Everything You Need to Know About Ruggedized Joysticks

Ruggedized joysticks (also known as industrial joysticks) convert joystick motion into an output signal using potentiometric, inductive, or photoelectric sensor systems and/or switches. Typically, they are constructed of stainless steel, nylon, nylon plastic, or plastic with glass fibers. Joystick controllers come in a variety of designs. Depending on your needs, you will be able to find a joystick in the size and design that you want.

Unlike gaming joysticks, ruggedized joysticks are used with heavy machinery or in demanding environments. They are used on such equipment as:

  • Cranes
  • Forklifts
  • Vehicle steering
  • Agricultural machinery
  • Military or municipal vehicles
  • Excavators
  • Hoist devices

For sensitive applications, precision joystick controllers are used. They are used in applications like microscope control, steering vehicles, positioning, and speed control. Additionally, they are used in stage approaches, wheelchairs, surveillance cameras, optical measurement equipment, and medical diagnostic devices.


Desktop controllers must meet a variety of requirements, including axis, friction hold, spring return, and protocol support. There are six degrees of freedom (DOF) that correspond to the movement’s axis. The available directions are yaw, pitch, roll, x, y, and z. It’s typical to find joystick controllers with one to six axes. Friction-hold mechanisms in devices fasten the switching lever in the desired position. The gadget is brought back to the center position by spring return or centring, which is caused by mechanical or programmable spring force.

There are numerous different connector types that can handle different protocols. Examples include pulse width modulation (PWM), CANbus, PROFIBUS, and universal serial bus (USB). On many older sound cards, the game port connector is labeled DB-15. A common serial interface for data terminal and data communications devices is RS232.


There are several types of ruggedized joysticks. The most common ones are:

  • Inductive joysticks

These have a magnetic coil that is connected to the bottom of the grip shaft. This is directly over four other magnetic mounted on the circuit board in the base. Any deflection of the grip shaft will move the shaft-mounted magnetic coil over the 4 stationary coils. This causes a change in the magnetic waveform patterns.

  • Resistive joysticks

These rely on potentiometers that are mounted to spring-loaded bails. They are moved by the deflection of the joystick handle. Outputs are read as changes in voltage or changes in electrical resistance.

  • Hybrid joysticks

These types of joysticks combine both resistive and inductive technologies.

  • Hall effect joysticks

These use a non-contact sensor. They are considered to be more accurate and more durable.


Industrial joysticks come in a variety of handle configurations, mounting options, and unique features. Many joystick grips have a ball-like shape, are straight or conical tubes, or are curved to fit the hand. The most common ways to operate multifunction grips are through a rocker switch, push button, thumbwheel, or trigger. Some joysticks can be mounted on a desktop or panel. Others come as kits from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or are portable.

Ruggedized Joysticks