Stepper Motors and Their Controllers

1.1 Basic Stepper Motor Syste
!i"#re 1.1
The diagram above shows a typical step motor based system. A Stepping Motor System
consists of three basic elements, often combined with some type of user interface (Host
Computer, !C or "umb Terminal#$
%irst is the pulse generator, also &nown as a controller or inde'er. The controller is a
microprocessor capable of generating step pulses and direct signals for the driver. (n addition, the
controller is typically re)uired to perform many other sophisticated command functions.
The "river (or Amplifier# converts the inde'er command signals into the power
necessary to energi*e the motor windings. There are numerous types of drivers, with different
current+amperage ratings and construction technology. ,ot all drivers are suitable to run all
motors, so when designing a Motion Control System the driver selection process is critical.
The Step Motor is an electromagnetic device that converts digital pulses into mechanical
shaft rotation. (n other words a stepper motor converts electrical pulses into specific rotational
movements. The movement created by each pulse is precise and repeatable, which is why stepper
motors are so effective for positioning applications.
Stepping motors can be viewed as electric motors without commutators. Typically, all
windings in the motor are part of the stator, and the rotor is either a permanent magnet or, in the
case of variable reluctance motors, a toothed bloc& of some magnetically soft material. All of the
commutation must be handled e'ternally by the motor controller, and typically, the motors and
controllers are designed so that the motor may be held in any fi'ed position as well as being
rotated one way or the other. Most steppers, as they are also &nown, can be stepped at audio
fre)uencies, allowing them to spin )uite )uic&ly, and with an appropriate controller, they may be
started and stopped -on a dime- at controlled orientations.
%or some applications, there is a choice between using servomotors and stepping motors.
.oth types of motors offer similar opportunities for precise positioning, but they differ in a
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
number of ways. Servomotors re)uire analog feedbac& control systems of some type. Typically,
this involves a potentiometer to provide feedbac& about the rotor position, and some mi' of
circuitry to drive a current through the motor inversely proportional to the difference between the
desired position and the current position.
(n ma&ing a choice between steppers and servos, a number of issues must be considered0
which of these will matter depends on the application. %or e'ample, the repeatability of
positioning done with a stepping motor depends on the geometry of the motor rotor, while the
repeatability of positioning done with a servomotor generally depends on the stability of the
potentiometer and other analog components in the feedbac& circuit.
Stepping motors can be used in simple open1loop control systems0 these are generally
ade)uate for systems that operate at low accelerations with static loads, but closed loop control
may be essential for high accelerations, particularly if they involve variable loads. (f a stepper in
an open1loop control system is overtor)ued, all &nowledge of rotor position is lost and the
system must be reinitiali*ed0 servomotors are not sub2ect to this problem.
Stepping motors are &nown in 3erman as Schrittmotoren, in %rench as moteurs pas à pas,
and in Spanish as motor paso paso.
& step or steppin" otor converts electronic pulses into proportionate mechanical
movement. 4ach revolution of the stepper motor5s shaft is made up of a series of discrete
individual steps. A step is defined as the angular rotation produced by the output shaft each time
the motor receives a step pulse. These types of motors are very popular in digital control circuits,
such as robotics, because they are ideally suited for receiving digital pulses for step control. 4ach
step causes the shaft to rotate a certain number of degrees. A step an"le represents the rotation of
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
the output shaft caused by each step, measured in degrees. %igure 6./ illustrates a simple
application for a stepper motor. 4ach time the controller receives an input signal, the paper is
driven a certain incremental distance. (n addition to the paper drive mechanism in a printer,
stepper motors are also popular in machine tools, process control systems, tape and dis& drive
systems, and programmable controllers.
!i"#re 2.1 Paper dri*e echanis #sin" stepper achine
2.1 %o+ Stepper Motors )or,
Stepper motors consist of rotating shaft with permanent magnet attached is called rotor
and the stationary housing containing the coil1wound poles is called stator (i.e. electromagnets
on the stationary portion that surrounds the motor#.
2.1.1 !#ll Steppin"
%igure 6.6 illustrates a typical step se)uence for a two phase motor. (n Step / phase A of a
two phase stator is energi*ed. This magnetically loc&s the rotor in the position shown, since
unli&e poles attract. 7hen phase A is turned off and phase . is turned on, the rotor rotates 89:
cloc&wise. (n Step ;, phase . is turned off and phase A is turned on but with the polarity reversed
from Step /. This causes another 89: rotation. (n Step <, phase A is turned off and phase . is
turned on, with polarity reversed from Step 6. =epeating this se)uence causes the rotor to rotate
cloc&wise in 89: steps.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re 2.2
The stepping se)uence illustrated in figure 6.6 is called >one phase on? stepping.
A more common method of stepping is >two phase on? where both phases of the motor are
always energi*ed. However, only the polarity of one phase is switched at a time, as shown in
figure 6.;. 7ith two phases on stepping the rotor aligns itself between the >average? north and
>average? south magnetic poles. Since both phases are always on, this method gives </.<@ more
tor)ue than >one phase on? stepping, but with twice the power input.
!i"#re 2.-
2.1.2 %al. Steppin"
The motor can also be >half stepped? by inserting an off state between transitioning
phases. This cuts a stepperAs full step angle in half. %or e'ample, a 89: stepping motor would
move <B: on each half step, figure 6.<. However, half stepping typically results in a /B@ 1 ;9@
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
loss of tor)ue depending on step rate when compared to the two phase on stepping se)uence.
Since one of the windings is not energi*ed during each alternating half step there is less
electromagnetic force e'erted on the rotor resulting in a net loss of tor)ue.
!i"#re 2./
There are several types of stepper motors. <1wire stepper motors contain only two
electromagnets0 however the operation is more complicated than those with three or four
magnets, because the driving circuit must be able to reverse the current after each step. %or our
purposes, we will be using a C1wire motor.
Dnli&e our e'ample motors which rotated 89 degrees per step, real1world motors employ
a series of mini1poles on the stator and rotor to increase resolution. Although this may seem to
add more comple'ity to the process of driving the motors, the operation is identical to the simple
89 degree motor we used in our e'ample. An e'ample of a multi pole motor can be seen in
%igure 6.B. (n position /, the north pole of the rotor5s permanent magnet is aligned with the south
pole of the stator5s electromagnet. ,ote that multiple positions are aligned at once. (n position 6,
the upper electromagnet is deactivated and the ne't one to its immediate left is activated, causing
the rotor to rotate a precise amount of degrees. After eight steps the se)uence repeats.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re 2.0
2.2 Types o. Stepper Motors
There are basically three types of stepping motors0 variable reluctance, permanent magnet
and hybrid. They differ in terms of construction based on the use of permanent magnets and+or
iron rotors with laminated steel stators.
2.2.1 (aria$le Rel#ctance 1(s2 Stepper Motor
!i"#re 2.3
The variable reluctance motor does not use a permanent magnet. As a result, the motor
rotor can move without constraint or -detent- tor)ue. This type of construction is good in non
industrial applications that do not re)uire a high degree of motor tor)ue, such as the positioning
of a micro slide.
The variable reluctance motor in the above illustration has four -stator pole sets- (A, .,
C# set /B degrees apart. Current applied to pole A through the motor winding causes a magnetic
attraction that aligns the rotor (tooth# to pole A. 4nergi*ing stator pole . causes the rotor to
rotate /B degrees in alignment with pole .. This process will continue with pole C and bac& to A
in a cloc&wise direction. =eversing the procedure (C to A# would result in a countercloc&wise
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
(f your motor has three windings, typically connected as shown in the schematic diagram
in %igure 6.C(b#, with one terminal common to all windings, it is most li&ely a variable
reluctance stepping motor. (n use, the common wire typically goes to the positive supply and the
windings are energi*ed in se)uence.
The cross section shown in %igure 6.C(b# is of ;9 degree per step variable reluctance
motor. The rotor in this motor has < teeth and the stator has C poles, with each winding wrapped
around two opposite poles. 7ith winding number / energi*ed, the rotor teeth mar&ed E are
attracted to this winding5s poles. (f the current through winding / is turned off and winding 6 is
turned on, the rotor will rotate ;9 degrees cloc&wise so that the poles mar&ed F line up with the
poles mar&ed 6.
To rotate this motor continuously, we 2ust apply power to the ; windings in se)uence.
Assuming positive logic, where a / means turning on the current through a motor winding, the
following control se)uence will spin the motor illustrated in %igure 6.C cloc&wise 6< steps or 6
Winding 1 1001001001001001001001001
Winding 2 0100100100100100100100100
Winding 3 0010010010010010010010010
time --->
There are also variable reluctance stepping motors with < and B windings, re)uiring B or
C wires. The principle for driving these motors is same as that for the three winding motors, but it
becomes important to wor& out the correct order to energi*e the windings to ma&e the motor step
2.2.2 Peranent Ma"net 1PM2 Stepper Motor
The permanent magnet motor, also referred to as a -canstac&- motor, has, as the name
implies, a permanent magnet rotor. (t is a relatively low speed, low tor)ue device with large step
angles of either <B or 89 degrees. (t5s simple construction and low cost ma&e it an ideal choice
for non industrial applications, such as a line printer print wheel positioner. The peranent'
a"net stepper otor operates on the reaction between a permanent1magnet rotor and an
electromagnetic field. %igure 6.G shows a basic two1pole M stepper motor. The rotor shown in
%igure 6.G(a# has a permanent magnet mounted at each end. The stator is illustrated in %igure
6.G(b#. .oth the stator and rotor are shown as having teeth. The teeth on the rotor surface and the
stator pole faces are offset so that there will be only a limited number of rotor teeth aligning
themselves with an energi*ed stator pole. The number of teeth on the rotor and stator determine
the step angle that will occur each time the polarity of the winding is reversed. The greater is the
number of teeth, the smaller is the step angle.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re 2.4 Coponents o. a PM stepper otor5 1a2 Rotor6 1$2 stator
7hen a M stepper motor has a steady "C signal applied to one stator winding, the rotor
will overcome the residual tor)ue and line up with that stator field. The holdin" tor7#e is
defined as the amount of tor)ue re)uired to move the rotor one full step with the stator energi*ed.
An important characteristic of the M stepper motor is that it can maintain the holding tor)ue
indefinitely when the rotor is stopped. 7hen no power is applied to the windings, a small
magnetic force is developed between the permanent magnet and the stator. This magnetic force is
called a resid#al8 or detent tor7#e. The detent tor)ue can be noticed by turning a stepper motor
by hand and is generally about one1tenth of the holding tor)ue.
