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Rotary Encoder sensors detect position and speed by converting rotational mechanical movements into analogue electrical signals, then encodes them into digital signals.
These sensors are similar to Linear Encoders, except that a linear encoder detects mechanical movement for straight lines as opposed to rotational ones.
Encoders come in two common flavours. Absolute encoders can sense their actual angular position based on internal sensing, and they allow users to obtain digital readings. Incremental encoders don’t sense position directly, but they do send pulses to the controlling hardware as they rotate.
Rotary Encoder devices shouldn’t be confused with potentiometers. Rotary encoders can spin continuously in either direction, whereas potentiometers can only turn a set distance clockwise or counter-clockwise before they need to stop