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 Which Stepper Motor Drive to use? 
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Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:50 pm
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Post Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Hi. I get a lot of questions about what stepper motor drives to use, so this topic can be used to discuss experiences with various brands.

Here is a list of drives I have personally used :

Easy Driver - popular cheap and unsophisticated. Low power and gets very hot when pushed! Input is not opto isolated which means if you fry this one it could fry your controller.

UIrobot from China. I think a better alternative to Easydriver. Has built in heatsink and can drive with more current and voltage (10-40v range) Can also be attached directly to the back of your stepper motor for a more integrated approach. No anti-resonance but works well enough with small motors up to nema23.

GeckoDrive - commonly used for DIY CNC projects. Small size, reliable, several options. Cheapest model uses resistors to set current. Tend to be noisy at higher speeds because the drive switches out of microstepping as the speed increases. Microstep ratio limited to 10x which Gecko claim is all you will need. Limited anti resonance tuning possible. Higher voltage models available for high speed. Watch out though because a heat sink is required for high current and or high voltage.

Leadshine - good range of Chinese made drives often sold under other brand names. A little bigger generally than Gecko but with advantage of built in heatsink. All models have dip switches to set current etc - this is good. Models vary in the max input frequency. "Digital" models have excellent anti-resonance and higher step input frequency. Very high power and voltage models available. For instance the 220vac model can drive big nema 42 motors on your 500kg crane rig.

Parker Compumotor. Been making industrial drives for ever. Can be bought on Ebay for reasonable prices but normally quite expensive. They do set the standard for stepper drives. Solid, smooth and reliable, but usually quite big. The most deluxe Zeta drives requires 110VAC or even 240VAC. I have also used the OEM series which are rated up to 70VDC. They are smaller and have most of the features of the larger drives. Only downside is they require resistors to set current.

IMS. Legacy IM483 models are compact and quite nice. Use resistors for current setting. The best drives are their integrated motor/drivers. They make two variants. The Mdrive has been around for a while and is used in the very expensive Mark Roberts SFH30 pan tilt head. It is not closed loop but has good performance and smoothness. Mdrive Hybrid has encoder style feedback so it's like a stepper on steroids and less likely to lose steps. But these motors are more expensive - you get what you pay for...

EVArobotics in Australia make an integrated drive which can optionally be purchased as a separate unit. It uses a small relatively cheap encoder on the motor for similar performance results to the IMS drives. It also has a programmable chip built which is accessed via USB or serial in so you can go nuts with custom ideas...

There are lots of others. Please add any other information you may feel useful here...


Fri Feb 03, 2012 3:49 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Good information. What do you know about the power requirements on these?

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Fri Feb 03, 2012 5:44 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Really good topic ... Power consumption on a stepper surely is completely dependant on load (driving torque + holding torque). It Must come down to coil inductance. Ok there are other losses but are these not minor?

On some controllers you can control velocity, acceleration and limit current proactively to conserve power. This is particularly usefull if you are using batteries to power for long periods you can tune such parameters within software to maximise battery life.

To get a bit nerdy about it you can also arrange for feedback and log and graph consumption on some. You can then roughly estimate how long the battery will last for a particular configuration. That said though battery storage can be fickle depending upon temp etc.

Hope this keeps this going.

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Sat Feb 04, 2012 3:08 am
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Hello Gerald you are a mine of information . I assume your Mantis / Kflop board works with all the drivers you have mentioned . Easydrivers are great little things but must admit fried a few in my time . Just started using these drivers http://www.cnc4you.co.uk/index.php?rout ... duct_id=31
Got them for my mill but developing a modular driver system for rig so I can change set up for different situations . Easydriver (big Easydriver prob) for low power mobile situations and the CW5045 for more studio higher power situations, and when not using my mill :D . Hope to get round to building crane part of the rig eventually which prob means the dolly will be driven by a Nema 23 .So well out of the range of the old easy driver .
Did however have a prod with the CW5045 when tried to control them with Mach3 (mill software) and Dragonframe . The pulse signal wasn’t long enough easy to sort in Mach 3 you just adjust it in the preferences. Bit more of a problem with Dragonframe but after a email it was resolved in a software upgrade all happy. Would this be a problem with Mantis ?
Noticed a lot of these boards are flooding in from China http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5-Axis-CNC-St ... 3a6ed5c095 Wondered if anybody any experience of them . Might give these a try instead of the Easydriver. Seems a nice little package with sturdy connectors always good you can spend hours badly soldering things up .

