Difference Between Absolute and Incremental Encoders

The encoding principle is a common method of categorizing encoders. The detection of angular and linear motion is a critical function in the electronics factory’s machine control.


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Absolute vs Incremental Encoders

The difference between Absolute and Incremental Encoders is comparable to that between a stopwatch and a clock. Because a stopwatch measures the amount of time that passes between its start and stop, you can read the time by adding the value of the elapsed time to the current time. A clock, on the other hand, displays the current time within a 24-hour period.

Absolute vs Incremental Encoders

At each point of rotation, an absolute encoder delivers a unique position value or data word that represents the encoder’s absolute position. The absolute encoder can provide you with the exact position of the rotating axis that it monitors from the moment it is turned on.

An incremental encoder is a type of encoder that translates rotational movement or rotor position into an analogue or digital code in order to determine position or motion. One of the most common types of rotary encoders is an incremental encoder.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAbsolute EncodersIncremental Encoders
BasicsAn absolute encoder has a special identifier for each turbine shaft that specifies the encoder’s absolute position.An incremental encoder produces an output signal every time the shaft turns a specific angle, with the number of generated pulses corresponding to the shaft’s angular position.
Operating PrincipleAn absolute encoder is made out of a data type disc that is positioned on the axis and spins with it. An incremental encoder produces an output signal for each increase of angular position of the shaft, which is calculated by measuring the output strokes recognize.
Cost EfficiencyMore complex, more costly. Less Complex, less expensive.
Works as a Stopwatch Clock
StabilityAbsolute encoders have the potential to provide higher performance, more precise output, and reduced total costs.An incremental encoder must be switched on at all times during the device’s operation.

What are Absolute Encoders?

Each axis position in an absolute encoder is assigned a different code that specifies the encoder’s absolute position. It immediately generates a digital output representing the absolute displacement.

An absolute encoder’s disc employs a Gray code, in which one bit is changed at a time, reducing encoder communication mistakes. The resolution is expressed in bits, which correspond to the number of distinct data words for each revolution.

Absolute encoders can be used in single-turn and multi-turn configurations. The output of the single-turn encoder repeats every rotation and provides position data for a complete 360° rotation of the shaft.

What are Incremental Encoders?

The angular position of the shaft is converted into digital or pulse signals via an incremental encoder, which is an electro-mechanical device. It produces a fixed number of cycles every revolution, one for each step of the rebellion.

When the device is turned on or reset, it starts counting from zero and creates an output signal for each movement of the shaft. The incremental encoder generates a pulse for each incremental step in the rotation.

Despite the fact that incremental encoders do not produce absolute positions, they could provide a good degree of precision at a low cost. The tachometer encoder generates a short pulse whose frequency determines the speed of movement.

Main Differences Absolute and Incremental Encoders

  1. An absolute encoder acts as a stopwatch, and an Incremental encoder acts as a clock.
  2. Absolute encoders have the potential to provide higher performance, more precise output, and reduced total costs. An incremental encoder, on the other hand, must be switched on at all times during the device’s operation.


  1. https://www.osapublishing.org/abstract.cfm?uri=ao-35-1-201
  2. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/4913270/
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