%igure 6.G(a# shows a permanent magnet stepper motor with four stator windings. .y
pulsing the stator coils in a desired se)uence, it is possible to control the speed and direction of
the motor. %igure 6.H(b# shows the timing diagram for the pulses re)uired to rotate the M
stepper motor illustrated in %igure 6.G(a#. This se)uence of positive and negative pulses causes
the motor shaft to rotate countercloc&wise in 89: steps. The waveforms of %igure 6.H(c# illustrate
how the pulses can be overlapped and the motor made to rotate countercloc&wise at <B:
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re 2.9 1a2 PM stepper otor6 1$2 :; step6 1c2 /0 step.
A more recent development in M stepper motor technology is the thin'dis, rotor. This
type of stepper motor dissipates much less power in losses such as heat than the cylindrical rotor
and as a result, it is considerably more efficient. 4fficiency is a primary concern in industrial
circuits such as robotics, because a highly efficient motor will run cooler and produce more
tor)ue or speed for its si*e. Thin1dis& rotor M stepper motors are also capable of producing
almost double the steps per second of a conventional M stepper motor. %igure 6.8 shows the
basic construction of a thin1dis& rotor M motor. The rotor is constructed of a special type of
cobalt1steel, and the stator poles are offset by one1half a rotor segment.
!i"#re 2.: Thin'dis, rotor PM stepper otor.
2.2.- %y$rid Stepper Motor
Hybrid motors combine the best characteristics of the variable reluctance and permanent
magnet motors. They are constructed with multi1toothed stator poles and a permanent magnet
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
rotor. Standard hybrid motors have 699 rotor teeth and rotate at /.H9 step angles. Ither hybrid
motors are available in 9.8Jand ;.CJ step angle configurations. .ecause they e'hibit high static
and dynamic tor)ue and run at very high step rates, hybrid motors are used in a wide variety of
industrial applications.
!i"#re 2.1;
2.- Motor )indin"s
2.-.1 Unipolar )indin"
Another common winding is the unipolar winding. This consists of two windings on a
pole connected in such a way that when one winding is energi*ed a magnetic north pole is
created0 when the other winding is energi*ed a south pole is created. This is referred to as a
unipolar winding because the electrical polarity, i.e. current flow, from the drive to the coils is
never reversed. The stepping se)uence is illustrated in figure 6.//. This design allows for a
simpler electronic drive. However, there is appro'imately ;9@ less tor)ue available compared to
a bipolar winding. Tor)ue is lower because the energi*ed coil only utili*es half as much copper
as compared to a bipolar coil.

!i"#re 2.11

Dnipolar Step K/ K6 K; K<
/ I, I%% I, I%%
6 I%% I, I, I%%
; I%% I, I%% I,
< I, I%% I%% I,
/ I, I%% I, I%%
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
2.-.2 Bipolar )indin"
The two phase stepping se)uence described utili*es a >bipolar coil winding.? 4ach phase
consists of a single winding. .y reversing the current in the windings, electromagnetic polarity is
reversed. The output stage of a typical two phase bipolar drive is further illustrated in the
electrical schematic diagram and stepping se)uence in figure 6./6. As illustrated, switching
simply reverses the current flow through the winding thereby changing the polarity of that phase.
!i"#re 2.12
.ipolarStep K61K; K/1K< KC1KG KB1KH
/ I, I%% I, I%%
6 I%% I, I, I%%
; I%% I, I%% I,
< I, I%% I%% I,
/ I, I%% I, I%%
2.-.- M#ltiphase )indin"s
A less common class of permanent magnet or hybrid stepping motor is wired with all
windings of the motor in a cyclic series, with one tap between each pair of windings in the cycle,
or with only one end of each motor winding e'posed while the other ends of each winding are
tied together to an inaccessible internal connection. (n the conte't of ;1phase motors, these
configurations would be described as "elta and F configurations, but they are also used with B1
phase motors, as illustrated in %igure 6./;. Some multiphase motors e'pose all ends of all motor
windings, leaving it to the user to decide between the "elta and F configurations, or
alternatively, allowing each winding to be driven independently.
Control of either one of these multiphase motors in either the "elta or F configuration
re)uires /+6 of an H1bridge for each motor terminal. (t is noteworthy that B1phase motors have
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
the potential of delivering more tor)ue from a given pac&age si*e because all or all but one of the
motor windings are energi*ed at every point in the drive cycle. Some B1phase motors have high
resolutions on the order of 9.G6 degrees per step (B99 steps per revolution#.
Many automotive alternators are built using ;1phase hybrid geometry with either a
permanent magnet rotor or an electromagnet rotor powered through a pair of slip1rings. These
have been successfully used as stepping motors in some heavy duty industrial applications0 step
angles of /9 degrees per step have been reported.
7ith a B1phase motor, there are /9 steps per repeat in the stepping cycle, as shown below$
Terminal 1 +++-----+++++-----++
Terminal 2 --+++++-----+++++---
Terminal 3 +-----+++++-----++++
Terminal 4 +++++-----+++++-----
Terminal 5 ----+++++-----+++++-
time --->
7ith a ;1phase motor, there are C steps per repeat in the stepping cycle, as shown below$
Terminal 1 +++---+++---
Terminal 2 --+++---+++-
Terminal 3 +---+++---++
time --->
Here, as in the bipolar case, each terminal is shown as being either connected to the
positive or negative bus of the motor power system. ,ote that, at each step, only one terminal
changes polarity. This change removes the power from one winding attached to that terminal
(because both terminals of the winding in )uestion are of the same polarity# and applies power to
one winding that was previously idle. 3iven the motor geometry suggested by %igure 6./;, this
control se)uence will drive the motor through two revolutions.
To distinguish a B1phase motor from other motors with B leads, note that, if the resistance
between two consecutive terminals of the B1phase motor is =, the resistance between non1
consecutive terminals will be /.B=.
,ote that some B1phase motors have B separate motor windings, with a total of /9 leads.
These can be connected in the star configuration shown above, using B half1bridge driver
circuits, or each winding can be driven by its own full1bridge. 7hile the theoretical component
count of half1bridge drivers is lower, the availability of integrated full1bridge chips may ma&e the
latter approach preferable.
2./ Step Modes
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
Stepper motor -step modes- include %ull, Half and Micro1step. The type of step mode
output of any motor is dependent on the design of the driver.
2./.1 !#ll Step
Standard (hybrid# stepping motors have 699 rotor teeth, or 699 full steps per revolution of
the motor shaft. "ividing the 699 steps into the ;C9J5s rotation e)uals a /.HJ full step angle.
,ormally, full step mode is achieved by energi*ing both windings while reversing the current
alternately. 4ssentially one digital input from the driver is e)uivalent to one step.
2./.2 %al. Step
Half step simply means that the motor is rotating at <99 steps per revolution. (n this
mode, one winding is energi*ed and then two windings are energi*ed alternately, causing the
rotor to rotate at half the distance, or 9.8J5s. (The same effect can be achieved by operating in full
step mode with a <99 step per revolution motor#. Half stepping is a more practical solution
however, in industrial applications. Although it provides slightly less tor)ue, half step mode
reduces the amount -2umpiness- inherent in running in a full step mode.
2./.- Microstep
Micro stepping is a relatively new stepper motor technology that controls the current in
the motor winding to a degree that further subdivides the number of positions between poles.
AMS micro step drives are capable of rotating at /+6BC of a step (per step#, or over B9,999 steps
per revolution.
Micro stepping is typically used in applications that re)uire accurate positioning and a
fine resolution over a wide range of speeds.
MAE16999 micro step drives integrate state1of1the1art hardware with -L=MC- (Lariable
=esolution Micro step Control# technology developed by AMS. At slow shaft speeds, L=MCs
produces high resolution micro step positioning for silent, resonance1free operation. As shaft
speed increases, the output step resolution is e'panded using -on1motor1pole- synchroni*ation.
At the completion of a coarse inde', the target micro position is trimmed to /+/99 of a
(command# step to achieve and maintain precise positioning.
2.0 Desi"n Considerations
The electrical compatibility between the motor and the driver are the most critical factors
in a stepper motor system design. Some general guidelines in the selection of these components
2.0.1 Resistance
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
=esistance1per1winding is another characteristic of a stepper motor. This resistance will
determine current draw of the motor, as well as affect the motor5s tor)ue curve and ma'imum
operating speed.
2.0.2 Ind#ctance
Stepper motors are rated with a varying degree of inductance. A high inductance motor
will provide a greater amount of tor)ue at low speeds and similarly the reverse is true.
2.0.- Series8 Parallel Connection
There are two ways to connect a stepper motor0 in series or in parallel. A series
connection provides a high inductance and therefore greater performance at low speeds. A
parallel connection will lower the inductance but increase the tor)ue at faster speeds. The
following is a typical speed+tor)ue curve for an AMS driver and motor connected in series and
2.0./ Dri*er (olta"e
The higher the output voltage from the driver, the higher the level of tor)ue vs. speed.
3enerally, the driver output voltage should be rated higher than the motor voltage rating.
2.0.0 Motor Sti..ness
.y design, stepping motors tend to run stiff. =educing the current flow to the motor by a
small percentage will smooth the rotation. !i&ewise, increasing the motor current will increase
the stiffness but will also provide more tor)ue. Trade1offs between speed, tor)ue and resolution
are a main consideration in designing a step motor system.
2.0.3 Motor %eat
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
Step motors are designed to run hot (B9J189J C#. However, too much current may cause
e'cessive heating and damage to the motor insulation and windings. AMS step motor products
reduce the ris& of overheating by providing a programmable =un+Hold current feature.
2.0.4 &cc#racy
The accuracy for can1stac& style steppers is C 1 G@ per step, non1cumulative. A G.B:
stepper will be within 9.B: of theoretical position for every step, regardless of how many steps
are ta&en. The incremental errors are non1cumulative because the mechanical design of the motor
dictates a ;C9: movement for each full revolution. The physical position of the pole plates and
magnetic pattern of the rotor result in a repeatable pattern through every ;C9: rotation (under no
load conditions#.