Cheers all


Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:02 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Re Chronos - it's not possible to tell the exact power requirement - suffice to say it would be low... I would just ask them how many hours does it run from a certain size battery? See below for more discussion of the factors...

The 5045 is a Leadshine or clone there of. Even the Chinese copy each other.

The other open board drive I would expect to be fairly crude but would do the job. If a channel goes out you can just replace the whole board. With minimum current setting of 1.5 amp it will not be suitable for small motors. If anyone has used this type let us know!

Pulse width and pulse frequency can be an issue. So in Mantis I have an option to adjust the pulse width - this allows greatest flexibility in matching to drives. The trade off is the wider the pulse width - the lower the max step frequency.

Power usage? It varies a lot with drives. But any decent drive should have a low power standby mode. This will save a lot of power in move pause move scenarios. It's normally automatic but can also be disabled if you need the motor to hold strongly while at rest - for example with a slider set at an angle.

The actual power that stepper use can't always be calculated easily. Even though they have a motor current setting, this does not relate directly to how much current is actually drawn from the PSU or battery. Suffice to say it's normally maybe a quarter to a third of the current setting. (Hence it is very common for PSU's to be way over specified..)

Using an ammeter on the dc supply is the only reliable way of checking the actual power usage. The reason for this is that the motor current is usually a peak rating and since the current is only drawn by the motor in pulses, the average current is much lower.

How much power do these drives need? Well it really depends on the size of motor you attach and the current settings you choose. If you don't need max performance then stepper are better derated a little - ie. don't run them at max current. They will run smoother and cooler and consume less power.

Geckodrive.com have excellent info to help in calculating PSU voltage and wattage.

Basically all stepper drives have a range of permissable voltage supply - for example 18 - 50 v. Now what this means is you can run any voltage in this range. The higher the voltage you run, the greater the maximum speed. At low speed the torque of the motor will be identical. It is only as the speed increases that the higher voltage kicks in and helps the motor maintain useful torque.

To determine the max voltage for your motor Geckodrive have a formula if you want to get technical... But rule of thumb is that if the motor is not too hot to hold your finger on for some time - then it's ok. Even so, I prefer motors not to get hotter than just warm. Heat is wasted power and prolonged overheating will weaken the motor.

Hence for battery powered slow moving rigs you can use a voltage near the low end. Then you could use the same rig with a higher voltage PSU for when you want more speed.


Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:29 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Sorry pulled the wrong example of the five axis board of eBay Duh!
They come in a .5 to 2.5 amp variant . Think will give one a go works out cheaper than five Easydrivers . Would be nice to hear if anybody had any experience with them first. Might have a rummage on the CNC forums mine of information for rig building. Woops showing my geek. :D


Sun Feb 05, 2012 1:56 am
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
For that money you could almost consider it a disposable item - just try it out... :) I'm certain it will make your motors go round...


"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin


Mon Feb 06, 2012 2:02 am
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
geraldft wrote:
For that money you could almost consider it a disposable item - just try it out... :) I'm certain it will make your motors go round...


"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin


A very wise quote ! Had a look on the CNC forums this is what I came up with.

So they run which is good but there are a lot of problems.
http://www.cnczone.com/forums/general_e ... inese.html
From what I gather if you try and run them to the specs they state you will have problems . CNC people do like speed for their rapids . Speed not really a issue if ya just doing timelapse . So think if you run them at 12 volts and don’t over work them you should be ok . The optical isolation a bit spurious to .
So about the same as a easy driver but without having to wire five of the things together. Wish their was a multi axies board you could just plug easy drivers into. Or is their one out their I don’t know about.


Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:50 am
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Is there some advantage to using those big stepper drivers? I have been using these;

http://www.pololu.com/catalog/product/1183

Each one is the size of a postage stamp and it includes the voltage regulator to power a microcontroller. It is a chopper-type driver, meaning it cuts power on and off real fast to maintain the average rated current for your motor. This uses a lot less power than the drivers which use a big power resistor to control current. The only components needed are this little board and a microcontroller to supply the pulses that cause it to step and a TTL level input to control direction.

Nanomoco uses the same driver chip, but has the microcontroller on the same board. You just attach wires to it and load a program into the microcontroller. With either setup, you program the microcontroller and then it can run all by itself, without a computer attached to it at all. This makes for a very small package to pack into the wilderness.

If you need to run it from your PC, a spare printer cable can connect step and direction signals to the pololu drivers. I think nanomoco is supposed to be run by the micro on the nanomoco board.

I don't know why, but nanomoco seems to produce a little more torque from the motors than the pololu drivers, even with the current adjust set as close to the same value as I could get them.

