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Types of Position Indicators

Whether you're buying a position indicator for your DIY project or you're an expert, you need to take some time to understand how the different options in the market suit your needs.

A position indicator is a mechanical tool used to indicate, measure, and monitor how a machine component moves along a shaft or threaded linear spindle. Position indicators serve multiple functions like reading values such as length, force, and the number of revolutions in different measuring systems. In addition to this, they can also be used for regulating speed limits.

There are different types of position indicators, including mechanical position indicators, shaft position indicators, and handwheel indicators. We also have electronic position indicators. In this article, we will look at the unique features of each of them and go through some accessories you'll need for your next position indicator.

In this article we will take a closer look at:

1. Mechanical Digital Position Indicators
2. Shaft Position Indicators
3. Handwheel Position Indicators
4. Position Indicator Accessories
    > Dials
    > Sensors and Knobs
5. Summary

Mechanical Digital Position Indicators

Simple and easy-to-grasp technology, digital position indicators are ideal for monitoring roller adjustment on sheet metal bending machines with their digital displays. These adjustment aids also offer problem-free and cost-efficient retrofit stability.

The major features of a mechanical digital position indicator are its robust display system with several digits plus a sophisticated meter reader for accurate readings. It also has a gear that translates adjacent axle revolutions into simple display scales. 

Due to their level of versatility, mechanical digital position indicators fit into multiple industries, including plastic, metal, and woodwork factories. In woodwork industries, mechanical digital position indicators serve different functions—you can cut, mill, glue, and polish plates on a single machine.

Shaft Position Indicators

When you pick up a hollow shaft position indicator, the first thing you'd notice is its extremely simple assembly. Next, you'd notice how the tool's bore-to-body matrix design allows for better dirt immunity.

Shaft position indicators also support a more comprehensive range of gear ratios, especially custom ratios. On the surface of the tool,  you'd find two 5-digit display position counters. Typically, one red digit indicates decimal for tenths. If you want, you can request two red digits for hundredths, three red digits for thousandths, or five black digits for no decimal.

One major advantage of using shaft position indicators is they are shock-proof, and they also allow you to make small adjustments in tight spaces. You can choose from multiple viewing angles for your meter readings too.

Handwheel Position Indicators

A handwheel position indicator is made of a motion handwheel that is attached to a driveshaft. This type of position indicator comes with an indicator that you use to read speed, angles, shiftings, among others. Handwheel position indicators can be analog or analog-digital. 

You can take readings with this indicator by turning the driveshaft. There are different step-down ratios on the indicator depending on the number of turns you make with this tool. It also has a control dial for indexing.

Handwheel position indicators use gravity reaction or fixed reaction. Gravity reaction happens when the indicator's gear system controls the pointers to make an adjustment. This is common with indicators that have horizontal shafts or shafts with little or no inclination angles.

Indicators that work through fixed reactions have vertical or inclined shafts. In this case, the crown wheel moves the motion handwheel for a reading. The crown wheel is attached to a lock pin and mounted on the indicator's casing. 

Handwheel Position Indicator Diagram

Source: Fiama

position indicator

Position Indicator Accessories

Generally, position indicators do not work alone. Whether you plan to purchase a handwheel, digital or mechanical digital position indicator, you need to get one or more accessories to help the indicator do its best work for you. Dials, sensors, and knobs are some of the most important position indicator accessories you'll need.

In this section, we will provide an overview of the different accessories for a position indicator.


A dial is a tiny piece of equipment that is used to determine the precision of a position indicator. It has pinions, levers, or gears, and it can come in a circular shape or sector shape. However, it's better to go for circular shape dial indicators for more accurate measurements.

A dial indicator has 7 main parts namely the lock nut, mini dial, magnification mechanism, spindle, needle or indicator, and the main scale. Depending on your needs, you can purchase a lever dial indicator, reverse continuous dial indicators, Prelinger indicator, test dial indicators, and many others.

The types of dial indicators are differentiated by how reading happens. For example, in a reversed balance dial indicator, the numbers are calibrated in the opposite direction. For continuous dial indicators, the figures are only calibrated in a single direction.

Sensors and Knobs

A sensor detects any changes in the environment and sends a signal to the indicator.  The position indicator displays this signal as an analog or digital reading that humans can easily understand. Magnetic sensors also help with the tool and gauge positioning during woodwork and metalwork.

Like sensors, knobs help the position indicator to place objects correctly during woodwork and metalwork. For example, it helps the technician to control roller adjustments in short bending machines.

Positioning Accessories


At Reid Supply, we offer a variety of position indicators with different features. You can also check out our website to purchase your next stainless steel handwheel and other machine tools and automation accessories.