Hall Effect vs Potentiometer Joysticks

As the need for joysticks increases designers are undergoing greater pressure to meet use requirements while also lowering cost. These requirements include but are not limited to sensitivity, accuracy, low power, smoother operation, custom size, and multi-function features. It is particularly important in industrial environments where proper control of heavy equipment is critical to prevent work related injuries or loss of productivity.

P3 America has custom developed several types of industrial electric joysticks to serve  Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and operators across industrial, commercial, and consumer environments. When focusing on industrial applications, joysticks for machines and equipment play a crucial role. For this reason, it’s important to be familiar with two of the leading types of industrial joysticks: hall effect joysticks and potentiometer joysticks.

Key Considerations for Industrial Electric Joysticks

There are upsides and downsides to all types of joysticks. It is important to be aware of the underlying dynamics of both potentiometer and hall effect based joysticks to select the one that is appropriate for your specific application.

forklift joystick operator

A potentiometer is a variable resistor which uses a physical wiper arm that slides across the internal electrical element to change the resistance. Potentiometers are traditionally used as analog voltage dividers that provide voltage output signals and are manufactured using one of several electrical element types: carbon, cermet, wire wound or conductive plastic. Each one of these choices have their benefits and drawbacks however all are susceptible to the eventual wear and tear caused by the sliding friction of the wiper arm as the potentiometer shaft is rotated. Cermet and carbon type potentiometers are not often used in joystick applications as they are lower in life and best used in low cycle operations such as panel setting functions.

Hall effect industrial electric joysticks use  non-contact devices that measure magnetic fields. Based on the change in magnetic field, the hall effect sensor acts just like a potentiometer but eliminates the degradation of the element because there is no need for a physical wiper arm. A magnet coupled internally to the end of the shaft is placed in close proximity to the hall effect chip, but never makes contact. While hall effect joysticks can add longevity, other factors need to be considered such as temperature drift or available supply voltage.

Potentiometer Joysticks

Industrial electric potentiometer joysticks have been around for decades and use the principles of  Ohm’s Law to provide a proportional analog output. The potentiometer joystick contains several components that, when moved, increase or decrease the level of resistance within the electronic circuit. Most all data acquisition units, PLCs or microcontrollers are compatible with the ubiquitous nature of the traditional potentiometer.

An electric industrial  potentiometer joystick is an ideal option for applications that require precise movement of industrial equipment or moving machinery. While potentiometer joysticks offer great performance, they do have limitations when it comes to durability. In terms of long-term durability, these types of joysticks may undergo reliability issues due to the wearing of moving parts and minor susceptibility to electromagnetic interference or radio frequency interference. This is especially true for wire wound potentiometers but less so for conductive plastic types which use a smooth electrical track to eliminate as much friction as possible. Likewise, conductive plastic potentiometers do not have the same issues with interference because of the element’s material properties.

Hall Effect Joysticks

In contrast to potentiometer joysticks which leverage electronic circuits, hall effect joysticks use a  magnetic system. Hall effect joysticks have an advantage over potentiometer joysticks because there is no wear from physical contact with the sensor itself. Hall effect electric joysticks are used for industrial applications in the same way as potentiometer types, but excel in those which may have excessive vibration or shock. These applications include mining trucks, backhoe loaders, cranes, excavators, diggers, and more.

While there are several benefits from using hall effect joysticks over potentiometer joysticks, there are also several downsides. Available voltage supply may be a limiting factor as most hall effects require 5VDC whereas a potentiometer can use a wide range of voltages. In addition, there are a few limitations that hall effect joysticks have in the ferromagnetic material that is used, as its magnetic field will change over time and is directly affected by more extreme hot and cold temperatures. These variances in the magnetic field will cause the hall effect joystick to "drift” and affect the output voltage. This creates unwanted variances and impacts the long term reliability of the hall effect joystick.

Choosing the Right Joystick: Hall Effect vs Potentiometer

When it comes to  selecting an industrial electric joystick, there are a few questions you should be asking. The following questions are designed to help from both an operational performance and budgetary standpoint.

  • Operating Environment - What is the environment that the joystick will be in and what is the required Ingress Protection (IP) code?
  • Life Expectancy - How long does the joystick need to be in operation and how does that compare with the life of the machinery or equipment it will be operating?
  • Project Budget - How much of the project budget can be allocated to selecting a high performing industrial electric joystick? How will this investment both improve operational performance and prevent maintenance and replacement costs down the road?

While these are only a few of the factors that your team should be considering when selecting a hall effect or potentiometer joystick, they are good to keep at the top of your mind. Where needed, additional joystick programming and engineering can be handled by  P3 America.

Consult P3 America to Choose the Right Industrial Electric Joysticks

When navigating the landscape of industrial joysticks, it’s important to explore the full range of functions and capabilities that each has to offer. Multi-function industrial joysticks can be  customized for your company’s specific applications and projects. When working with potentiometer and hall effect joysticks, P3 America selects the appropriate resistance levels and handle deflection based on your team’s specifications. Additional accessories can be incorporated into the design for seamless operation and optimal performance.

To speak with an engineer on the merits of Hall effect vs potentiometer joysticks for your application,  contact us today. and one of our USA-based application engineers or design specialists will work with your team.

Mar 13th 2020

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