In a linear potentiometer a wiper moves along a resistor as the equipment moves through the full length of stroke, providing a variable resistance related directly to position. Signal conditioners then convert this reading into other electrical output levels. Linear potentiometers are a tried and tested sensing method that are simple, inexpensive, and easy to work with. Although they are a fundamental method for detecting equipment position, as a physical device subject to constant mechanical wear they deteriorate over time and need to be replaced. They may not be resistant to liquids and contaminants, and the form factor must be large enough to accommodate the fully extended and retracted rod stroke, which can be limited in use due to installation space constraints.
Linear potentiometers can measure spring travel in bicycles and motorcycles so as to determine the optimal spring fork for challenging terrains, especially in motorsports. Imagine a mountain biker in Utah, USA speeding through wooded forests, Aspen Pine lands, bubbling streams and then across open prairie land, bouncing easily off paths covered with roots and stones thanks to the valuable data these sensors provide in the design of mountain bikes.
Aside from sport, more mundane but crucial applications include agricultural machinery, increasingly automated, moving across vast open fields. Lumbering combine harvesters use linear potentiometers for the wheel angle measurement in their steering systems as they move back and forth.
Linear potentiometers can also measure the stroke movement of both hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders by installing them directly inside the cylinder itself. The sensor compares the target stroke with the actual stroke to ensure process safety. Reliable measurement data is collected even at high pressure.
Being one of the most versatile and widely used sensors in industry, linear potentiometers are used in a whole range of applications including the control of motors and actuators, robotics, industrial machines, audio equipment volume control, automotive engine control systems, calibration for precision test equipment and medical equipment.