Technical Blog

What is a Potentiometer?

A potentiometer is a type of position sensor. They are used to measure displacement in any direction. Linear potentiometers linearly measure displacement and rotary potentiometers measure rotational displacement.

The mechanical construction of rotary and linear potentiometers is very similar, each type consists of a contact wiper and a conductive element or track. In Linear Potentiometers the track is straight and in Rotary potentiometers the track is circular. The wiper moves along the track to measure the displacement by proportionally dividing the input voltage.

 “Potentiometer” refers to the types of technology used and the construction of the sensor itself and is just one type of position sensor. There is a wide range of alternative technologies available for measuring displacement – you can read about some of them here.

Our potentiometer ranges can be viewed on our website under Position Sensors.

Why Choose a Potentiometer

Potentiometers are used throughout many industries for a whole host of applications. They are often selected for the following features;

  • Long life
  • Improved linearity
  • Simple analogue device
  • Typically, lower cost (when compared to other technologies)
  • Wide operating temperatures
  • Durable and robust
  • Small in size – particularly rotary potentiometers

What is a Potentiometer for?

Because of their robustness and accuracy, potentiometers can be used in the following areas:

  • Steering systems – on agricultural machinery, heavy-duty machinery and some marine vehicles
  • Motorsport Applications –ride height, gear shifts, steering angle measurement, suspension and throttle control
  • Plastic injection moulding machines
  • Valve Positioning
  • Joysticks & hand controllers
  • Medical-beds and couches
  • Industrial automation machinery

Variohm’s Range of Potentiometers

Our range of Potentiometers offers outstanding linearity & repeatability in a variety of mechanical housing/assemblies along with a broad range of IP ratings to suit different environments.

Potentiometers from Variohm include;

Linear Potentiometers – this includes our range of potentiometers such as the VLP (Variohm Linear Potentiometer). This range has a dual seal design for long life and extended reliability, uses elastomer damped wipers and features self-alignment pivot bearings. Our ELPM is especially well suited to motorsport applications due to its size and durability.

Cable Extension Transducers – also known as string pots or string potentiometers, are a way of measuring linear displacement using a cable or wire. These are well suited to longer range applications.

Rotary Potentiometers – single turn and multiturn options available, these come from our trusted suppliers and can be viewed on our website.  

Membrane Potentiometers - also known as soft pots, these are very low profile position sensors.

If you would like more information on Potentiometers or have an application you would like to discuss please contact us.  

Article published on: 21/01/2021