level from the rest of the system. For example most of the optical encoders we sell are 5V devices, but the open collector output can be pulled up to many times that level. The ET7273 has a max spec of 30Vdc.

So why was she not seeing any outputs when the encoder wasn’t loaded?

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Finding the Index Pulse of an Incremental Encoder

The index pulse, often also called “Z” or “Marker pulse”, of an optical incremental encoder is a once per revolution digital pulse that is used for homing or count verification of incremental signals.

In the QD145 and QD200 series of encoders the index pulse fires when the mark on the top cover of the optical incremental encoder and the mark on the encoders shaft are aligned.

This mark also indicates the rising edge of the U channel for commutated optical incremental encoders.  Knowing the location of this edge is useful for the initial rough timing of Brushless DC motors.

Quantum Devices is a leading manufacturer of Optical Incremental Encoders.

Jim can be reached at 608.924.3000 or by e-mail at jmiller@quantumdev.com