These drivers send 70 percent of full power to the motor in order to hold position. There is a tiny potentiometer on the board which you turn until the motor is drawing 70 percent of rated current. After that, you take the meter out of the circuit and its good to go.

Never connect or disconnect a motor wire while power is applied to the board or it will be ruined. Fortunately its "only" $20 if you forget, and fry one. Could be worse I guess.


Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:40 am
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
re TB6560 etc. True it might work with limited speeds etc but with potential problems like these, you really don't need to waste your time I think. Better to pay a bit more and get something that just works.

re polulu

For very small motors these drivers can be fine. With easydriver it gets very hot if you try to use it's full capacity. This means it's not working so efficiently - maybe that's why it doesn't pull as much power as the polulu?

With all these little drives you don't get optically isolated inputs which means they are less safe. I guess for the price it doesn't matter so much - but if you are driving them with an expensive controller then you want to protect it. Also they are fiddly to install and often require addition of extra capacitors and heat sinks. Some of the power connections are placed dangerously close on the board - for example on at least one model they put the 5v logic supply out right next to the main motor power input - if one little hair of wire touched these pins then you are in trouble.

That said if you are careful, they are so small and cute - hence able to be mounted in small spaces - so if that is a priority...

The bigger drives also have niceties like screw terminals which make wiring a lot easier - they are generally just more robust and usually feature some form of anti-resonance to help smooth the motor vibes. I normally use 50% standby power if available.


Tue Feb 14, 2012 4:11 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
More and more I am getting feedback that complains about vibration from stepper motors. Unfortunately this is a fact of life, in varying degrees, with all steppers and the reason some might be tempted to try more expensive servo motors. Not everyone is bothered by vibration however - for instance if a rig is operating in SMS mode then it's hardly relevant, other than the noise it might create. Also if gear ratios are properly chosen then the vibration will not transmit visibly to the camera.

However - if your work does require smooth motors - or you are just fanatical - then there is a fairly straight forward solution - use a drive with anti-resonance tuning!

At present the most common and reasonably priced drives with this feature are made by Leadshine in China. Look for the "digital" or DM series of drives, which are also sold under other brand names such as Keling in the US. To use these drives effectively you need to run some software supplied with the drive and a connect via an old fashioned 9 pin serial connector (also supplied with the drive). This means you either need a legacy PC with a serial port, or else try one of the many USB to serial adapters. Once you make contact with the drive there are 3 bands of resonance that can be tuned. It requires a bit of fiddling where you adjust the speed of the motor to find the upper and lower rev limits for each band of resonance (just listen to or feel the motor) then set these limits and tweak the gain until the motor sounds and feels smoother. Then go to next rev band and repeat. Eventually you will have a motor that runs very smoothly and quieter at all speeds. The settings can be saved for that motor and kept for future reference.

The point here is that you don't need to use servo motors with all their additional problems if you are concerned about vibration...


Thu May 24, 2012 8:32 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
My last incarnation of chronos was mostly build around continuous, I did a LOt of timelapses with that setup on continuous and never had any sort of vibration issues whatsoever at any of the speeds with that stepper. Its a nice sized nema 23 with 125 oz in torque too. I moved to SMS as the main drive mode in chronos 2.0 because it is just better for aaccuracy, repeatability, and control, but vibration was never something I had issues with.

Where is it you hear about this stepper vibration problem? Are these people relaying what they heard or first hanf knowledge? Sounds like some people might just be doing it wrong.

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Thu May 24, 2012 8:56 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Maybe I misread, yes I get vibrations from chronos, but they are very minor, if anybody could actually see the effect in a video,.... ill eat chronos.

There comes a point to where if it is 100% impercievable then what does it matter? I think the benefits of a stepper over DC motor seriously outweigh the drawbacks of hypothetical yet non existant effects of vibrations

Just my opinion though :)

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Thu May 24, 2012 9:04 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Much of the vibration comes from resonance in the motor (over-shoot and correct) and also from the air gap distance in full steps. Thus, you can tune out a lot of vibration either through better resonance control (either through the driver and/or by using a damper), or by decreasing the air gap between poles.

Note that resonance not only creates vibrations, it limits top speed incredibly.

