As robots and machines become more sophisticated and are called upon to perform more complex tasks, the motion control that defines their movements must be as precise as possible to avoid accidents, prevent mechanical failures, and achieve other performance requirements for the application.

The Challenge

The customer required precision rotary axis control in the lowest profile form factor for multiple sequential robot arm joints. Key additional requirements included minimal movement at start-up to report absolute position, and minimal signal cabling keep the overall arm size as small as possible.

The Solution

A series of custom-sized PCB-based encoder modules with FPGA control and BiSS communication interfaces was developed by MicroE, each featuring two standard ChipEncoder™ readheads and a Micro Motion Absolute™ (MMA) rotary grating disk. MMA grating technology employs a standard 40 micron pitch incremental counting track, coupled with a reference track where each index is uniquely spaced. With only a small movement at start-up, multiple index marks are detected, and the measured spacing is compared to a lookup table in firmware to determine the absolute position.

The Benefit

The output of the two encoders are averaged for improved rotational accuracy, and absolute position is determined at start-up with minimal axial rotation. BiSS serial communication protocol allows each successive robot joint to be connected in a daisy-chain arrangement, rather than having dedicated bus cables for each axis, which along with the small size of the ChipEncoder™ helps reduce the overall size of the each joint. High speed serial communication (32MHz clock, 1µsec update rate) assures high robot responsiveness to the operator’s commands.


PCB Diameter20mm
Scale Diameter15mm
Total Module Height13.8mm
Serial InterfaceBiSS C
Clock Rate32 MHz
Position Update Rate1µsec
Resolution85,280 CPR (15.2 arc-sec; 73.7µrad)
Cable Wire Count5 twisted pairs, 32AWG