2.0.9 Resonance
Stepper motors have a natural resonant fre)uency as a result of the motor being a spring1
mass system. 7hen the step rate e)uals the motorAs natural fre)uency, there may be an audible
change in noise made by the motor, as well as an increase in vibration. The resonant point will
vary with the application and load, but typically occurs somewhere between G9 and /69 steps per
second. (n severe cases the motor may lose steps at the resonant fre)uency. Changing the step
rate is the simplest means of avoiding many problems related to resonance in a system. Also, half
stepping or micro stepping usually reduces resonance problems. 7hen accelerating to speed, the
resonance *one should be passed through as )uic&ly as possible.
2.3 Tor7#e Predictions
The tor)ue produced by a specific rotary stepper motor is a function of$
M The step rate
M The current through the windings
M The type of drive used
(The force generated by a linear motor is also dependent upon these factors.#
Tor)ue is the sum of the friction tor)ue (Tf# and inertial tor)ue (Ti#.
The frictional tor)ue (ounce1inches or gram1cm# is the force (%#, in ounces or grams,
re)uired to move a load multiplied by the length, in inches or cm, of the lever arm used to drive
the load (r# as shown in figure 6./<
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
The inertial tor)ue (Ti# is the tor)ue re)uired to accelerate the load (gram1cm6#.
( N the inertial load in g1cm6
N step rate in steps+second
t N time in seconds
N the step angle in degrees
O N a constant
(t should be noted that as the step rate of a motor is increased, the bac& electro1motive
force (4M%# (i.e. the generated voltage# of the motor also increases. This restricts current flow
and results in a decrease in useable output tor)ue.
Dsing basic principles of electromechanical energy conversion, a simplified analysis of
one stac& of the stepper motor is presented here. (t is assumed that the magnetic circuit is linear
(unsaturated#. 4ven then the resulting model is highly nonlinear so that no generali*ed
conclusions can be drawn. !et
e(t# N voltage applied per stac&
= N winding resistance per stac&
!(P# N winding inductance per stac& (a function of rotor position only and
independent of coil current because of linear magnetic circuit assumption#
i(t# N current per stac&
P(t# N angular position of rotor
OirchoffAs mesh e)uation for stator winding is
( # ( #
e t Ri t
= +
where Q N flu' lin&ages of stator winding N i!(P#.

( #
( # ( #
di dL d
Ri t L i
dt d dt
θ θ
= + + RRRR....(/#

Transformer speed
emf emf
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
4nergy stored in air gap is
7 N S !(P# i
Mechanical tor)ue developed is given by
( , # T W i θ


/ ( #
( #
i t
=otor dynamics is governed by

d d
T J f
dt dt
θ θ
(n a toothed structure, reluctance and therefore winding inductance varies continuously
(even function# as function of P over and above an average value, i.e.,

/ 6
( # cos L L L T θ θ = +
Substituting in e)uation ;,
( #sin
T L Ti t Tθ = −

( # sin Ki t Tθ = − RRRRRRRRRRRR.(C#
This indeed is the reluctance tor)ue and has sinusoidal form compared to the tor)ue1
angle curve. ,otice the similarity of the overall shape of the curve to a sinusoidal wave.
4)uations /, C and < govern the dynamic behavior of one stac& of a stepper motor under
application of e(t#, a pulse wave shape. Assuming that mechanical and electrical transients are
over in the time intervening between pulses, single1stac& analysis would suffice. 4)uations being
highly nonlinear, appro'imate linear model is not feasible. Solution must be obtained on an
analog or digital computer.
(ntervening time between the applications of two pulses must be long enough to allow for
the motor rotor to loc& in position otherwise the motor may s&ip a step which is undesirable. Step
s&ipping may also occur if rotor oscillation amplitude about the loc&ing position is too large.
2.4 Stepper Motor Characteristics
2.4.1 Tor7#e *ers#s Speed
An important consideration in designing high1speed stepping motor controllers is the
effect of the inductance of the motor windings. As with the tor)ue versus angular position
information, this is fre)uently poorly documented in motor data sheets, and indeed, for variable
reluctance stepping motors, it is not a constantT The inductance of the motor winding determines
the rise and fall time of the current through the windings. 7hile we might hope for a s)uare1
wave plot of current versus time, the inductance forces an e'ponential, as in %igure 6./B$
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re 2.10
The details of the current1versus1time function through each winding depend as much on
the drive circuitry as they do on the motor itselfT (t is )uite common for the time constants of
these e'ponentials to differ. The rise time is determined by the drive voltage and drive circuitry,
while the fall time depends on the circuitry used to dissipate the stored energy in the motor
At low stepping rates, the rise and fall times of the current through the motor windings
has little effect on the motor5s performance, but at higher speeds, the effect of the inductance of
the motor windings is to reduce the available tor)ue, as shown in %igure 6./C.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re 2.13
M An ideal tor)ue1speed characteristic for a stepper motor
M 6 distinct modes of operation$
U !oc&ed1step (normal# mode
U Slewing mode
M (n the first, the rotor comes to rest between steps (mode commonly used to achieve a
given rotor position#0 rotor can be started, stopped, reversed
M Slewing mode does not allow stopping or reversal of the rotor, although it advances in
synchronism with the stepping se)uence (e.g. rewinding a tape drive#
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re 2.14
The motor5s maximum speed is defined as the speed at which the available tor)ue falls to
*ero. Measuring ma'imum speed can be difficult when there are resonance problems, because
these cause the tor)ue to drop to *ero prematurely. The cutoff speed is the speed above which the
tor)ue begins to fall. 7hen the motor is operating below its cutoff speed, the rise and fall times
of the current through the motor windings occupy an insignificant fraction of each step, while at
the cutoff speed, the step duration is comparable to the sum of the rise and fall times. ,ote that a
sharp cutoff is rare, and therefore, statements of a motor5s cutoff speed are, of necessity,
The details of the tor)ue versus speed relationship depend on the details of the rise and
fall times in the motor windings, and these depend on the motor control system as well as the
motor. Therefore, the cutoff speed and ma'imum speed for any particular motor depend, in part,
on the control systemT The tor)ue versus speed curves published in motor data sheets
occasionally come with documentation of the motor controller used to obtain that curve, but this
is far from universal practiceT
Similarly, the resonant speed depends on the moment of inertia of the entire rotating
system, not 2ust the motor rotor, and the e'tent to which the tor)ue drops at resonance depends
on the presence of mechanical damping and on the nature of the control system. Some published
tor)ue versus speed curves show very clear resonances without documenting the moment of
inertia of the hardware that may have been attached to the motor shaft in order to ma&e tor)ue
The tor)ue versus speed curve shown in %igure 6./G is typical of the simplest of control
systems. More comple' control systems sometimes introduce electronic resonances that act to
increase the available tor)ue above the motor5s low1speed tor)ue. A common result of this is a
pea& in the available tor)ue near the cutoff speed.
Prepared $y M.Marsaline Beno
Curve A$ ull1out tor)ue
Curve .$ ull1in tor)ue
Curve A
Curve B
Pull-in rate
Pull-out rate
Max pull-out rate
Max pull-in rate
Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
2.4.2 Characteristic Paraeters
 %oldin" tor7#e5 the ma'imum tor)ue which can be applied to an energi*ed stationary motor
without causing spindle rotation
 P#ll'o#t tor7#e5 the ma'imum tor)ue which can be applied to a motor, running at a given
stepping rate, without losing synchronism
 P#ll'in tor7#e5 the ma'imum tor)ue against which a motor will start, at a given pulse rate,
and reach synchronism without losing a step.
 P#ll'o#t rate5 the ma'imum switching rate at which a motor will remain in synchronism
while the switching rate is gradually increased.
 P#ll'in rate5 the ma'imum switching rate at which a loaded motor can start without losing
 Sle+ ran"e5 the range of switching rates between pull1in and pull1out in which a motor will
run in synchronism but cannot start or reverse.
2.9 Stepper Motor &d*anta"es and Disad*anta"es
2.9.1 &d*anta"es
Stepper motors have the following advantages$
• !ow cost
• =uggedness
• Simplicity in construction
• High reliability since there is no contact brushes in the motor. Therefore the life of the
motor is simply dependant on the life of the bearing.
• ,o maintenance
• 7ide acceptance
• ,o feedbac& components are needed
• They wor& in 2ust about any environment
• (nherently more failsafe than servo motors.
• 4'cellent response to starting+ stopping+reversing.
• (t is possible to achieve very low speed synchronous rotation with a load that is directly
coupled to the shaft.
• There is virtually no conceivable failure within the stepper drive module that could
cause the motor to run away. Stepper motors are simple to drive and control in an open1
loop configuration. They only re)uire four leads. They provide e'cellent tor)ue at
low speeds, up to B times the continuous tor)ue of a brush motor of the same frame si*e
or double the tor)ue of the e)uivalent brushless motor. This often eliminates the need for
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
a gearbo'. A stepper1driven system is inherently stiff, with &nown limits to the dynamic
position error.
2.9.1 Disad*anta"es
Stepper motors have the following disadvantages$
• =esonance effects and relatively long settling times
• =ough performance at low speed unless a microstep drive is used
• !iability to undetected position loss as a result of operating open1loop
• They consume current regardless of load conditions and therefore tend to run hot
• !osses at speed are relatively high and can cause e'cessive heating, and they are
fre)uently noisy (especially at high speeds#.
• They can e'hibit lag1lead oscillation, which is difficult to damp. There is a limit to their
available si*e, and positioning accuracy relies on the mechanics (e.g., ball screw
accuracy#. Many of these drawbac&s can be overcome by the use of a closed1loop
control scheme.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
-.1 Introd#ction
This section of the stepper tutorial deals with the basic final stage drive circuitry for
stepping motors. This circuitry is centered on a single issue, switching the current in each motor
winding on and off, and controlling its direction. The circuitry discussed in this section is
connected directly to the motor windings and the motor power supply, and this circuitry is
controlled by a digital system that determines when the switches are turned on or off.
This section covers all types of motors, from the elementary circuitry needed to control a
variable reluctance motor, to the H1bridge circuitry needed to control a bipolar permanent
magnet motor. 4ach class of drive circuit is illustrated with practical e'amples, but these
e'amples are not intended as an e'haustive catalog of the commercially available control
circuits, nor is the information given here intended to substitute for the information found on the
manufacturer5s component data sheets for the parts mentioned.
This section only covers the most elementary control circuitry for each class of motor. All
of these circuits assume that the motor power supply provides a drive voltage no greater than the
motor5s rated voltage, and this significantly limits motor performance. The ne't section, on
current limited drive circuitry, covers practical high1performance drive circuits.
