A linear encoder is a sensor, transducer or readhead paired with a scale that encodes position. The sensor reads the scale in order to convert the encoded position into an analog or digital signal, which can then be decoded into position by a digital readout (DRO) or motion controller.
The encoder can be either incremental or absolute. Motion can be determined by change in position over time. Linear encoder technologies include optical, magnetic, inductive, capacitive and eddy current. Optical technologies include shadow, self imaging and interferometric.
Linear encoders are used in metrology instruments, motion systems and high precision machining tools ranging from digital calipers and coordinate measuring machines to stages, CNC Mills, manufacturing gantry tables and semiconductor steppers.