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SpaceMouse® Module – outstanding operating characteristics
The 6 degrees of freedom of this module allow the replacement of 2 conventional joysticks. Thanks to proven optoelectronic sensor technology, our space mouse modules are extremely reliable partners in human-machine interaction. Drones, robots, camera and measurement systems can be controlled intuitively and without time-consuming training. The robust surface material as well as the optimal spring strength, dead zone and sealing ensure a long and wear-free service life.
Areas of application for joysticks - the right choice of construction type
To define the best joystick for your application, the first thing to do is to choose the size. In most cases, this can already greatly narrow down the pre-selection of products. The construction types of the different joysticks can be divided into the following categories: Thumb, finger, hand and desktop joysticks. Since each of these sizes was developed for fundamentally different applications, the selection of the right type is usually straightforward.
Thumb joystick, the smallest design
A classic application is remote controls where an operator has to hold a housing in place, leaving his hand free for the input movement. The control is therefore typically performed by the thumb. Thumb joysticks are also installed in control panels or in large handheld joysticks, because space is often limited here, and the dimensions of thumb joysticks are not much larger than those of pushbuttons and switches.
Finger joysticks are the all-rounders in the medium size range
They offer the user the highest operating precision since the person can exercise the best control when operating the knob with the fingers or fingertips. The application possibilities are very diverse and therefore the range of finger joysticks is also the largest. This design is particularly useful for applications such as medical equipment controlling, surveillance cameras or mobile machines.
Hand joysticks, the largest design
In general, it can be said that with the size, in principle, the mechanical stability increases. However, the application also places increased demands on the product. Hand joysticks are therefore found in the "heavy-duty" sector for controlling cranes, construction machinery and other large vehicles and systems. Here, the safety requirements are particularly high and redundant electronics and sensor technology are usually required. Accordingly, the investment costs also increase with the size of the joystick.
Desktop joysticks, a special type of construction
As a rule, these are integrated finger joysticks in desktop cases, which usually offer a few buttons for additional functions in the case. These input devices cover the rather large demand for stationary applications with already permanently installed finger joysticks. Particularly worth mentioning is the area for video surveillance. Nowadays, only USB variants are important here because the input information is usually immediately transferred to a computer.
Axis configuration, selection of available degrees of freedom
Each joystick model has certain limitations regarding the number of degrees of freedom available and their freedom of movement for operation. The degrees of freedom are called axes in joysticks. Most models offer 2 axes, i.e. the deflection of the knob can be in X and Y direction (forward-backward, left-right). In addition, some models allow the knob to be rotated. This is called the z-axis, and in simple designs it allows a total of 3 degrees of freedom to be entered. Most thumb joysticks offer a maximum of 2 degrees of freedom. Many finger joysticks are available as 3-axis joysticks. However, even more axes can be implemented in hand joysticks. In the head plate of these joysticks there is space for additional input elements and thus possibilities for the implementation of corresponding degrees of freedom.
An exception in the range are our SpaceMouse® modules: Here, the control knob can be deflected in all three spatial directions - in addition, tilting/rotation of each spatial direction is possible. This results in a total of 6 degrees of freedom, which enable direct, intuitive navigation and control in 3-dimensional space.
Axis configuration, selection of the limiter
The freedom of movement of the main axes can be restricted for almost all models. In some applications, the second axis should be locked when the first axis is deflected ("plus" limiter). In other cases, only the simultaneous deflection should be possible only to a reduced extent (round linkage). Full freedom of movement is offered by the square linkage. Some hand joystick models offer the possibility to snap in the middle or at deflection. For this, see the section "Reset properties and haptics".
The handle, interface to the user
The configurability of handles increases with the size of the model. Thumb joysticks offer many handle shapes and a few offer the possibility of switching with pressure on the handle.
In finger joysticks, the variety continues to increase and multiple push buttons are already possible.
Hand joysticks offer the greatest variety of knob options. Here, almost all models are even customized for the application. The configurability is usually higher than indicated on the data sheets. Contact us to get the best solution for your application!
Sensor technology, contactless, potentiometric or by switch
Two main technologies are of importance for electrical industrial joysticks today: Hall sensors and potentiometric sensors.
Hall sensor technology is a technology in which the sensory detection of the deflection is contactless. This has the advantage that virtually no wear and therefore no change in sensor behavior is to be expected over the entire operating time.
If there are no particular reasons for excluding this technology, such as strong electromagnetic interference fields in the environment of the application, then the choice usually falls on Hall sensors.
Potentiometric sensors use wiper and resistance elements for sensory detection. Only high-quality, so-called precision potentiometers meet the requirements for quality and service life. The advantage of this technology is its insensitivity to external interference fields. Joysticks with potentiometric sensors are still used in medical technology in particular. Here, the requirements for immunity to X-rays, other interference fields and electrostatic discharges are very high.
If applications do not require a continuous output signal between minimum and maximum deflection, switch sticks are a good choice. These are simply equipped with switches that detect the deflection of the joystick. Thanks to the simple and straightforward design, switches are very insensitive to interference and disturbances. However, the number of switching operations is limited and usually results in a shorter lifespan. A special case is the use of switch sticks for switching high currents directly via the joystick, which otherwise has to be done with an external relay.
In general, it should be noted that the sensor technology used says nothing about the quality and durability of the joystick's mechanics. It can happen that the mechanics of low-cost components fail long before the sensor technology, which is why the sensor technology should not be overrated. In uncomplicated cases, we recommend compact Hall joysticks, as these are the easiest to integrate today and are very suitable for most applications.
For safety-critical applications, redundant versions are often required, with two sensor elements per axis. Almost every one of our models is optionally available as a redundant version.
Return mechanism and haptics
As a rule, the application determines whether the joystick should return to its initial position when not actuated (by spring return) or whether it should remain in its last position in one or more directions of deflection (friction brake, optionally also by detent positions). Most modern joystick models are equipped with a central spring. This realizes the return of the operating lever for both deflection directions to the center position. The strength of the spring can be adjusted. For design reasons, no further adjustments such as an additional friction brake can be implemented.
If the application requires a friction brake or detent positions, then special models must be used whose design is larger and more complex, but thus correspondingly more flexible for such adaptations.
Outputs/interfaces, analog or digital
Almost all joystick models offer analog voltage outputs in the 0-5 V range. These are usually the basic versions of the products and accordingly also the most economical versions. Since potentiometers are basically passive components, potentiometrically equipped joysticks usually only offer analog outputs. For some models, only analog versions are available, which is sufficient for most applications. Modern models with non-contact sensors offer additional digital interfaces, such as pulse width modulation (PWM), USB, RS232 (serial) and CAN bus variants. The interfaces offered are sometimes very different and only listed for certain series. Therefore, it pays to only look at these products when the interface is specified.
Most models can be installed in a panel from the top. Typically, the base, the joystick pot, is round in design and is attached using 4 screws. On some models, the handle fits through the recess in the panel and can therefore also be installed in the panel from below. Depending on the protection class and general type of construction, the covers of the mechanics (rubber bellows) are screwed together with a cover ring or own seals are supplied, which ensure the sealing in the panel.
Our particular strength is the customization of products. Especially the optimal adjustment of our joysticks to the application is in demand for small to medium quantities, as niche markets are often served here. Joysticks offer a variety of customization options. Depending on the feature that is to be modified, these adaptations can already be carried out for small quantities. Please contact us and describe your request - we will find the best solution for your application!