When trusting an encoder component manufacturer for your engineering solutions, you need to tick a few boxes for reliability, quality, performance, and service. At Photo Solutions, we’d like to add USA-made encoder components to that list. And, since 1989, we’ve been manufacturing encoders that meet and exceed industry standards.
What’s Different About Our USA-Made Encoder Components?
A year after the first optoelectronic cable was installed in the Atlantic Ocean, we began Photo Solutions. At the time, the concept of photonics was only a couple of decades old (around 1960) but had not yet made its way into more mainstream discussion. Optoelectronic components were still small powerhouses with big engineering consequences, but their uses had not yet expanded to where they are today.
When we opened in 1989, we had a few goals. The first was to take everything we had learned at Renco Encoders the 12 years prior and use that knowledge to rethink encoder disc technology. The second was to manufacture the highest quality USA-made encoder components for clients around the world.
In the last thirty-plus years, we’ve reached these goals. And thanks to our small team of dedicated Oregon-based experts, we can provide high-quality custom components with precision, flexibility, and unbeatable customer service.
Let’s take a deep dive into our product offerings.
As a key part of your sensing device, encoder discs need precise manufacturing and etching for optimal performance. Of all the USA-made encoder components we manufacture, encoder discs are our specialty. Depending on your design or form factor, we can fabricate encoder discs in varying diameters and with custom tooling for mission-critical precision.
We offer these discs in various materials, including glass, Mylar, and aluminum.
For our custom-manufactured encoders, we typically use soda-lime glass. This material offers excellent flatness and rigidity, which makes it ideal for high-precision designs. We can also produce encoders with borosilicate and quartz substrates if the application calls for it.
Glass encoder discs: Chrome-on-glass encoder discs are extremely flat, which offers the highest degree of accuracy when it comes to etched photo patterns. This is particularly helpful if your provided designs are complex and your end application requires the utmost accuracy. With CAD data, we can generate a high-resolution glass master from which we print the parts. These parts range from 5mm to 300mm with thicknesses from 0.10” to .120.”
Transmissive mode glass discs: These encoders are made for high-performance applications. Typically this includes configurations at 2.8 optical density, but we can go up to 5.0 and beyond if needed. For extreme sine wave applications, we use ultra-flat quartz and, for high-temperature applications, borosilicate glass.
Reflective mode glass discs: Depending on the end goal, we can add high reflective chrome (HRC) coating with more than 60 percent reflectivity. We can additionally add ultra-low reflective chrome to eliminate unwanted reflections from other components.
Mylar is an excellent, cost-effective option for prototypes or protected encoder uses. That’s due to its easy application, but susceptibility to damage from heat or humidity.
Mylar encoder discs: Because we’ve developed an automated process for these components, we can offer cost savings in production or prototype quantities. With vision recognition technology, we can cut within .025mm of the pattern. During this process, we can also laser-cut registration holes and cutouts to precisely align the photo patterns of devices.
Reflective Mylar encoder discs: Although similar in some ways to their glass counterparts, these discs are often not as flat or stiff. We often bond acrylic substrates to increase thickness and stiffness to compensate for this. We also provide protective liners to preserve the integrity of these components.
The third material we use for our encoder discs is aluminum for its durability and extreme resistance to heat and humidity.
Reflective aluminum encoder discs: These components can withstand extreme environmental conditions and are reserved for applications with such demands. We can manufacture these components in diameters up to 250mm.
When encoding precise position, you need an encoder scale built to your specifications. Just as we manufacture our discs to a multitude of designs and form factors, so do we with our scales. Our capabilities include scales in lengths of 2mm to 800mm with custom tooling, but we also welcome unusual and custom design projects. As with our discs, these USA-made encoder components are manufactured in glass, Mylar, and aluminum.
We recommend glass or quartz for encoder scales that need extreme precision and flatness.
Glass scales: Photo Solutions’ chrome-on-glass encoder scales offer our highest accuracy. As with our discs, we use CAD data and customer specifications for high-resolution glass masters. We additionally can include economical scribe and break cutting or high tolerance sawing for pattern-to-scale outline tolerances.
Transmissive Mode Glass: We offer transmissive mode glass scales for OEM and high-performance applications. Although the standard is soda-lime glass, we apply ultra-flat quartz or borosilicate glass when specified.
Reflective Mode Glass Scales: Depending on the need, we can use high reflective chrome coating, transparent patterns, or high reflective patterns with ultra-low reflective chrome on the backside. If clients prefer, we can use gold coating for high-performance applications.
Low cost and easy to apply, Mylar encoder scales are an excellent choice for low-cost applications.
Mylar Encoder Scales: Our Mylar codestrips are printed on photographic PET film with a .18mm thick base. With our laser cutting systems, we can cut the outline of the part to within 0.25mm of the pattern. We can include peel-off liners to protect the optical surface for extra protection.
Reflective Mylar Encoder Scales: Our Mylar composite codestrips are available with pressure-sensitive adhesive for easy mounting. We provide peel-and-stick scales with laser-cut registration features as well.
As with encoder discs, aluminum encoder scales are best for extreme applications.
Reflective Aluminum Encoder Scales: We offer aluminum scales in lengths up to 300mm. They can withstand extreme environmental conditions such as changes in heat and humidity.
Custom USA-Made Encoder Components
When we began Photos Solutions, the industry was just starting to explore the possibilities of optoelectronic components. However, because we knew our customers would apply our components to various applications across industries, we made custom work part of our core offering. As such, we never shy away from a challenge. And when it comes to custom solutions, our team will work with you to design one that’s built to your exact specifications.
Primary custom requests include:
With fine patterns and lines, reticles need precision for optimal accuracy. These components are directly responsible for aiming, targeting, or measuring, whether applied to scopes, telescopes, or microscopes. We use CAD data to image custom artwork on glass, Mylar, or aluminum substrates up to 2um resolution to produce the highest quality reticles.
Similar to reticles, custom calibration targets rely on finely defined grid patterns on shapes. Given this detailed process, our team uses photolithography to create precise edge features for accurate calibration down to a 2um resolution. We produce these custom components on glass, quartz, or borosilicate.
In the medical field, precision is not just necessary; it’s critical. We have a long history of supplying our USA-made encoder components to ophthalmological clients for eye examination instruments. For these and other medical devices, we know they require precision grooves, ridges, channels, holes, windows, and other geometric patterns. Through micro-lithographic patterning, we offer various techniques and solutions to construct these microfluidic devices on quartz, soda-lime glass, and borosilicate glass.
Hub & Disc Assemblies
Last but not least is our hub and disc assemblies. When applying these components for slowing, stopping, or holding action precision tolerance and machining is crucial. We use precision Swiss screw machined hub bores that provide unmatched precision for your components.
Because we manufacture these components for a variety of industrial applications, we can also bond to actuators, gears, flywheels, and other assemblies with removable, protective liners for easy installation. As a custom shop, we can meet customer applications from OEM encoder companies to motion control clients.
USA-Made Encoder Components For Your Engineering Solutions
In the last three-plus decades, we’ve made a name for ourselves in the optoelectronic industry. We’ve built our reputation on providing the highest quality USA-made encoder components to clients across the globe and industries. Get in touch for a free quote to see what we can do for you!