Well it’s the new year, so I’m going to talk a little bit about cnc stepper motor driver systems. Having the right cnc stepper motor driver is crucial.
Below is a guide on what a stepper motor driver is and also some pointers on where to buy:
What is a stepper motor?
A stepper motor or stepper motor is different to a DC motor as it is brushless and has “toothed” electromagnets around a central gear shape. This divides the full rotation into an equal number of steps.
The stepper motor can then be stopped at each individual step if commanded to do so. Each of these stops is called a ‘step’ hence the name stepper motor.
What are the different types of stepper motors?
1.) Lavet type stepping motor
2.) Permanent magnet stepper – there is a permanent magnet in the rotor, operates on the repulsion or attraction between the stator electromagnets and the permanent magnet.
3.) Variable reluctance stepper – plain iron rotor, the rotor points in a variable reluctance stepper are attracted towards the stator electromagnets.
4.) Hybrid Synchronous stepper – Uses a combination of both a hybrid synchronous and permanent magnet stepper motor to achieve max efficiency in a smaller size.
What is in a stepper motor system?
There are three basic elements in a stepper motor system:
1.) Drivers/ Amplifier – The Amplifier/ driver converts the indexer command signals into usable power to power the windings of the motor. There are different current and voltage ratings depending on the driver/ amplifier you have. Because of this, selecting the right driver for a motion control system is crucial.
2.) Controller / Indexers – To generate the directional signals and the step pulses to run the driver as well as more advanced command functions, you need a microprocessor which is the indexer/ controller.
3.) Stepper motor– Converts the digital pulses into shaft rotation mechanically using an electromagnetic device.
CNC stepper motor controller options
Options for cnc stepper motor driver systems for 2013:
3 axis cnc stepper motor driver: SainSmart CNC TB6560 3 Axis Stepper Motor Driver Controller Board & Cable Good value as it can also drive a 4th axis. Reportedly runs pretty smooth – documentation can be found here to set DTP switches. This board is also compatible with Mach 3.
4 axis cnc stepper motor driver SainSmart CNC TB6560 4 Axis 3.5A Stepper Motor Driver Board Controller Engraving Machine Easy to install 4 axis cnc router stepper motor board. Utilizes 2 signal processing with a high powered 3.5A chipset. There are 4 channel inputs here for a stop and X, Y, Z directions. Great for stepper motoros with a current rating between 1.5A to 3.5A
5 axis stepper motor driver for cnc mill SainSmart 5 Axis Breakout Board for Stepper Motor Driver CNC Mill *Blue* – The SainSmart features 2 stage signal processing and an array of other features worth a look.
For an alternative to SainSmart I recommend Probotix. They have a good range of stepper motor drivers as well as stepper motors for cnc machines. They have both bi-polar and uni-polar stepper motor chopper drivers here.
Surestep stepper motor drives from Automation Direct – Standard and advanced stepper drives that are affordable and solid. The devices use microsteppung that allows smoother motor and stepping response as well as reduced vibration for better efficiency. They also have video tutorials here.
DIY cnc stepper motor driver kit sets/ instructions:
For the ambitious DIY inclined – Instructables.com has a great tutorial on building a parallel port 3 axis cnc unipolar stepper driver here, as well as a stepper driver board for a multi-axis router here.
There’s also an open source cnc stepper motor driver board project going on here where you can get instructions from. This project is called EasyDriver – v4.4 of the cnc stepper motor driver circuit board can be seen in the picture on the right here. I wouldn’t call this an easy cnc stepper motor driver set-up, but because it is open-source, the plans are free, so take a look and see how you feel.
UPDATE: If you don’t feel like making this, you can buy it here: EasyDriver Stepper Motor Driver
CNC stepper driver boards from eBay:
I hardly ever use eBay, but sometimes there are gems – especially with stepper driver board controllers. They are small enough to ship and aren’t too expensive. I recommend a couple:
Check out the 3 Axis TB6560 CNC Stepper Motor Driver Board Controller or the 4 Axis TB6560 CNC Stepper Motor Driver Board Controller. The former is easier to get on eBay, but the 4 axis board comes and goes, but there is a great wiki on the 4 axis board here that is definitely worth a look.
Top cnc stepper motors
I know I have talked a lot about cnc stepper motor drivers so far, and you probably already have a stepper motor anyway, but for those that don’t, here are some recommendations based on quality of brand and ease of purchase:
Applied motion products – These guys have a solid product category for two-phase and hybrid stepper motors here.
Probotix – This is the top place to go to for selection. Check out their range of hybrid motors here. This is a great one-stop place to get your stepper motor as well as stepper motor drives for a cnc router/ lathe machine. You have a lot of choice here as the motors range from 2 to a large 8 amp stepper motor.
Unipolar vs Bipolar stepper motor systems explained here by Probotix.
With a new website, Automation Technologies inc. has a ton of motion control parts for cnc work. They have a good range of stepper motors as well as stepper motor drives available here. Their 3.5A dual shaft NEMA23 is a great choce for a stepper motor due to its hybrid motor and bi-polar set-up.
HobbyCNC – These guys have a simple website that sells cnc focused parts too. You can order stepper motors from them directly. They have 2.1 Amp to 3 Amp motors, so don’t really match Probotix in terms of selection. but their pricing is very competitive.
I’ve covered a ton of different options for a new stepper motor or a cnc stepper motor driver. Please leave a comment below if you’ve found a great fit that you recommend!