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What Is an Arduino® Stepper?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2016
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An Arduino® stepper is a library, or set of code, that allows users to control a stepper motor via an Arduino® microcontroller. A stepper motor is a motor that, by use of electromagnetic pulses, creates mechanical movement. Unlike many other libraries and programs for this system, the Arduino® stepper consists of only a few parameters. There is very little needed for the Arduino® stepper to work; the user just needs an Arduino® board, the correct circuit design, and the stepper library, along with the stepper motor itself.

A stepper motor is a type of motor that has pieces with constantly shifting magnetic poles. Through this shifting, the central motor portion moves at great speeds. The Arduino® stepper library is able to control both unipolar and bipolar stepper motors. The motor coils in a unipolar motor have two windings, one for negative and one for positive, while bipolar has one winding that is constantly changed. Stepper motors are used in many computer devices and also have industrial uses in creating mechanical parts that need precision moving and cutting.

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Before using the stepper motor, the user needs to have the stepper library program and the proper circuit board to make the stepper motor function. Along with this, the user must create a circuit so power can go from the Arduino® hardware into the motor. Compared to using many other functions with an Arduino® microprocessor, this requires very little work. Stepper motors are connected to the Arduino® microprocessor with a two- or four-pin circuit based on the stepper motor instructions.

There are three parameters that need to be set for the stepper motor to work: Stepper, SetSpeed and Step. The first one, Stepper, must be configured for two or four pins, based on how the user made the circuit. One should read the motor’s instructions to find out how many degrees per step there are, divide it by 360, and get the number of steps. Then the pin parameters must be added as pin1 and pin2, then pin3 and pin4 if a four pin configuration was used.

The next parameter, SetSpeed, is the stepper motor's rotations per minute (RPM) when in use. This parameter only sets the speed and will not make the motor spin by itself. The last parameter, Step, is the one that does cause the motor to move. Inputting a number here will cause the Arduino® stepper to make the stepper motor move that many steps.

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