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What Is a Stepper Motor Microcontroller?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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A stepper motor microcontroller is a piece of hardware that is capable of controlling a stepper motor by telling the motor how many magnetic pulses, or steps, to turn the motor. All stepper motors need some sort of control unit, and users can opt for either a full computer or a stepper motor microcontroller. Using a microcontroller is slightly more difficult, because the installation is harder, but it also allows the motor to function independently of a computer. Microcontrollers also use considerably less energy than a computer, and this low energy may be needed in some stepper motor applications.

All stepper motors are controlled by electrical impulse, which makes them exceedingly accurate. Unlike other motors, which when spun can rotate more or less than needed, a stepper motor divides a rotation into steps. The controller, either a computer or microcontroller, feeds into the stepper motor the instructions that cause it to move only the specified amount of steps.

A stepper motor microcontroller is a small piece of hardware that has very little included within it. There is usually some memory and a processing unit, but there is not enough to make it work alone. This hardware is used for embedded applications, for which a user injects programming into the microcontroller and the controller then feeds the programming into another piece of hardware, such as a stepper motor.

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To start, the stepper motor microcontroller is connected to a computer. The computer user then writes programming for the stepper motor, based on the speed of the motor’s rotation and how many steps to move. After the programming is finished, the microcontroller is embedded onto the stepper motor.

The embedding process can be difficult for new users and those who have difficulty reading schematics. Wires have to be carefully and correctly tied into the microcontroller from the stepper motor. If the wires are incorrectly set, the motor will not work or may short out.

While it takes a bit longer to use, a stepper motor microcontroller does present some advantages over using a computer as the controller. The motor can now be used independently of the computer, so the user can move around the motor and any devices connected to it. The microcontroller uses less energy and, if the application is energy sensitive, this will help. Microcontrollers also are cheaper than other controller units, which make them better for hobbyists and for companies looking to save money.

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