-.2 (aria$le Rel#ctance Motors
Typical controllers for variable reluctance stepping motors are variations on the outline
shown in %igure ;./$
!i"#re -.1
(n %igure ;./, bo'es are used to represent switches0 a control unit, not shown, is
responsible for providing the control signals to open and close the switches at the appropriate
times in order to spin the motors. (n many cases, the control unit will be a computer or
programmable interface controller, with software directly generating the outputs needed to
control the switches, but in other cases, additional control circuitry is introduced, sometimes
Motor windings, solenoids and similar devices are all inductive loads. As such, the
current through the motor winding cannot be turned on or off instantaneously without involving
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
infinite voltages. 7hen the switch controlling a motor winding is closed, allowing current to
flow, the result of this is a slow rise in current. 7hen the switch controlling a motor winding is
opened, the result of this is a voltage spi&e that can seriously damage the switch unless care is
ta&en to deal with it appropriately.
There are two basic ways of dealing with this voltage spi&e. Ine is to bridge the motor
winding with a diode, and the other is to bridge the motor winding with a capacitor. %igure ;.6
illustrates both approaches$
!i"#re -.2
The diode shown in %igure ;.6 must be able to conduct the full current through the motor
winding, but it will only conduct briefly each time the switch is turned off, as the current through
the winding decays. (f relatively slow diodes such as the common /,<99E family are used
together with a fast switch, it may be necessary to add a small capacitor in parallel with the
The capacitor shown in %igure ;.6 poses more comple' design problemsT 7hen the
switch is closed, the capacitor will discharge through the switch to ground, and the switch must
be able to handle this brief spi&e of discharge current. A resistor in series with the capacitor or in
series with the power supply will limit this current. 7hen the switch is opened, the stored energy
in the motor winding will charge the capacitor up to a voltage significantly above the supply
voltage, and the switch must be able to tolerate this voltage. To solve for the si*e of the capacitor,
we e)uate the two formulas for the stored energy in a resonant circuit$
+ 6
+ 6
P 11 stored energy, in watt seconds or coulomb volts
C 11 capacity, in farads
V 11 voltage across capacitor
L 11 inductance of motor winding, in henrys
I 11 current through motor winding
Solving for the minimum si*e of capacitor re)uired to prevent over voltage on the switch is fairly
+ (Vb 1 Vs#

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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
Vb 11 the brea&down voltage of the switch
Vs 11 the supply voltage
Lariable reluctance motors have variable inductance that depends on the shaft angle.
Therefore, worst1case design must be used to select the capacitor. %urthermore, motor
inductances are fre)uently poorly documented, if at all.
The capacitor and motor winding, in combination, form a resonant circuit. (f the control
system drives the motor at fre)uencies near the resonant fre)uency of this circuit, the motor
current through the motor windings, and therefore, the tor)ue e'erted by the motor, will be )uite
different from the steady state tor)ue at the nominal operating voltage. The resonant fre)uency
f N / + ( 6 (L C#
Again, the electrical resonant fre)uency for a variable reluctance motor will depend on
shaft angleT 7hen a variable reluctance motors is operated with the e'citing pulses near
resonance, the oscillating current in the motor winding will lead to a magnetic field that goes to
*ero at twice the resonant fre)uency, and this can severely reduce the available tor)ueT
-.- Unipolar Peranent Ma"net &nd %y$rid Motors
Typical controllers for unipolar stepping motors are variations on the outline shown in
%igure ;.;$
!i"#re -.-
(n %igure ;.;, as in %igure ;./, bo'es are used to represent switches0 a control unit, not
shown, is responsible for providing the control signals to open and close the switches at the
appropriate times in order to spin the motors. The control unit is commonly a computer or
programmable interface controller, with software directly generating the outputs needed to
control the switches.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
As with drive circuitry for variable reluctance motors, we must deal with the inductive
&ic& produced when each of these switches is turned off. Again, we may shunt the inductive &ic&
using diodes, but now, < diodes are re)uired, as shown in %igure ;.<$
!i"#re -./
The e'tra diodes are re)uired because the motor winding is not two independent
inductors0 it is a single center1tapped inductor with the center tap at a fi'ed voltage. This acts as
an autotransformerT 7hen one end of the motor winding is pulled down, the other end will fly
up, and visa versa. 7hen a switch opens, the inductive &ic&bac& will drive that end of the motor
winding to the positive supply, where it is clamped by the diode. The opposite end will fly
downward, and if it was not floating at the supply voltage at the time, it will fall below ground,
reversing the voltage across the switch at that end. Some switches are immune to such reversals,
but others can be seriously damaged.
A capacitor may also be used to limit the &ic&bac& voltage, as shown in %igure ;.B$
!i"#re -.0
The rules for si*ing the capacitor shown in %igure ;.B are the same as the rules for si*ing
the capacitor shown in %igure ;.6, but the effect of resonance is )uite differentT 7ith a
permanent magnet motor, if the capacitor is driven at or near the resonant fre)uency, the tor)ue
will increase to as much as twice the low1speed tor)ueT The resulting tor)ue versus speed curve
may be )uite comple', as illustrated in %igure ;.C$
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re -.3
%igure ;.C shows a pea& in the available tor)ue at the electrical resonant fre)uency, and a
valley at the mechanical resonant fre)uency. (f the electrical resonant fre)uency is placed
appropriately above what would have been the cutoff speed for the motor using a diode1based
driver, the effect can be a considerable increase in the effective cutoff speed.
The mechanical resonant fre)uency depends on the tor)ue, so if the mechanical resonant
fre)uency is anywhere near the electrical resonance, it will be shifted by the electrical resonanceT
%urthermore, the width of the mechanical resonance depends on the local slope of the tor)ue
versus speed curve0 if the tor)ue drops with speed, the mechanical resonance will be sharper,
while if the tor)ue climbs with speed, it will be broader or even split into multiple resonant
-./ Practical Unipolar and (aria$le Rel#ctance Dri*ers
(n the above circuits, the details of the necessary switches have been deliberately ignored.
Any switching technology, from toggle switches to power MIS%4TS will wor&T %igure ;.G
contains some suggestions for implementing each switch, with a motor winding and protection
diode included for orientation purposes$
!i"#re -.4
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
4ach of the switches shown in %igure ;.G is compatible with a TT! input. The B volt
supply used for the logic, including the G<9G open1collector driver used in the figure, should be
well regulated. The motor power, typically between B and 6< volts, needs only minimal
regulation. (t is worth noting that these power switching circuits are appropriate for driving
solenoids, "C motors and other inductive loads as well as for driving stepping motors.
W The SO;/H9 transistor shown in %igure ;.G is a power darlington with a current gain over
/9990 thus, the /9 milliamps flowing through the <G9 ohm bias resistor is more than enough to
allow the transistor to switch a few amps current through the motor winding. The G<9G buffer
used to drive the "arlington may be replaced with any high1voltage open collector chip that can
sin& at least /9 milliamps. (n the event that the transistor fails, the high1voltage open collector
driver serves to protect the rest of the logic circuitry from the motor power supply.
The (=C (=!B<9 shown in %igure ;.G is a power field effect transistor. This can handle
currents of up to about 69 amps, and it brea&s down nondestructively at /99 volts0 as a result,
this chip can absorb inductive spi&es without protection diodes if it is attached to a large enough
heat sin&. This transistor has a very fast switching time, so the protection diodes must be
comparably fast or bypassed by small capacitors. This is particularly essential with the diodes
used to protect the transistor against reverse biasT (n the event that the transistor fails, the *ener
diode and /99 ohm resistor protect the TT! circuitry. The /99 ohm resistor also acts to somewhat
slow the switching times on the transistor.
%or applications where each motor winding draws under B99 milliamps, the D!,699'
family of darlington arrays from Allegro Microsystems, also available as the "S699' from
,ational Semiconductor and as the Motorola MC/</; darlington array will drive multiple motor
windings or other inductive loads directly from logic inputs. %igure ;.H shows the pin out of the
widely available D!,699; chip, an array of G darlington transistors with TT! compatible inputs$
!i"#re -.9
The base resistor on each darlington transistor is matched to standard bipolar TT!
outputs. 4ach ,, darlington is wired with its emitter connected to pin H, intended as a ground
pin, 4ach transistor in this pac&age is protected by two diodes, one shorting the emitter to the
collector, protecting against reverse voltages across the transistor, and one connecting the
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
collector to pin 80 if pin 8 is wired to the positive motor supply, this diode will protect the
transistor against inductive spi&es.
The D!,6H9; chip is essentially the same as the D!,699; chip described above, e'cept
that it is in an /H1pin pac&age, and contains H darlingtons, allowing one chip to be used to drive a
pair of common unipolar permanent1magnet or variable1reluctance motors.
%or motors drawing under C99 milliamps per winding, the D",6B<G. )uad power driver
made by Allegro Microsystems will handle all < windings of common unipolar stepping motors.
%or motors drawing under ;99 milliamps per winding, Te'as (nstruments S,GB</, GB<6 and
GB<; dual power drivers are a good choice0 both of these alternatives include some logic with the
power drivers.
-.0 Bipolar Motors and %'Brid"es
Things are more comple' for bipolar permanent magnet stepping motors because these
have no center taps on their windings. Therefore, to reverse the direction of the field produced by
a motor winding, we need to reverse the current through the winding. 7e could use a double1
pole double throw switch to do this electromechanically0 the electronic e)uivalent of such a
switch is called an H1bridge and is outlined in %igure ;.8$
!i"#re -.:
As with the unipolar drive circuits discussed previously, the switches used in the H1
bridge must be protected from the voltage spi&es caused by turning the power off in a motor
winding. This is usually done with diodes, as shown in %igure ;.8.
(t is worth noting that H1bridges are applicable not only to the control of bipolar stepping
motors, but also to the control of "C motors, push1pull solenoids (those with permanent magnet
plungers# and many other applications.
7ith < switches, the basic H1bridge offers /C possible operating modes, G of which short
out the power supplyT The following operating modes are of interest$
Forward mode, switches A and " closed.
