Press Release

NSK Develops Compact, High-Resolution Encoder

Resolution Among the Highest in the World Achieved Using Polarization and Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Technology*

Tokyo, Japan, September 17, 2014 - NSK Ltd. (NSK; Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan; President and CEO: Norio Otsuka) today announced that it has developed an encoder in a compact size (outer diameter of 8 mm) that has achieved a resolution that is among the highest in the world. This product makes high-resolution angle detection in tight spaces and is applicable for precision measurement instruments and semiconductors. NSK is exploring the feasibility of its application to various other uses in the future, including small joints in robots and wearable devices. NSK is targeting 500 million yen in global annual sales for this product by 2019.

* Outer diameter of 8 mm or less (based on NSK investigation)


Development Background

The need for encoders has expanded with the increasing sophistication of machines such as machine tools, manufacturing equipment, robots, and conveyors. However, it is difficult to make encoders that are both compact and have high resolution, and so encoder application in small spaces had been limited. NSK's new encoder has achieved a resolution that is among the highest in the world in a compact size, with an outer diameter of 8 mm, thereby expanding the useful applications of high-precision encoders.

NSK will exhibit this product at INTERMEASURE 2014 (International Measurement, Test and Control Technology Show 2014), to be held at Tokyo Big Sight (Tokyo International Exhibition Center) September 17 (Wed.) to 19 (Fri.), 2014 with the aim of broadly cultivating latent needs.

Product Features

Compact size with an outer diameter of 8 mm achieved by using polarization

In conventional encoders, as outer diameter size gets smaller, precision goes down. Consequentially, at the size of an outer diameter of no more than 8 mm, which is required for precision measurement instruments, the highest resolution in commercially available products was at the level of 1,000 pulses/revolution. NSK's product uses a new polarizing-axis detection method and MEMS technology to achieve a resolution of 36,000 pulses/revolution in a compact size of no more than 8 mm. This makes it possible to apply the product to small spaces, which was conventionally deemed difficult.

This product, which uses an absolute encoder that detects absolute angles within a range of 180 degrees, is perfect for locations that require detection of absolute angles, such as in the finger joints of robots. Moreover, an absolute encoder will contribute to the smooth restart of work, as it does not need to be reset to the original point when the power has been turned off.

Specific Uses

  • Precision measuring instruments/optical devices
  • Semiconductor manufacturing equipment
  • Machine tools
  • Finger joints in industrial robots
What is an Encoder?
Principle: Polarization
Encoder Specifications