A potentiometer is a variable resistor with three terminals. Two terminals are connected to ends of a resistive element, and a third terminal connects to a sliding contact that can move over the resistive element. The position of the wiper determines output voltage. Single-turn rotary potentiometers are some of the most common variable resistance devices found in electronics today, with a wide range of uses across many applications and industries.
In industrial applications, potentiometers are used to finely tune the behavior of circuit, giving users manual control over the operation of machinery or components. They are also widely used for calibration and tuning purposes, often included in component design as presets that are typically fixed and only adjusted if necessary. These types of potentiometers are called trimpots and require tools, like a flat head screwdriver, to change resistance.
Potentiometers are favored in applications that require high resolution like making precise volume or speed adjustments, changing frequencies, and dividing voltage.