We find that with many motors in our testing, top speed could be increased by up to 2x or more by simply adding a damper (using whatever driver on-hand, including the cheap "easydrivers"). Lately, we've been working on a complete combination of tuning drivers, damping motors, and decreasing airgap. So far we've been able to run small motors with large loads (think 10 oz/in motor, 90:1 gear ratio pushing a 5lb load at 65% efficiency) at lower power (~ 12V / 700mA, 8.4W), and very high speeds (3,000+ s/s, or rapids at around 6 seconds for a 360' turn with a 5lb load). Our newer motors will be in soon, with much smaller airgap, which should get us closer to 3500 s/s, or a rapid of ~ 5s for 360' rotation. At lower weights (< 3lbs), we've been able to get rapids up to 4500 s/s, or 4s 360's. You can experiment with this easily using a tap handle - just tighten it onto a rear shaft of a dual-shaft stepper, and notice the difference it will make with a cheaper driver (more expensive drivers, with resonance correction will notice little change).

Jack Ripper wrote:
My last incarnation of chronos was mostly build around continuous, I did a LOt of timelapses with that setup on continuous and never had any sort of vibration issues whatsoever at any of the speeds with that stepper. Its a nice sized nema 23 with 125 oz in torque too. I moved to SMS as the main drive mode in chronos 2.0 because it is just better for aaccuracy, repeatability, and control, but vibration was never something I had issues with.

Where is it you hear about this stepper vibration problem? Are these people relaying what they heard or first hanf knowledge? Sounds like some people might just be doing it wrong.


Not every motion rig is a dolly with the stepper at the very end of the track, with no direct connection with the cart. Take a pan and tilt rig for example, or a dolly where the motor is directly attached to the cart. There are benefits of every form of design, which each create their own drawbacks. Additionally, as noted, motor vibration (resonance) not just shakes a camera, but also kills top speed.

!c


Thu May 31, 2012 9:11 am
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
HI

Resonance / vibration will not normally be a problem for timelapse shooting. But for realtime motion - particularly macro or long lens situations it can be evident.

I've been playing some more with the Leadshine (DM series) digital drives and come to the conclusion they are the best all round drives around for a reasonable price. I tested with high res (0.9deg) motors and the conventional (1.8) degree motors. They have a fine tuning mode that can be accessed by a serial RS232 cable with their software - but even setting them to default via dip switches produces vastly better smoothness than any other drive I used. The reason is they have very good anti resonance circuits. They seem to run more efficiently too, and result in less motor heating and very quiet running.

Logic might suggest that the higher res motors (with shorter air gap :) will be smoother, but I have found this not the case. Maybe with limited microstepping drives they might offer an advantage, but top speed and power is always lower with these motors.

The best performance and smoothness with Leadshine is with the 1.8 degree motors. If resonance is not a problem, and you want really portable equipment then go with UIrobot.

Also - The main factor that improves high speed is supply voltage. 70 volt supply will allow the motor to go a lot faster than 24volt. Also the current setting can have some effect on the resonance - higher currents tend to increase resonance.

Dampers were sometimes used in the past, but are rather inconvenient unless the motor has a back shaft, and can actually reduce the responsiveness (acceleration) of the motor - obviously if you are adding an inertial load it takes more torque to get to speed quickly. Really they are a bandaid for drives with little or no anti-resonance control.


Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:42 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
I can confirm about the Leadshine which Gerald recommended.

I used to use the Geckos, mainly because everybody seems to be using them. This is until then I tried the Leadshine and the difference is like day and night. Much, much quieter, a lot smoother and cheaper than the Geckos. I ordered mine from Ebay, they are the DM432C. Although the ebay shop was in the US, the drivers came from Leadshine in China and it took about 5 or 6 days only, to the UK, delivered by DHL. I ordered four and there is some Customs duty to pay, around 35 pounds for the four drivers which you can pay online. When I ordered a single one previously, there was no Customs duty, probably because of the low cost.

I have tried them on Nema 17 and Nema 23 motors, they run very nicely with these drivers.

Just try one guys, I don't think you will regret it.

BTW, I'm new to this board, though I've been following the board posts with great interest for a while.

Edward


Wed Jul 04, 2012 1:35 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Details for UIrobot in China.

http://www.uirobot.net/product/dianji/2 ... 23/12.html

These are really tiny and can be mounted on the back of your nema17 or nema23 motor. There are 3 versions with max current ratings of 2, 4 and 8amp. Microstepping is selectable up to 16x. They have opto isolated step dir enable inputs for safety and standby current reduction. A little noisier than Leadshine but really quite good.

For portable battery use they also run quite well at 12v.


Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:45 pm
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Post Re: Which Stepper Motor Drive to use?
Hi,
This interesting topic seems to have been quite for a while so I thought I would post this site, if you register there is quite a lot of information in the form of tutorials and short informative videos.

http://www.galilmc.com/

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