Hollow-shaft encoders take on dual role

An Alps Electric (UK) product story
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Edited by the Electronicstalk editorial team Dec 20, 2007

The EC35B Series of hollow-shaft encoders incorporates an industry first: an encoder and self-return switch incorporated in a single, dual-function dial.

Alps Electric has developed a novel series of 35mm hollow-shaft composite-operation rotary encoders.

Intended for a wide range of digital products, including automotive products and consumer electronics, the first commercial samples will be shipped from December 2007.

One growing application for hollow-shaft rotary encoders is to select specific songs stored in audio devices.

The latest digital devices, such as car audio and car navigation systems, are fitted with high-capacity recording media such as hard disks, making it possible to store large amounts of music and information.

In addition to the need to enable the easy selection of stored items by rotating the dial, there is a demand for current systems to have a fast forward/reverse function that will allow the rapid retrieval and selection of desired items from the huge amounts of music and information.

The EC35B Series of hollow-shaft encoders incorporates an industry first: an encoder and self-return switch incorporated in a single, dual-function dial.

With the new dial, switching between the encoder and self-return switch is carried out by pushing in and holding down the encoder dial while rotating the switch either to the right or the left to the "on" position.

Releasing the dial returns the control to the (self-return) "off" position.

Alps Electric has combined the two mechanisms using the software of the set product element; if the dial is rotated without being pressed down, the control serves as an encoder for the selection of single items, and, if held down while being rotated, the control provides a fast forward/reverse function, for example to jump several items.

In addition, by having a hollow shaft, the EC35B Series allows more freedom of set design.

In recent years, digital devices have come to feature single controls with multifunction capabilities, and the trend has been for these controls to be illuminated by LEDs to make the dial more easily visible under low-light conditions.

The use of a hollow shaft design enables the placement of the switch and LED in the centre of the control.

The operating feeling of the set product and user interface controlling these operating parts is also an important design element from the perspectives of quality and use.

The EC35B Series dial has a high rotation torque setting, offering the user good tactile feedback.

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