Reerse mode, switches . and C closed.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
These are the usual operating modes, allowing current to flow from the supply, through
the motor winding and onward to ground. %igure ;./9 illustrates forward mode$
!i"#re -.1;
!ast decay ode or coastin" ode 8 all s+itches open
Any current flowing through the motor winding will be wor&ing against the full supply
voltage, plus two diode drops, so current will decay )uic&ly. This mode provides little or no
dynamic bra&ing effect on the motor rotor, so the rotor will coast freely if all motor windings are
powered in this mode. %igure ;.// illustrates the current flow immediately after switching from
forward running mode to fast decay mode.
!i"#re -.11
Slo+ decay odes or dynaic $ra,in" odes
(n these modes, current may recirculate through the motor winding with minimum
resistance. As a result, if current is flowing in a motor winding when one of these modes is
entered, the current will decay slowly, and if the motor rotor is turning, it will induce a current
that will act as a bra&e on the rotor. %igure ;./6 illustrates one of the many useful slow1decay
modes, with switch " closed0 if the motor winding has recently been in forward running mode,
the state of switch . may be either open or closed$
!i"#re -.12
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
Most H1bridges are designed so that the logic necessary to prevent a short circuit is
included at a very low level in the design. %igure ;./; illustrates what is probably the best
!i"#re -.1-
Here, the following operating modes are available$
>? &BCD Mode
99 9999 fast decay
9/ /99/ .or+ard
/9 9//9 re*erse
// 9/9/ slow decay
The advantage of this arrangement is that all of the useful operating modes are preserved,
and they are encoded with a minimum number of bits0 the latter is important when using a
microcontroller or computer system to drive the H1bridge because many such systems have only
limited numbers of bits available for parallel output. Sadly, few of the integrated H1bridge chips
on the mar&et have such a simple control scheme.
-.3 Practical Bipolar Dri*e Circ#its
!i"#re -.1/
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
There are a number of integrated H1bridge drivers on the mar&et, but it is still useful to
loo& at discrete component implementations for an understanding of how an H1bridge wor&s.
Antonio =aposo ( suggested the H1bridge circuit shown in %igure ;./<0
The E and F inputs to this circuit can be driven by open collector TT! outputs as in the
darlington1based unipolar drive circuit in %igure ;.G. The motor winding will be energi*ed if
e'actly one of the E and F inputs is high and e'actly one of them is low. (f both are low, both
pull1down transistors will be off. (f both are high, both pull1up transistors will be off. As a result,
this simple circuit puts the motor in dynamic bra&ing mode in both the // and 99 states, and does
not offer a coasting mode.
The circuit in %igure ;./< consists of two identical halves, each of which may be properly
described as a push1pull driver. The term half H1bridge is sometimes applied to these circuitsT (t
is also worth noting that a half H1bridge has a circuit )uite similar to the output drive circuit used
in TT! logic. (n fact, TT! tri1state line drivers such as the G<!S/6BA and the G<!S6<< can be
used as half H1bridges for small loads, as illustrated in %igure ;./B$
!i"#re -.10
This circuit is effective for driving motors with up to about B9 ohms per winding at
voltages up to about <.B volts using a B volt supply. 4ach tri1state buffer in the !S6<< can sin&
about twice the current it can source, and the internal resistance of the buffers is sufficient, when
sourcing current, to evenly divide the current between the drivers that are run in parallel. This
motor drive allows for all of the useful states achieved by the driver in %igure ;./;, but these
states are not encoded as efficiently$
>?E Mode
11/ fast decay
999 slower decay
9/9 .or+ard
/99 re*erse
//9 slow decay
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
The second dynamic bra&ing mode, EF4N//9, provides a slightly wea&er bra&ing effect
than the first because of the fact that the !S6<< drivers can sin& more current than they can
The Microchip (formerly Telcom Semiconductor# TC<<CG Kuad CMIS driver is another
e'ample of a general purpose driver that can be used as < independent half H1bridges. Dnli&e
earlier drivers, the data sheet for this driver even suggests using it for motor control applications,
with supply voltages up to /H volts and up to 6B9 milliamps per motor winding.
Ine of the problems with commercially available stepping motor control chips is that
many of them have relatively short mar&et lifetimes. %or e'ample, the Seagate ('M'' series of
dual H1bridge chips ((/M/9 through (;M/6# were very well thought out, but unfortunately, it
appears that Seagate only made these when they used stepping motors for head positioning in
Seagate dis& drives. The Toshiba TAG6G8 dual H1bridge driver would be another e'cellent
choice for motors under / amp, but again, it appears to have been made for internal use only.
The S3S1Thompson (and others# !68; dual H1bridge is a close competitor for the above
chips, but unli&e them, it does not include protection diodes. The !68;" chip, introduced later, is
pin compatible and includes these diodes. (f the earlier !68; is used, each motor winding must
be set across a bridge rectifier (/,<99/ e)uivalent#. The use of e'ternal diodes allows a series
resistor to be put in the current recirculation path to speed the decay of the current in a motor
winding when it is turned off0 this may be desirable in some applications. The !68; family offers
e'cellent choices for driving small bipolar steppers drawing up to one amp per motor winding at
up to ;C volts. %igure ;./C shows the pin out common to the !68;. and !68;" chips$
!i"#re -.13
This chip may be viewed as < independent half H1bridges, enabled in pairs, or as two full
H1bridges. This is a power "( pac&age, with pins <, B, /6 and /; designed to conduct heat to
the C board or to an e'ternal heat sin&.
The S3S1Thompson (and others# !68H dual H1bridge is )uite similar to the above, but is
able to handle up to 61amps per channel and is pac&aged as a power component0 as with the
!S6<<, it is safe to wire the two H1bridges in the !68H pac&age into one <1amp H1bridge (the
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
data sheet for this chip provides specific advice on how to do this#. Ine warning is appropriate
concerning the !68H0 this chip very fast switches, fast enough that commonplace protection
diodes (/,<99E e)uivalent# don5t wor&. (nstead, use a diode such as the .FL6G. The ,ational
Semiconductor !M"/H699 H1bridge is another good e'ample0 this handles up to ; amps
and has integral protection diodes.
7hile integrated H1bridges are not available for very high currents or very high voltages,
there are well designed components on the mar&et to simplify the construction of H1bridges from
discrete switches. %or e'ample, (nternational =ectifier sells a line of half H1bridge drivers0 two
of these chips plus < MIS%4T switching transistors suffice to build an H1bridge. The (=6/9/,
(=6/96 and (=6/9; are basic half H1bridge drivers. 4ach of these chips has 6 logic inputs to
directly control the two switching transistors on one leg of an H1bridge. The (=6/9< and (=6///
have similar output1side logic for controlling the switches of an H1bridge, but they also include
input1side logic that, in some applications, may reduce the need for e'ternal logic. (n particular,
the 6/9< includes an enable input, so that < 6/9< chips plus H switching transistors can replace
an !68; with no need for additional logic.
The data sheet for the Microchip (formerly Telcom Semiconductor# TC<<CG family of
)uad CMIS drivers includes information on how to use drivers in this family to drive the power
MIS%4Ts of H1bridges running at up to /B volts.
A number of manufacturers ma&e comple' H1bridge chips that include current limiting
circuitry0 these are the sub2ect of the ne't section. (t is also worth noting that there are a number
of ;1phase bridge drivers on the mar&et, appropriate for driving F or delta configured ;1phase
permanent magnet steppers. %ew such motors are available, and these chips were not developed
with steppers in mind. ,onetheless, the Toshiba TAG6HH, the 3!G<;H, the TAH<99 and TAH<9B
are clean designs, and 6 such chips, with one of the C half1bridges ignored, will cleanly control a
B1winding /9 step per revolution motor.
-.4 Microsteppin" Control Circ#its
As typically used, a micro stepping controller for one motor winding involves a current
limited H1bridge or unipolar drive circuit, where the current is set by a reference voltage. The
reference voltage is then determined by an analog1to1digital converter, as shown in %igure ;./G$
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
%igure ;./G assumes a current limited motor controller such as is shown in %igures <.G,
<.H, <./9 or <.//. %or all of these drivers, the state of the E and F inputs determines the whether
the motor winding is on or off and if on, the direction of the current through the winding. The L9
through Ln inputs determine the reference voltage and this current through the motor winding.
Practical E@aples
There are a fair number of nicely designed integrated circuits combining a current limited
H1bridge with a small "AC to allow micro stepping control of motors drawing under 6 amps per
winding. The D",68/C. from Allegro Microsystems is a dual GB9mA H1bridge, with a 61bit
"AC to control the current through each. bridge. Another e'cellent e'ample is the DC;GG9 from
Dnitrode. This chip integrate a 61bit "AC with a 7M controlled H1bridge, pac&aged in either
/C pin power1dip format or in surface mountable form. The ;G/G a slightly cleaner design, good
for /.6 A, while the ;GG9 is good for up to between /.H A or 6 A, depending on how the chip is
The ;8BB from Allegro Microsystems incorporates a ;1bit non1linear "AC and handles
up to /.B A0 this is available in /C1pin power "( or SI(C formats. The nonlinear "AC in this
chip is specifically designed to minimi*e step1angle errors and tor)ue variations using H micro
steps per full1step.
The !M"/H6<B from ,ational Semiconductor is a good choice for micro stepped control
of motors drawing up to ; amps. This chip incorporates a <1bit linear "AC, and an e'ternal "AC
can be used if higher precision is re)uired. As indicated by the data shown in %igure B.<, a <1bit
linear "AC can produce H reasonably uniformly spaced micro steps, so this chip is a good choice
for applications that e'ceed the power levels supported by the Allegro ;8BB.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
/.1 Introd#ction
Small stepping motors, such as those used for head positioning on floppy dis& drives, are
usually driven at a low "C voltage, and the current through the motor windings is usually limited
by the internal resistance of the winding. High tor)ue motors, on the other hand, are fre)uently
built with very low resistance windings0 when driven by any reasonable supply voltage, these
motors typically re)uire e'ternal current limiting circuitry.
There is good reason to run a stepping motor at a supply voltage above that needed to
push the ma'imum rated current through the motor windings. =unning a motor at higher
voltages leads to a faster rise in the current through the windings when they are turned on, and
this, in turn, leads to a higher cutoff speed for the motor and higher tor)ues at speeds above the
Micro stepping, where the control system positions the motor rotor between half steps,
also re)uires e'ternal current limiting circuitry. %or e'ample, to position the rotor /+< of the way
from one step to another, it might be necessary to run one motor winding at full current while the
other is run at appro'imately /+; of that current.
