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Different ways the actuator can electronically provide feedback to where the actuator is in its stroke include:
CAN bus output
A potentiometer is an analog feedback device that provides a difference
in resistance. As the actuator extends, the resistance changes. The
resistance, or voltage drop, over the resistance can be measured to
An encoder provides a pulse output as the actuator moves. The pulse
output is usually for use by a control system such as a PLC. The
control system can use the output to determine relative position. Being a
relative position device, there is a need to “home” the system on
initial setup and any time the control system loses track of the pulses
(power outage etc.).
The image below shows an example encoder. On the left is
an example of the sensor used inside a Thomson actuator. On the right is
an example of the trigger wheel used to trigger the sensor.