Potentiometers and adjustable resistors are both electronic components that may be implemented within a system to govern current and allow for many electronics to function properly. While potentiometers and adjustable resistors have similar uses in manipulating voltage values, their methods of operation and applications often differ. In this blog, we will provide a brief overview of the potentiometer and adjustable resistor, allowing you to understand their differences and how each is used within the realm of electronics.
Potentiometers are a type of variable resistor that features three terminals and a sliding or rotating contact. With an adjustable contact brush that may move across the body of the component, resistance values can be changed as needed to meet a particular requirement. While the three-terminal assembly is standard for potentiometers, they can also be used as a two-terminal component such as a variable resistor or rheostat.
While there are a variety of potentiometer components available on the market, the most common types include those such as straight-slip potentiometers, trimmer potentiometers, dual potentiometers, multi-turn potentiometers, and more. Across all types, the operation of the components often centers around the adjustment of voltage and current magnitudes. To achieve this, the rotating shaft or sliding handle of the component can be adjusted as to affect the positioning of the moving contact.
Adjustable resistors are commonly referred to as variable resistors, and they allow for the adjustment of current within a circuit. Adjustable resistor components come in many types, those being wirewound adjustable resistors, adjustable ceramic disks, adjustable resistor chips, and more. Furthermore, varying sizes, shapes, materials, and other manufacturing factors will also have an effect on the performance and use of the particular adjustable resistor.
While the two types of components are fairly similar in their construction and use, there are a number of key differences that set them apart, For one, the potentiometer has a much larger volume and may exhibit a longer service life during operations. With its installation, the potentiometer may also be adjusted frequently as needed to achieve specific values. On the other hand, an adjustable resistor may be installed on a circuit board and is rarely operated outside of general troubleshooting or maintenance. To protect itself from electrical interference, a potentiometer is grounded to the circuit with its metal shell. With the adjustable resistor, no such grounding is present and thus the component may be affected by various forces. Beyond such examples, there are also various differences in the physical construction and operation of adjustable resistors and potentiometers that set them apart.
Generally speaking, potentiometers are often used for audio control, and they may come in linear or rotary types. With either potentiometer type, the loudness of the system or other audio signals may be adjusted as needed. Potentiometers may also be used for motion control applications, as they can serve as a servomechanism that performs position feedback operations. With an adjustable or variable resistor, transducers, oscillators, televisions, home electrical appliances, and other applications may benefit.
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