The remainder of this section discusses various circuits for limiting the current through
the windings of a stepping motor, starting with simple resistive limiters and moving up to
choppers and other switching regulators. Most of these current limiters are appropriate for many
other applications, including limiting the current through conventional "C motors and other
inductive loads.
/.2 Resisti*e C#rrent <iiters
The easiest to understand current limiter is a series resistor. Most motor manufacturers
recommended this approach in their literature up until the early /8H95s, and most motor data
sheets still give performance curves for motors driven by such circuits. The typical circuits used
to control the current through one winding of a permanent magnet or hybrid motor are shown in
%igure <./.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re /.1
=/ in this figure limits the current through the motor winding. 3iven a rated current of (
and a motor winding with a resistance =w, Ihm5s law sets the ma'imum supply voltage as
((=wY=/#. 3iven that the inductance of the motor winding is !w, the time constant for the motor
winding will be !w+(=wY=/#. %igure <.6 illustrates the effect of increasing the resistance and the
operating voltage on the rise and fall times of the current through one winding of a stepping
!i"#re /.2
=6 is shown only in the unipolar e'ample in %igure <./ because it is particularly useful
there. %or a bipolar H1bridge drive, when all switches are turned off, current flows from ground
to the motor supply through =/, so the current through the motor winding will decay )uite
)uic&ly. (n the unipolar case, =6 is necessary to e)ual this performance.
,ote$ 7hen the switches in the H1bridge circuit shown in %igure <./ are opened, the
direction of current flow through =/ will reverse almost instantaneouslyT (f =/ has any
inductance, for e'ample, if it is wire1wound, it must either be bypassed with a capacitor to
handle the voltage &ic& caused by this current reversal, or =6 must be added to the H1bridge.
3iven the rated ma'imum current through each winding and the supply voltage, the
resistance and wattage of =/ is easy to compute. =6 if it is included poses more interesting
problems. The resistance of =6 depends on the ma'imum voltage the switches can handle. %or
e'ample, if the supply voltage is 6< volts, and the switches are rated at GB volts, the drop across
=6 can be as much as B/ volts without harming the transistors. 3iven an operating current of /.B
amps, =6 can be a ;< ohm resistor. ,ote that an interesting alternative is to use a *ener diode in
place of =6.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
%iguring the pea& average power =6 must dissipate is a wonderful e'ercise in dynamics0
the inductance of the motor windings is fre)uently undocumented and may vary with the rotor
position. The power dissipated in =6 also depends on the control system. The worst case occurs
when the control system chops the power to one winding at a high enough fre)uency that the
current through the motor winding is effectively constant0 the ma'imum power is then a function
of the duty cycle of the chopper and the ratios of the resistances in the circuit during the on and
off phases of the chopper. Dnder normal operating conditions, the pea& power dissipation will be
significantly lower.
/.- <inear C#rrent <iiters
A pair of high wattage power resistors can cost more than a pair of power transistors plus
a heat sin&, particularly if forced air cooling is available. %urthermore, a transistori*ed constant
current source, as shown in %igure <.;, will give faster rise times through the motor windings
than the current limiting resistor shown in %igure <./. This is because a current source will
deliver the full supply voltage across the motor winding until the current reaches the rated
current0 only then will the current source drop the voltage.
!i"#re /.-
(n %igure <.;, a transistori*ed current source (T/ plus =/# has been substituted for the
current limiting resistor =/ used in the e'amples in %igure <./. The regulated voltage supplied to
the base of T/ serves to regulate the voltage across the sense resistor =/, and this, in turn,
maintains a constant current through =/ so long as any current is allowed to flow through the
motor winding.
Typically, =/ will have as low a resistance as possible, in order to avoid the high cost of a
power resistor. %or e'ample, if the forward voltage drops across the diode in series with the base
T/ and L.4 for T/ are both 9.CB volts, and if a ;.; volt *ener diode is used for a reference, the
voltage across =/ will be maintained at about 6.9 volts, so if =/ is 6 ohms, this circuit will limit
the current to / amp, and =/ must be able to handle 6 watts.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
=; in %igure <.; must be si*ed in terms of the current gain of T/ so that sufficient current
flows through =/ and =; to allow T/ to conduct the full rated motor current.
The transistor T/ used as a current regulator in %igure <.; is run in linear mode, and
therefore, it must dissipate )uite a bit of power. %or e'ample, if the motor windings have a
resistance of B ohms and a rated current of / amp and a 6B volt power supply is used, T/ plus =/
will dissipate, between them, 69 wattsT The circuits discussed in the following sections avoid this
waste of power while retaining the performance advantages of the circuit given here.
7hen an H1bridge bipolar drive is used with a resistive current limiter, as shown in
%igure <./, the resistor =6 was not needed because current could flow bac&wards through =/.
7hen a transistori*ed current limiter is used, current cannot flow bac&wards through T/, so a
separate current path bac& to the positive supply must be provided to handle the decaying current
through the motor windings when the switches are opened. =6 serves this purpose here, but a
*ener diode may be substituted to provide even faster turn1off.
The performance of a motor run with a current limited power supply is noticeably better
than the performance of the same motor run with a resistively limited supply, as illustrated in
%igure <.<$
!i"#re /./
7ith either a current limited supply or a resistive current limiter, the initial rate of
increase of the current through the inductive motor winding when the power is turned on
depends only on the inductance of the winding and the supply voltage. As the current increases,
the voltage drop across a resistive current limiter will increase, dropping the voltage applied to
the motor winding, and therefore, dropping the rate of increase of the current through the
winding. As a result, the current will only approach the rated current of the motor winding
(n contrast, with a pure current limiter, the current through the motor winding will
increase almost linearly until the current limiter cuts in, allowing the current to reach the limit
value )uite )uic&ly. (n fact, the current rise is not linear0 rather, the current rises asymptotically
towards a limit established by the resistance of the motor winding and the resistance of the sense
resistor in the current limiter. This ma'imum is usually well above the rated current for the motor
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
/./ Open <oop C#rrent <iiters
.oth the resistive and the linear transistori*ed current limiters discussed above
automatically limit the current through the motor winding, but at a considerable cost, in terms of
wasted heat. There are two schemes that eliminate this e'pense, although at some ris& because of
the lac& of feedbac& about the current through the motor.
Use o. a (olta"e Boost
(f you plot the voltage across the motor winding as a function of time, assuming the use
of a transistori*ed current limiter such as is illustrated in %igure <.;, and assuming a / amp B
ohm motor winding, the result will be something li&e that illustrated in %igure <.B$
!i"#re /.0
As long as the current is below the current limiter5s set point, almost the full supply
voltage is applied across the motor winding. Ince the current reaches the set point, the voltage
across the motor winding falls to that needed to sustain the current at the set point, and when the
switches open, the voltage reverses briefly as current flows through the diode networ& and =6.
An alternative way to get this voltage profile is to use a dual1voltage power supply,
turning on the high voltage for as long as it ta&es to bring the current in the motor winding up to
the rated current, and then turning off the high voltage and turning on the sustaining voltage.
Some motor controllers do this directly, without monitoring the current through the motor
windings. This provides e'cellent performance and minimi*es power losses in the regulator, but
it offers a dangerous temptation.
(f the motor does not deliver enough tor)ue, it is tempting to simply lengthen the high1
voltage pulse at the time the motor winding is turned on. This will usually provide more tor)ue,
although saturation of the magnetic circuits fre)uently leads to less tor)ue than might be
e'pected, but the cost is highT The ris& of burning out the motor is )uite real, as is the ris& of
demagneti*ing the motor rotor if it is turned against the imposed field while running hot.
Therefore, if a dual1voltage supply is used, the temptation to raise the tor)ue in this way should
be avoidedT
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
The problems with dual voltage supplies are particularly serious when the time intervals
are under software control, because in this case, it is common for the software to be written by a
programmer who is insufficiently aware of the physical and electrical characteristics of the
control system.
/.0 Use o. P#lse )idth Mod#lation
Another alternative approach to controlling the current through the motor winding is to
use a simple power supply controlled by pulse width modulation (7M# or by a chopper. "uring
the time the current through the motor winding is increasing, the control system leaves the
supply attached with a /99@ duty cycle. Ince the current is up to the full rated current, the
control system changes the duty cycle to that re)uired to maintain the current. %igure <.C
illustrates this scheme$
!i"#re /.3
%or any chopper or pulse width modulator, we can define the duty1cycle " as the fraction
of each cycle that the switch is closed$
" N Ton + (Ton Y Toff#
Ton 11 time the switch is closed during each cycle
Toff 11 time the switch is open during each cycle
The voltage curve shown above indicates the full supply voltage being applied to the
motor winding during the on1phase of every chopper cycle, while when the chopper is off, a
negative voltage is shown. This is the result of the forward voltage drop in the diodes that are
used to shunt the current when the switches turn off, plus the e'ternal resistance used to speed
the decay of the current through the motor winding.
%or large values of Ton or Toff, the e'ponential nature of the rise and fall of the current
through the motor winding is significant, but for sufficiently small values, we can appro'imate
these as linear. Assuming that the chopper is wor&ing to maintain a current of ( and that the
amplitude is small, we will appro'imate the rates of rise and fall in the current in terms of the
voltage across the motor winding when the switch is closed and when it is open$
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
Lon N Lsupply 1 ( (=winding Y =on#
Loff N Ldiode Y ( (=winding Y =off#
Here, we lump together all resistances in series with the winding and power supply in the
on state as =on, and we lump together all resistances in the current recirculation path when the
switch(es# are open as =off. The forward voltage drops of any diodes in the current recirculation
path have been lumped as Ldiode0 if the off1state recirculation path runs from ground to the power
supply (H1bridge fast decay mode#, the supply voltage must also be included in Ldiode. %orward
voltage drops of any switches in the on1state and off1state paths should also be incorporated into
these voltages.
To solve for the duty cycle, we first note that$
d(+dt N L+!
( 11 current through the motor winding
L 11 voltage across the winding
! 11 inductance of the winding
7e then substitute the specific voltages for each phase of operation$
(ripple + Toff N Loff + !
(ripple + Ton N Lon + !
(ripple 11 the pea& to pea& ripple in the current
Solving for Toff and Ton and then substituting these into the definition of the duty cycle of
the chopper, we get$
" N Ton + (Ton Y Toff# N Loff + (Lon Y Loff#
(f the forward voltage drops in diodes and switches are negligible, and if the only
significant resistance is that of the motor winding itself, this simplifies to$
" N ( =winding + Lsupply N Lrunning + Lsupply
This special case is particularly desirable because it delivers all of the power to the motor
winding, with no losses in the regulation system, without regard for the difference between the
supply voltage and the running voltage.
