Rotary Encoder
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A rotary encoder is a turnable dial that outputs its direction. A rotary encoder is very different from a potentiometer in that it reports its actual location via a digital signal, such as I2C rather than just reporting resistance.

Rotary encoders can also be turned continuously without stop unlike most pots who often have less than a 360° turn.

Note that where a potentiometer's location accuracy is mainly dependent on the microcontroller's ADC, a rotary encoder will be rated in steps or pulses. A 12 step encoder has 12 distinct places the switch can be rotated to, so it is limited to those 12 spots.


  • Optical Rotary Encoder - Uses an optical sensor to read the location
  • Magnetic Rotary Encoder - Often just looks a typical IC, it reads the rotation of a magnet the is placed above (but not touching) it.

NOTE: All information contained within this article is pure opinion. Although this article is intended to help people, it may contain faulty or misleading information. This article is not to be considered professional opinion or advice, and is in no way a replacement for reading all safety/instructional documentation. Always remember to protect yourself when handling/using hazardous materials, as well as test new techniques before using them on projects/work intended to be handed in or used.

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