HEIDENHAIN’s New Encoders Aim to Provide Motor Feedback and Position Measurement in a Single Device

October 06, 2021 by Alessandro Mascellino

What are rotary encoders, and how can they be a critical component in industrial applications? 

Engineers commonly use encoders in industrial applications for several tasks. Encoders are sensing devices that provide feedback. They convert motion into an electrical signal that is read by any kind of control device. This kind of precision is critical for engineers in controlling the necessary equipment. 

Precision measurement and control equipment manufacturer HEIDENHAIN has recently unveiled the new KCI 120 Dplus rotary encoder. The device is designed to deliver two key functions via a single component in high-accuracy robots.

Specifically, the encoder aims to provide reliable feedback to a robot’s motor while simultaneously delivering accurate position measurements to its controller.



HEIDENHAIN was established in 1965 and has grown to be a large manufacturer of precision measurement and control equipment in the past century. The company creates encoders, machine controls, touch probes, digital readouts, and metrology solutions.



An overview of design of the KCI 120 Dplus Rotary Encoder. Image used courtesy of HEIDENHAIN


HEIDENHAIN’s technologies are found across several industries and applications, including those aimed at improving manufacturing processes or providing safer and more reliable medical diagnostics. The family of brands also includes several other brands, including Acu-Rite, ETEL, Renco, and many others.

In addition, the precision measurement and control equipment group is a member of several associations supporting the development of industrial automation solutions. These include NTMA, Precision Engineering, SME, and IEEE. 


The KCI 120 Dplus Rotary Encoders

The KCI 120 Dplus encoders are particularly suited for installation in tight spaces, such as high-accuracy motion control applications. They have a compact footprint of 20 mm in height and low weight. These new components can withstand high vibration of up to 400 m/s² on the stator and 600 m/s² on the rotor.


encoders and robot

The KCI 120 Dplus rotary can automatically compensate for a number of errors. Image used courtesy of HEIDENHAIN


The KCI 120 Dplus rotary also features inductive scanning capabilities, making it particularly resistant to contamination and magnetic fields.

The components are available with functional safety capability and can reportedly achieve a SIL 3 safety rating. This safety rating may help particular manufacturers facilitate the safe operation of their associated machines and automated systems.


Encoders Designed for Industrial Applications

It is common for an engineer to use two separate encoders to enable robots to perform high-accuracy positioning tasks.

The new KCI 120 Dplus encoders were built to circumvent this issue, thanks to a scanning head and two unique types of rotor units, both connected to a controller or drive via a single cable. By combining these functions in a single device, HEIDENHAIN hopes to simplify the deployment of several robotics applications.

“It is the ideal encoder for eliminating gearing inaccuracies,” said HEIDENHAIN Product Manager for Rotary Encoders, Thomas Mayer in a recent video on the company’s website.

HEIDENHAIN is hopeful that these encoders will help control engineers and automation experts streamline how they work with robots on the factory floor. How do you use encoders in robotic applications? 

Let us know your thoughts in the comment down below.