Machine design: Selecting and using joysticks

Joysticks have replaced many traditional lever systems for the control.


Manufacturers of front-panel control systems need an input device that matches the sophistication of their underlying control software, can stand up to continual use, and is a cost-effective component of the overall system. The intuitive nature of the joystick has made it a natural for precision control applications. Choosing the right handle is not just a question of how the unit looks but also how it will be used. Jim Cooper, product manager in the controls division of joystick maker APEM provides advice of selecting and using joysticks in various applications.


Joystick manufacturers have expanded upon the basic functionality to create a range of specialized products, adapting everything from the core materials to the overall look and feel, to meet the special requirements for each application, says Cooper. The joystick must fit seamlessly into the front panel, whether you are using drop-in or sub-panel mounting. Space is always an issue, and a low-profile sub-panel joystick allows you to design the thinnest possible panels.


Joysticks have replaced many traditional lever systems for the control of tractors, loaders, and cranes, for example. Like the machines they control, these joysticks must be built from robust metal and rubber components that can stand up to grueling usage, Cooper says.


Going beyond the core requirements for strength and reliability, ar low resistance to make the handle easier to move.


Coordinate measuring machines (CMM) developers require the highest level of accuracy and consistency. This is an application where you don’t want to worry about calibration of the measuring device, so the non-degrading contactless option is the best choice, says Cooper. The joystick should offer the same level of control whether on a tabletop or a gantry system.


For more advice on selecting and using the proper joystick, see Jim Cooper’s article

—Edited by Renee Robbins , Editorial Director, Control Engineering

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APEM Components Inc.

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