The AC ripple (ripple superimposed on the running current by a chopper can be a source of
problems0 at high fre)uencies, it can be a source of =% emissions and at audio fre)uencies, it can
be a source of annoying noise. %or e'ample, with audio fre)uency chopping, most stepper
controlled systems will -s)ueel-, sometimes loudly, when the rotor is displaced from the
e)uilibrium position. %or small systems, this is usually no more than a minor nuisance, but in
systems with large numbers of high power steppers, the ripple currents can induce dangerous AC
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
voltages on nearby signal lines and dangerous currents in nearby ground lines. To find the ripple
amplitude, first recall that$
(ripple + Toff N Loff + !
Then solve for (ripple$
(ripple N Toff Loff + !
Thus, to reduce the ripple amplitude at any particular duty cycle, it is necessary to
increase the chopper fre)uency. This cannot be done without limit because switching losses
increase with fre)uency. ,ote that this change has no significant effect on AC losses0 the
decrease in such losses due to decreased amplitude in the ripple is generally offset by the effect
of increasing fre)uency.
The primary problem with use of a simple chopping or pulse1width modulation control
scheme is that it is completely open loop. "esign of good chopper based control systems re)uires
&nowledge of motor characteristics such as inductance that are fre)uently poorly documented,
and as with dual1voltage supplies, when motor performance is marginal, it is very tempting to
increase the duty1cycle without attention to the long1term effects of this on the motor. (n the
designs that follow, this wea&ness will be addressed by introducing feedbac& loops into the low
level drive system to directly monitor the current and determine the duty cycle.
/.3 One'Shot !eed$ac, C#rrent <iitin"
The most common approach to automatically ad2usting the duty cycle of the switches in
the stepper driver involves monitoring the current to the motor windings0 when it rises too high,
the winding is turned off for a fi'ed interval. This re)uires a current sensing system and a one1
shot, as illustrated in %igure <.G$
!i"#re /.4
%igure <.G illustrates a unipolar drive system. As with the circuit given in %igure <.;, =/
should be as small as possible, limited only by the re)uirement that the sense voltage provided to
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
the comparator must be high enough to be within its operating range. ,ote that when the one1
shot output (ZK# is low, the voltage across =/ no1longer reflects the current through the motor
winding. Therefore, the one1shot must be insensitive to the output of the comparator between the
time it fires and the time it resets. ractical circuit designs using this approach involve some
comple'ity to meet this constraintT
Selecting the value of =6 for the circuit shown in %igure <.G poses problems. (f =6 is
large, the current through the motor windings will decay )uic&ly when the higher level control
system turns off this motor winding, but when the winding is turned on, the current ripple will be
large and the power lost in =6 will be significant. (f =6 is small, this circuit will be very energy
efficient but the current through the motor winding will decay only slowly when this winding is
turned off, and this will reduce the cutoff speed for the motor.
The pea& power dissipated in =6 will be (
=6 during Toff and *ero during Ton0 thus, the
average power dissipated in =6 when the motor winding is on will be$
6 N (
= Toff + (Ton Y Toff#
=ecall that the duty cycle " is defined as Ton+ (TonYToff# and may be appro'imated as
Lrunning+Lsupply. As a result, we can appro'imate the power dissipation as$
6 N (
=6 (/ 1 Lrunning+Lsupply#.
3iven the usual safety margins used in selecting power resistor wattages, a better
appro'imation is not necessary.
7hen designing a control system based on pulse width modulation, note that the cutoff
time for the one1shot determines Toff, and that this is fi'ed, determined by the timing networ&
attached to the one1shot. (deally, this should be set as follows$
Toff N ! (ripple + Loff
This presumes that the inductance ! of the motor winding is &nown, that the acceptable
magnitude of (ripple is &nown, and that Loff, the total reverse voltage in the current recirculation
path, is &nown and fi'ed.
,ote that this scheme leads to a variable chopping rate. As with the linear current limiters
shown in %igure <.;, the full supply voltage will be applied during the turn1on phase, and the
chopping action only begins when the motor winding reaches the current limit set by Lref. This
circuit will vary the chopping rate to compensate for changes in the bac& 4M% of the motor
winding, for e'ample, those caused by rotor motion0 in this regard, it offers the same )uality of
regulation as the linear current limiter.
The one1shot current regulator shown in %igure <.G can also be applied to an H1bridge
regulator. The encoded H1bridge shown in %igure ;./; is an e'cellent candidate for this
application, as shown in %igure <.H$
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re /.9
Dnli&e the circuit in %igure <.G, this circuit does not provide design tradeoffs in the
selection of the resistance in the current decay path0 instead, it offers the same selection of decay
paths as was available in the original circuit from %igure ;./;. (f the E and F control inputs are
held in a running mode (9/ or /9#, the current limiter will alternate between that running and
slow decay modes, ma'imi*ing energy efficiency. 7hen the time comes to turn off the current
through the motor winding, the E and F inputs may be set to 99, using fast decay mode to
ma'imi*e the cutoff speed, while if the damping effect of dynamic bra&ing is needed to control
resonance, E and F may be set to //.
,ote that the current recirculation path during dynamic bra&ing does not pass through =/,
and as a result, if the motor generates a large amount of power, burnt out components in the
motor or controller are li&ely. This is unli&ely to cause problems with stepping motors, but when
dynamic bra&ing is used with "C motors, the current limiter should be arranged to remain
engaged while in bra&ing modeT
Practical E@aples
S3S1Thompson (and others# !68; (/A# and !68H (6A# dual H1bridges are designed for
easy use with partial feedbac& current limiters. These chips have enable inputs for each H1bridge
that can be directly connected to the output of the one1shot, and they have ground connections
for motor1power that are isolated from their logic ground connections0 this allows sense resistors
to be easily incorporated into the circuit.
The ;8B6 H1bridge from Allegro Microsystems can handle up to 61amps at B9 volts and
incorporates all of the logic necessary for current control, including comparators and one1shot.
This chip is available in many pac&age styles0 %igure <.8 illustrates the "( configuration wired
for a constant current limit$
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re /.:
(f =t is 69 O[, and Ct is /999p%, Toff for the pulse1width modulation will be fi'ed at 69
(# microseconds. The ;8B6 chip incorporates a /9 to / voltage divider on the Lref input, so
attaching Lref to the B volt logic supply sets the actual reference voltage to 9.B L. Thus, if the
sense resistor =s is 9.B ohms, this arrangement will attempt to maintain a regulated current
through the load of / A.
,ote that all power switching chips are potentially serious sources of electromagnetic
interference. The <G]% capacitor shown between the motor power and ground should be as close
to the chip as possible, and the path from the S4,S4 pin through =s to ground and bac& to a
ground pin of the chip should be very short and with a very low resistance.
In the B volt side, because Lref is ta&en from Lcc, a small decoupling capacitor should be
placed very close to the chip. (t may even be appropriate to isolate the Lref input from Lcc with a
small series resistor and a separate decoupling capacitor. (f this is done, note that the resistance
from the Lref pin to ground through the chip5s internal voltage divider is around B9 O[.
Ine of the more dismaying features of the ;8B6 chip, as well as many of its competitors,
is the large number of control inputs. These are summari*ed in the following table$
9 1 1 9 9 9 .ra&e
9 1 1 / 9 9 !imited .ra&e
/ / 1 9 1 1 Standby
/ / 1 / 1 1 Sleep
/ 9 9 9 9 / =everse, Slow
/ 9 9 / 9 / =everse, %ast
/ 9 / 9 / 9 %orward, Slow
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
/ 9 / / / 9 %orward, %ast
(n the forward and reverse running modes, the mode input determines whether fast or slow decay
modes are used during Toff. (n the dynamic bra&ing modes, the mode input determines whether
the current limiter is enabled. This is of limited value with stepping motors, but use of dynamic
bra&ing without a current limiter can be dangerous with "C motors.
(n sleep mode, the power consumption of the chip is minimi*ed. %rom the perspective of
the load, sleep and standby modes put the load into fast decay mode (all switches off# but in
sleep mode, the chip draws considerably less power, both from the logic supply and the motor
/.4 %ysteresis !eed$ac, C#rrent <iitin"
(n many cases, motor control systems are e'pected to operate acceptably with a number
of different stepping motors. The one1shot based current regulators illustrated in %igures <.G to
<.8 have an accuracy that depends on the inductance of the motor windings. Therefore, if fi'ed
accuracy is re)uired, any motor substitution must be balanced by changes to the =C networ& that
determines the off1time of the one1shot.
This section deals with alternative designs that eliminate the need for this tuning. These
alternative designs offer fi'ed precision current regulation over a wide range of load inductances.
The &ey to this approach is arrange the recirculation paths so that the current1sense resistor =/ is
always in the circuit, and then turn the switches on or off depending only on the current.
The usually way to build this type of controller is to use a comparator with a degree of
hysteresis, for e'ample, by feeding the output of the comparator bac& into one of its inputs
through a resistor networ&, as illustrated in %igure <./9$
!i"#re /.1;
To compute the desired values of =6 and =;, we note that$
Lripple V Lhysteresis
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
Lripple N (ripple =/
(ripple 11 the ma'imum ripple allowed in the current
and$ Lhysteresis N Lswing =6 + (=6 Y =;#
Lswing 11 the voltage swing at the output of the comparator
7e can solve this for the ratio of the resistances$
=6 + (=6 Y =;# ^ (ripple =/ + Lswing
%or e'ample, if =/ is 9.B ohms and we wish to regulate the current to within /9
milliamps, using a comparator with TT! compatable outputs and a voltage swing of < volts, the
ratio must be no greater than .99/6B.
,ote that the sum =6 Y =; determines the loading on Lref, assuming that the input
resistance of the comparator is effectively infinite. Typically, therefore, this sum is made )uite
Ine problem with the circuit given in %igure <./9 is that it does not limit the current
through the motor in dynamic bra&ing or slow decay modes. 4ven if the current through the
sense resistor vastly e'ceeds the desired current, switches . and " will remain closed in dynamic
bra&ing mode, and if the reference voltage is variable, rapid drops in the reference voltage will
not be enforced by this control system.
