Thursday, September 13, 2007

Computer Controlled Stepper Motor

A few months ago, I bought a stepper motor for only Rs.75 (about USD $1.50). I had almost forgotten about that motor until I found it lying in a secluded corner of my bedroom, collecting dust the other day. I searched the internet for information on controlling stepper motors with a computer and I was surprised at how easy it was! My stepper motor has five wires, and it is a unipolar stepper motor with a step angle of 7.5 degrees.

Here's the simple circuit I had used for controlling it:

(Note: If you can't find ULN2003, you can simply use use a single transistor for each winding as shown here.)

As you can see in the diagram, each successive coil in the motor is connected to successive data pins on the parallel port. If the coils are not connected in the correct sequence, the motor will not rotate, but will only wiggle from side to side. Identifying the wires on the stepper motor was probably the only time consuming step. Click here for information on how to do this.

Now, since each coil can be programatically controlled, you can experiment with different types of stepping modes. The simplest stepping mode is called Single-Stepping. In this mode, each successive coil is energized and the motor moves one full step at a time. For example, my motor will make a full step of 7.5 degrees whenever the coils are energized in the following sequence (D0 - D3 represent parallel port data pins):

Step No.D0D1D2D3

Another interesting stepping mode is Half-Stepping. The difference between single-stepping and half-stepping is that for the same step rate, half-stepping gives you half the speed but twice the resolution of a single step. Since my motor has a step angle of 7.5 degrees, half-stepping it would result in approximately 3.75 degrees of rotation. Here's the sequence in which coils are energized for half-stepping:

Step No.D0D1D2D3

You can achieve other types of steps by energizing the coils in different ways. For example, here's how high torque stepping works:

Step No.D0D1D2D3

For more information on these stepping modes, read this article.

My program allows me to control the motor with the scroll wheel on my mouse and I can press the right mouse button to switch between different stepping modes. Watch the video above to see it working. I'm still thinking of ways to use this stepper motor with my projects. I guess I could use it as a camera panner. It would be better, efficient and more compact than my floppy drive camera panner. My floppy drive camera panner could only rotate through an angle of 45 degrees because of mechanical limitations. This stepper motor can rotate a camera through 360+ degrees!

Here's something interesting I found while googling - Neil Fraser's "Computerized Etch A Sketch". Neil has used two computer controlled stepper motors for turning the horizontal and vertical knobs on an Etch A Sketch. His work is just amazing! I just wish he posted some videos of the device in action.