What is a Stepper Motor Used for?

Stepper motors have a wide range of applications in many industries and disciplines, some of the more common uses are:

  • Calculation
  • Robots
  • Cameras
  • Printing and scanning, including in 3D printers
  • Process automation and packaging machinery
  • Precision positioning equipment
  • Position of valve pilot stage for fluid control systems

Stepper motors for 3D printers

A common 3D printer part list almost always includes some description of a stepper motor. This is because using a stepper motor in a 3D printer is a highly accurate and cost-effective way to perform very precise, accurate movements and rotations as the printer attempts to convert digital scan information into physical 3D objects.

Stepper motors and drivers in 3D printers allow tightly controlled motion along the X, Y, and Z axes individually or simultaneously, which means extremely high motion and positioning accuracy can be achieved without encoders and other additional software or sensors.

Most 3D printers will contain multiple stepper motors – often found in the construction platform itself and in the filament extruder – that help pull in the filament and control the duration of a print run that provides a consistent, uniform material to the machine throughout the process.

Stepper motor for CNC machine

Stepper motors are an alternative to servo motors and can power most types of CNC machines. CNC applications include a very wide range of manufacturing processes in which pre-programmed computer software controls the operation and physical movement of the machine tool in the factory and manufacturing environment.

While stepper motors in CNC applications are often seen as a more “budget” alternative to servo motors, this is based on an oversimplification of old technical knowledge that is not always strictly accurate today. Stepper motors are generally cheaper than servo motors for the same power, but modern versions are often just as versatile. As a result, stepper motors are more common and can be found in a wider range of machines and systems, from machine tools to desktop computers and cars.

CNC stepper motors have another key advantage over servo motors because they do not require encoders. Servomotors are inherently easier to understand and operate than stepper versions, and part of this complexity is due to the fact that they include an encoder that is more prone to failure than most components in other reliable servomotors. Stepper motors do not require encoders and are theoretically more reliable than servo motors.

In addition, stepper motors are also brushless meaning they do not need to be replaced regularly, as long as their bearings remain in good working condition.

Stepper motor for Raspberry Pi

Stepper motors are a very common peripheral device that is added to the Raspberry Pi single-board computing module for home enthusiasts to teach themselves the basics of basic computer programming skills.

Raspberry Pi Starter kits are usually sold in very simple configurations, and the idea is that individual users will add whatever add-ons they like to their systems in the order they choose to learn, increasing their skills through learning controls using new components of programming languages such as Python.

In the Raspberry Pi user community, learning to operate and control small, inexpensive stepper motors is often seen as the logical next step after learning to control LED on/off cycles and other simple switch or buzzer types. In fact, by connecting several stepper motors in sequence, home hobbyists can start to create a simple and programmable robot.

There are a number of stepper motor types available in the UK for this type of application, starting with the very cheap 5V version, which is easy to connect to a connector on a Raspberry Pi motherboard.

Stepper motor for camera

Stepper motors are widely used in various applications of high-end camera technology. They can be used to control extremely sophisticated internal structures, such as autofocus and aperture Settings within a lens, as well as the housing and external machinery of security cameras and remote surveillance systems.

In particular, the stepper motor and electric camera slider allow very smooth operation of the camera positioning device, which means that shots taken from safety equipment can be reliably kept free of potential problem image distortion caused by the physical movement of the camera around its field of view.

Stepper motors provide several other attractive features for camera and video surveillance positioning systems, including full torque at rest, extremely accurate and instant response time for all motion inputs, consistent repeatability of predetermined motions, and simple open-loop control dimensions defined by fixed step sizes.

Stepper motors are a very versatile, reliable, cost-effective and precise way to control motor motion, allowing users to improve the dexterity and efficiency of programming motion in a variety of applications and industries. As such, they form an important and widely used subset of the broader category of automation and control devices.

With so many stepper motor brands, sizes, torque ratings, design styles and intended applications sold in the UK and worldwide, it is crucial to determine exactly which configuration is best for what user environment when planning a purchase.

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