How to Choose the Best Stepper Motor for Your 3D Printer

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How to Choose the Best Stepper Motor for Your 3D Printer

Introduction

Are you planning to buy a stepper motor for your 3D printer? Maybe you’re replacing a faulty motor or upgrading to something a bit better than stock. If so, you’re in luck, as I’ve created this detailed guide to help you do just that.

But before we proceed, just what is a stepper motor? Stepper motors are a specific type of electric motor that contains a sequence of electromagnetic coils that get activated in a particular order, one by one.

Whereas a conventional electric motor has power going to all the coils and continues to rotate for as long as there is power supplied, a stepper motor may rotate an exact number of rotations or even partial rotations. With this in mind, we can now dive in further to know which is the best stepper motor you should consider buying. 

Types of Stepper Motors

The performance and functioning of a stepper motor differ depending on the kind of stepper driver installed in it. Here is an overview of the three types of stepper drivers. 

Bi-level Steeper Driver 

This type of stepper motor can use both low and high-level voltages. Therefore, when using high voltage, it draws a large current, which is needed to increase the motor windings rise time. Once the desired level current level is attained, this stepper automatically switches off the high voltage supply, thereby maintaining the current supply from the low voltage, 

It is this unique feature that this stepper driver has got its name bi-level. The ability to switch the high and low-level voltage allows this stepper to run at a lower cost while still being efficient. 

L/R Stepper Driver – Resistance Limited 

This stepper motor is a low-performing driver that still offers full-rated operation. It rotates at a low to medium speed, which leads to a limited power output range. The L/R stepper motor doesn’t incorporate a feature that offers variable control. As a result, it’s only capable of producing a system performance that’s within low and moderate.    

The old drive designs ran either on half or full-step operation mode and got their design from this driver. 

(PWM) Chopper Stepper Driver – Microstep

The last type of stepper motor is the PWM (pulse width modulation) stepper driver. It’s also referred to as a Microstep driver, chopper, or constant, and it differentiates itself from the rest by only using a single high voltage supply and works using that. Integrated into this stepper motor are output transistors that automatically turn on and off, thereby regulating the average current level. 

With that said, the chopper stepper driver has its advantages and disadvantages. The most beneficial feature is this stepper is being able to drive stepper motors still even while in Microstep mode. 

While in the Microstep mode, there is an improved level of smoothness that other drivers don’t provide. The Microstep mode allows for regulating the current rate across every speed, and it thus guarantees superb performance. This driver also offers mid-range stabilization and current boosts. 

However, it has shortcomings, which include being complicated and costly to run than the other types of stepper motors. This driver also suffers from overheating issues and produces RFI and WMI. 

How Do You Choose the Right Stepper Motor for Your 3D Printer?

The choice of which stepper motor to buy for your 3D printer can be somewhat overwhelming. It’s because of this that I’ve discussed some of the critical items you need to consider in the search for the best steeper motor for your 3D printer. 

Current Types 

Stepper motors can operate using both types of currents; Direct Current (DC) and Alternating Current (AC). Many stepper motor drivers on the market run with DC current as they are more suited to 3D printers, which already need a DC supply for heaters. However, you can also, in rare cases, find a stepper motor that runs on just AC current. 

Number of Windings

Stepper motors have a varying number of wires or windings. Typically, the bipolar stepper motors have 4, 6, or 8 wires and are best suited for bipolar drive. Furthermore, motors with five wires cannot be used since they can only be driven while in unipolar mode. 

Stepper motors with four wires have two coils on the inside, with each of these wires connected to every end and is the easiest to connect. The coil and wire pairs are referred to as a phase, with the four wires mapping out to the Duet’s all four output pins. 

In contrast, the 6-wire stepper motors incorporate two oils, with each of these having a center tap. Therefore, this coil can be effectively cut in half if need be, creating an additional wire for every coil. It is up to you to decide whether to run them in full coil mode meaning the center wires are unconnected or half-coil, that is, two end-wires being left unconnected.

There also is the 8-wire stepper, which has four coils, meaning you get two wires for every coil, which totals eight wires. The 8-wire stepper can either be run in full-coil or half-coil mode; that is, only two coils are connected. It is up to you for the full-coil mode to decide whether to wire the coils in parallel or series. 

Size of Motor 

Stepper motors are available in different sizes, with most typically too powerful if you have a simple 3D printer that does not need too much power. Because of this, you should go for NEMA 17, whose faceplate dimension is 1.7 by 1.7 inches. With this stepper motor, you are guaranteed to get enough power to complete any 3D printing task. 

If you want greater torque, the NEMA 23 is an ideal choice or the larger NEMA 34. 

Step Count 

The accuracy you might need in terms of positioning resolution or movement is achieved thanks to stepping count. Step count essentially means the number of steps for each revolution, and it usually ranges between 4 to 400 steps. The most step counts are 24, 24 as well as 200, with the 200 steps for each resolution equivalent to 1.8 degrees per step. 