The designers of the Allegro ;8B6 chip faced this problem, and passed the solution bac&
to the user, providing a MI"4 input to determine whether the chopper alternated between
running and fast decay mode or running and slow decay mode. ,ote that this chip uses a fi'ed
off1time set by a one1shot, and therefore, switching between the two decay modes will change
the precision of the current regulator. 3iven that such a change in precision is acceptable, we can
modify the circuit from %igure <./9 to automatically thrown the system into fast1decay mode if
the running or dynamic bra&ing current e'ceeds the set1point of the comparator by too great a
margin. %igure <.// illustrates how this can be done using a second comparator$
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re /.11
As shown in %igure <.//, the lower comparator directly senses the voltage across =/,
while the upper comparator senses a higher voltage, determined by a resistor networ&. This
networ& should hold the negative inputs of the two comparators 2ust far enough apart to
guarantee that, as the voltage across =/ rises, the top comparator will always open the top
switches before the bottom comparator opens the bottom switches, and as the voltage across =/
falls, the bottom comparator will always close the bottom switches before the top comparator
closes the top switches.
As a result, this system has two basic steady1state running modes. (f the motor winding is
drawing power, one of the bottom switches will remain closed while the opposite switch on the
top is used to chop the power to the motor winding, alternating the state of the system between
running and slow1decay mode.
(f the motor winding is generating power, the top switches will remain open and the
bottom switches will do the chopping, alternating between fast1decay and slow1decay modes as
needed to &eep the current within limits.
(f the two comparators have accuracies on the order of a milli volt with hysteresis on the
order of B milli volts, it is reasonable to use a B milli volt difference between the top and bottom
comparator. (f we use the B volt logic supply as the pull1up supply for the resistor networ&, and
we assume a nominal operating threshold of around 9.B volts, the resistor networ& should have a
ratio of /$8990 for e'ample, a 89& resistor from YB and a /99 ohm resistor between the two
comparator inputs.
Practical E@aples
The basic idea described in this section is also applicable to unipolar stepping motor
controllers, although in this conte't, it is somewhat easier to apply if the reference voltage is
measured with respect to the unregulated motor power supply. %igure <./6 illustrates a practical
e'ample, using the forward voltage drop across an ordinary silicon diode as the reference
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
!i"#re /.12
The circuit shown in %igure <./6 uses a 6.<O resistor to provide a bias current of /9ma to
the reference diode. A small capacitor should be added across the reference diode if the motor
power supply is minimally regulated.
The 9.C ohm value used for the current sensing resistor sets the regulator to / amp,
assuming that the reference voltage is 9.C volts. The /999 to / ratio on the feedbac& networ&
around the comparator sets the allowed ripple in the regulated current to around H ma.
The comparator shown in %igure <./6 can be powered from the minimally regulated
motor power supply, but only if it is able to operate with the inputs very close to its positive
supply voltage. Although ( have not tried it, the Mitsubishi MB6<8! comparator appears to be
ideally suited to this 2ob0 it can wor& from a positive supply of up to <9 volts, and the input
voltages are allowed to slightly e'ceed the positive supply voltageT The output of this
comparator is open collector, so the hysteresis networ& shown in the figure also acts as a pull1up
networ&, providing a pull1up current of a few milliamps. The diode to YB shown in the figure
clamps the comparator output to the logic supply voltage, protecting the and gate inputs from
/.9 Other C#rrent Sensin" Technolo"ies
The feedbac& loops of all of the current limiters given above use the voltage drop across a
small resistor to measure the current. This is an e'cellent choice for small motors, but it poses
difficulties for large high1current motors. There are other current sensing technologies
appropriate for such settings, most notably those that deliver only a fraction of the motor current
to the sensing resistor, and those that measure the current by sensing the magnetic field around
the conductor.
,ational Semiconductor had incorporated a very clever current sensor into a number of
their H1bridges. This delivers a current to the sense resistor that is proportional to the current
through the motor winding, but far lower. %or e'ample, on the !M"/H699 H1bridge, the sense
resistor receives e'actly ;GG micro amps per ampere flowing through the motor winding.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
The &ey to the current sensing technology used in the ,ational Semiconductor line of H1
bridges is found in the internal structure of the "MIS power switching transistors they use.
These transistors are composed of thousands of small MIS%4T transistor cells wired in parallel.
A small but representative fraction of these cells, typically / in <999, is used to e'tract the sense
current while the remainders of the cells control the motor current. The data sheet for the
,ational !M"/H6<B H1bridge contains an e'cellent write1up on how this is done.
7hen very high currents are involved, precluding use of an integrated H1bridge, an
appealing and well established current sensing technology involves the use of a split ferrite core
and a hall effect sensor, as illustrated in %igure <./;$
!i"#re /.1-
Simple linear Hall effect sensors re)uire a small regulated bias current between two of
their terminals, and they generate a "C voltage proportional to the magnetic field on a third
terminal. The magnetic field across the gap sawed in the ferrite core is proportional to the current
through the wire, and therefore, the voltage reported by the Hall effect sensor will be
proportional to the current.
Allegro Microsystems and others ma&e full lines of Hall 4ffect sensors, but pre1calibrated
Hall 4ffect current sensors are available0 these include the split core, the hall effect sensor, and
au'iliary components, all mounted on a small C board or potted as a unit. ,ewar& 4lectronics
lists a few sources of these, including Honeywell, %. 7. .ell and !4M (nstruments.
An intriguing new current sensor is 2ust becoming available, as of /88H, based on a thin1
film magneto1resistive sensor0 the sensitivity of this technology eliminates the need for the ferrite
core and the result is a very compact current sensor. The ,T series sensors made by %. 7. .ell
use this technology.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
0.1 The Di..erence $et+een Stepper Motors8 Ser*os8 and RC Ser*os
Stepper otors
A stepper motor5s shaft has permanent magnets attached to it. Around the body of the
motor is a series of coils that create a magnetic field that interacts with the permanent magnets.
7hen these coils are turned on and off the magnetic field causes the rotor to move. As the coils
are turned on and off in se)uence the motor will rotate forward or reverse. This se)uence is
called the phase pattern and there are several types of patterns that will cause the motor to turn.
Common types are full1double phase, full1single phase, and half step.
To ma&e a stepper motor rotate, you must constantly turn on and off the coils. (f you
simply energi*e one coil the motor will 2ust 2ump to that position and stay there resisting change.
This energi*ed coil pulls full current even though the motor is not turning. The stepper motor
will generate a lot of heat at standstill. The ability to stay put at one position rigidly is often an
advantage of stepper motors. The tor)ue at standstill is called the holding tor)ue.
.ecause steppers can be controlled by turning coils on and off, they are easy to control
using digital circuitry and microcontroller chips. The controller simply energi*es the coils in a
certain pattern and the motor will move accordingly. At any given time the computer will &now
the position of the motor since the number of steps given can be trac&ed. This is true only if
some outside force of greater strength than the motor has not interfered with the motion.
An optical encoder could be attached to the motor to verify its position but steppers are
usually used open1loop (without feedbac&#. Most stepper motor control systems will have a
home switch associated with each motor that will allow the software to determine the starting or
reference -home- position.
Ser*o otors
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
There are several types of servo motors but (5ll 2ust deal with a simple "C type here. (f
you ta&e a normal "C motor that can be bought at =adio Shac& it has one coil (6 wires#. (f you
attach a battery to those wires the motor will spin. See, very different from a stepper already.
=eversing the polarity will reverse the direction. Attach that motor to the wheel of a robot and
watch the robot move noting the speed. ,ow add a heavier payload to the robot, what happens_
The robot will slow down due to the increased load. The computer inside of the robot would not
&now this happened unless there was an encoder on the motor &eeping trac& of its position.
So, in a "C motor, the speed and current draw is a affected by the load. %or applications
that the e'act position of the motor must be &nown, a feedbac& device li&e an encoder MDST be
used (not optional li&e a stepper#.
The control circuitry to perform good servoing of a "C motor is MDCH more comple' than the
circuitry that controls a stepper motor.
RC Ser*os
Iften when tal&ing about robots the word -servo- really means an =C (remote control#
servo motor. This is a small bo' designed for use in hobby airplanes and cars.
(nside this bo' is a complete servo system including$ motor, gearbo', feedbac& device
(pot#, servo control circuitry, and drive circuit. (t5s really ama*ing that they can stic& all of that in
such a small pac&age.
=C servos normally have ; wires$ Yv, ground, control. The control signal is a pulse that
occurs at about B9h*. The width of the pulse determines the position of the servo motors output.
As you can see, this would be pretty easy to control with a digital controller such as a .asic
Stamp. Most will run on B1C volts and draw /991B99ma depending on si*e.
0.2 Coparison $et+een Stepper Motor &nd Br#shless Motor
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
0.- &pplications
0.-.1 )hen to !ind Stepper Motors
A stepper motor can be a good choice whenever controlled movement is re)uired. They
can be used to advantage in applications where you need to control rotation angle, speed,
position and synchronism. .ecause of the inherent advantages listed previously, stepper motors
have found their place in many different applications. Some of these include printers, plotters,
high1end office e)uipment, hard dis& drives, medical e)uipment, fa' machines, automotive and
many more.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
0.-.2 )here to !ind Stepper Motors
Stepper motors can be found in almost any piece of electro1mechanical e)uipment. %rom
my personal e'periences, good sources for stepper motors include$
S#rpl#s dot'atri@ printers
(f you find one of these at a swap meet, surplus store, or garage sale for a good price, buy
itT They usually contain at least 6 motors, sometimes with optical shaft encoders attached to the
motorsT Also a good source for matching gears and toothed belts. As a general rule, larger
printers will have larger, more powerful stepper motors in them.
Old .loppy dis, dri*es
These usually contain at least / stepper motor, and if you5re fortunate, possibly a driver
(C that can be salvaged and re1used in your own pro2ects. Along with the motor you will get
some optical interrupter units used by the drive to sense the state of the write1protect tabs and to
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
inde' the dis&.
S#rpl#s stores
These places buy surplus from others and sell it to the public, often at great prices. The
average price for a small to medium stepper motor is usually around `B.99.
Mail Order Copanies
Fou can find surplus motors or even new, pac&aged units. ,aturally the new units are
going to cost more, but this may save time and money if you5re building e)uipment with the
motors that will be used at more than a -hobby- level. %or general tin&ering and small scale
robotics, used motors will wor& 2ust fine.
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
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Stepper Motors and Their Controllers
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