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Common questions, problems, and misconceptions of Stepper Motor

I have listed some common questions people have asked me and forums. Let me know if I have missed something big from the list.

Common questions, problems, and misconceptions of Stepper Motor

How to run a stepper motor without a microcontroller?
It’s totally possible since the drive doesn’t care where it gets it’s stepping impulses. You only need some kind of source for pulses and direction.

The simplest option would be to use a NE555 timer chip. Check out this video. There is definitely some applications out there where frequency generator and some buttons and knobs are a viable solution. Maybe a photography timelapse slider? But maybe it would be easier to use a casual DC motor instead?

How to rotate stepper motor 90 degree (or any other degrees)
Since stepper motor is moved one step a time you need to know how many degrees one step is. Most likely it’s a 1.8 degrees per step. This means full rotation will be achieved when the motor is instructed to make 200 steps (1.8 degrees * 200 steps = 360 degrees).

So real question will be following. How many steps do I need to rotate motor 90 degrees?

For 90 degrees example with 1.8 degrees stepper motor, we end up with 50 steps by following a simple formula.

90 degrees / 1.8 degrees => 50 steps

Here is another example of moving 45 degrees:

45 / 1.8 => 25 steps

How can we control the speed of stepper motor?
Speed is controlled by how many step commands are given in a given time period. If you send 400 step commands to drive in one second and the motor is 1.8 degrees per step. You end up turning motor exactly 2 full rotations. This makes the speed of 2 revolutions per second (2rpm).

Actual one step movement itself can’t be changed since it happens as the fast motor is capable of moving. But it’s possible to use microstepping to smooth it out a bit.

Can stepper motors run continuously?

Yes. Stepper motors for sale are designed to spin continuously both forwards or backward.

What is holding torque (current) and why it’s needed?

Stepper motor windings are energized even if rotor itself is stationary. This is needed to hold the load in place while standing still.

Holding torque is the amount of torque needed to move the motor one full step while coils are powered and rotor is stationary. Holding current is typically the current that the motor can withstand and the driver is giving while standing still.

But why we need power while standing still?

You might think that when a motor is not turning there is no need to power the coils? It can be so, but only if it’s not movable by external forces. If other components can move position it might be needed to hold motor still by not removing power from coils. Otherwise, the motor can lose position while not in use by some forces applied by other axes in the machine.


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