When looking to attain a greater resolution, both toque and speed will need to be sacrificed. This means a high step count will result in a reduced RPMs compared to a different motor of similar size but lower step count. 

If you want the motor to turn more efficiently thanks to the higher step rate, more power is needed, thereby lowering the toque. Therefore, step count needs to be high to guarantee high movement precision, reducing the generated amount of torque. 

Torque Rating 

The toque rating on a stepper motor is an indication of the amount of power a motor can generate. Bigger motors produce more toque since they boast an improved ability to generate the needed power. 

When deciding which stepper motor to buy, you should consider the size of your 3D printer. Usually, smaller 3D printers need less torque, meaning a smaller stepper motor will work adequately, while a large 3D printer will need greater torque to move a large print head or bed.

What Are the Best Stepper Motors to Buy for a 3D Printer?

First up, here is a rundown of some of my go-to replacement stepper motors for 3D printers. Each of these models is a Nema 17 size, which is suitable for use in the vast majority of 3D printers, though each has its own set of features that will make it suitable for specific purposes.

TwoTrees 4 Lead NEMA 17 Motor 

Price excl. shipping / Last update on 2020-11-14 at 22:12 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

With the TwoTrees stepper motor, you are guaranteed reliable performance and durable construction. For this reason, many 3D printing enthusiasts love this device despite being smaller than some of the other popular choices.

TwoTrees NEMA 17 Motor’s standout feature is that it is highly effective in quality control and thermal conductivity. Thanks to this, you will never have to experience frustrating issues in your entire 3D printing experience. Furthermore, this stepper motor comes with a quality connector and a four-pin cable to ensure compatibility.

The Twotrees Nema 17 motor is also useful for a broad range of other uses, including laser engravers, medical equipment, automation equipment, placement machine, and textile machinery. It can also operate with a lower resistance compared to other motors with the same torque and thickness. 

Pros 

  • Installation is easy and straightforward 
  • Guarantees exceptional and reliable performance 
  • Great value
  • Powerful 

Cons 

  • Its shaft is on the short side
  • Can overheat under constant high loads

Beauty Star NEMA 17 Stepper Motor 

Price excl. shipping / Last update on 2020-11-14 at 22:12 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In 3D printing, a quality stepper motor is essential if you want to ensure your 3D prints are of exceptional quality. This Nema stepper motor is one of the essential upgrades that will help you achieve your perfection goal, making it a favorite among 3D printing fans. 

It is also a practical choice because you can use it in many different 3D printers, including the ANET A8, Ender 3 as well as the CR-10. 

Its design features high-quality steel materials, making it less vulnerable to damage. This device also ensures low self-inductance reactance, high torque, and responsiveness, meaning it is well-placed to prevent a possible system error. Moreover, it can be used across numerous different applications, including laser engraving, 3D printing, textile machinery, to mention a few. 

This stepper motor’s German design guarantees its build quality. With inbuilt rubber damping, NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) problems are dramatically reduced, significantly lowering the noise level of your 3D printer. Furthermore, the durable and sturdy build design is proof of the superb quality of this stepper motor. 

Pros

  • Offers you incredible value for money 
  • It is easy to install 
  • Quiet in operation
  • Delivers exceptional performance at all times 

Cons 

  • It may not produce quite as much torque as advertised
  • Wiring is different to some 3D printers, so check the schematic and adjust the wiring if needed before powering up!

Quimat Nema 17 Bipolar Stepper Motor 

Price excl. shipping / Last update on 2020-11-14 at 22:12 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Quimat is another excellent stepper motor suitable for a 3D printer that you should definitely consider. The reason for this is that it incorporates lots of useful features, such as having a stepper angle of 1.8 degrees. Moreover, it can generate a phase resistance, which can generate around 2.3 Ohms. 

This stepper motor can also produce a significant amount of torque of about 40 Ncm while remaining relatively silent. Therefore, you never need to worry about getting distracted while printing your 3D object. You also are guaranteed excellent efficiency when using this stepper motor, hence why it is a favorite among many 3D enthusiasts. 

Integrated into its design is a 1m pin connector. You can also decide to use this stepper motor as an extruder and not have any concerns about skipping. 

Pros 

  • It operates silently 
  • You always are guaranteed excellent performance with this stepper motor
  • High holding torque
  • It is affordable while still offering excellent quality
  • Its build quality is incredible 
  • It comes in a great package

Cons 

  • It is incompatible with some popular 3D printers.

Conclusion 

Choosing the right stepper motor can be quite challenging due to the many options available and all the different configurations of specs and features. However, this should never be an issue ever again after going over this detailed article. With this information in mind, you’re now better placed to know which is the most suitable stepper for your 3D printer. 

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