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What is the Difference Between Stepper Motor and DC Motor?

Stepper Motor Vs. Dc Motor

Are you struggling to find the right electric motor for your brand-new project?

If you research various electric motors for different purposes, you’ll find that the traditional DC motors and modern stepper motors are almost identical to each other. However, their properties and applications vary. 

But you might ask: What is the difference between a stepper motor and a DC motor?

The answer is simple. The difference between the stepper motor and DC motor lies in the following:

1. Nature of the loop.

2. Operation of the motor.

3. Speed control.

4. The presence of brushes.

5. Motion and displacement

6. Response time of the motor.

I will discuss each difference in detail later in this article. But first, let’s review the basics of a stepper motor and a dc motor.

What is a Stepper Motor?

It is a simple electromechanical machine that produces mechanical energy from electrical power. Stepper motors are synchronous, brushless DC engines that work without a feedback mechanism for positional control.

Stepper Motor

Types of Stepper Motors

There are different types of stepper motors.

1. Hybrid synchronous stepper motor.

2. Permanent synchronous stepper motor.

3. Variable synchronous stepper motor.

What is a DC Motor?

DC motors are electric motors that convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. DC motors are powered by direct current.

Types of DC motor

 We further classify DC motors into:

1. Permanent Magnet DC Motors.

2. Series Wound DC Motors.

3. Shunt Wound DC Motors.

4. Compound Wound DC Motors.

5. Brushless DC Motor.

Type Of Dc Motors

What is the Difference between Stepper Motor and DC Motor?

Working Principle

One crucial difference between stepper and DC motor is in the working principle.

DC Motor

DC motors use DC power sources to generate current. There are two types of DC motors; brushed DC motors and brushless dc motors.

Brushed DC motors use brushes to produce electrical connectivity with the rotor. Brushed DC motors also use magnets or electromagnets as stators. The coils of the rotor connect in series and produce torque. Small DC motors use two permanent magnets as stators and low windings. Thus, we can increase magnetic strength and the number of windings to produce higher torque.

Brushless DC motors use permanent magnets as rotors. The electromagnets are positioned in the rotor. In short, the working of a dc motor works on a principle that when there’s a current-carrying conductor in a magnetic field, it experiences a mechanical force.

Stepper Motor

A stepper motor is an electromechanical device that uses electrical pulses to a driver. The driver decodes the pulses and sends the proportional voltage to the engine. As the name suggests, stepper motors do not move in continuous rotation motion but in fixed and accurate angle increments.

Stepper motor works the same as brushless DC motors. Unlike brushless DC motors, it moves in smaller steps. Also, the only moving parts in a stepper motor are rotors that contain magnets. The alternating current in stepping motors controls the polarity of each coil. When the polarity changes, each ring pushes or pulls, and the motor moves.

Stepper Motor Inner Structure

Nature of Loop

Stepper Motor

A stepper motor operates in an open-loop. It means that stepper engines can make precise moves without feedback concerning motor positional control.

DC Motor

Unlike stepper motors, DC motors operate in a closed-loop.

Motor Efficiency

Stepper Motor

The current consumption in Stepper motors is independent of load. As a result, they consume current at maximum load, especially when the stator poles are energized. It reduces the energy efficiency and tends to heat, increasing losses.

DC motor

The efficiency of DC motors is high compared to stepper motors, which means they are much more mature technology. Thus, DC motors are an excellent choice for small, simple applications.

Speed Control

Stepper Motor

You can easily control stepper motors with cheap microcontrollers to synchronize their rotor from one pole to another.

DC Motor

DC motors are not easy to control. They require an input voltage to their two leads and do not need external inputs for operation.

Presence of Brushes

Stepper Motor

Stepper motors are DC brushless motors. They also lack mechanical commutators that do not require constant maintenance.

DC Motor

The DC motor contains brushes and a commutator that can run continuously. However, brushes and commutators should be maintained regularly to avoid wear and tear.

Response Time

Stepper Motor

The response time of stepper motors is relatively slow.

DC Motor

Since a DC motor features a feedback control, it gives a much faster response time as compared to stepper motors.

Effect of Overloading

Stepper Motor

The stepper motor slips and gets out of control when overloaded. Thus, detecting the overloading error in stepping motors is not easy.

DC Motor

There are relays and overload protecting devices in a DC motor that protect the motor from damages when overloaded. And so, you can quickly detect the overloading errors.

Speed Range

Stepper Motor

Stepper motors run at low speed, i.e., typically below 2000 RPM. The torque in the stepper motor is inversely proportional to the speed. That means if you decrease the torque, their speed increases. Thus, stepper or digital motors are not ideal for continuous use and run quite hot when powered for long durations.

DC Motor

DC motors run at moderate speeds. The best part about DC motors is it comes in various forms and provide a diverse range of speeds. You can also control the speed of the DC electric motor by changing the current strength or using a varying supply voltage.

Motion and Displacement

Stepper Motor

Unlike DC motors, a stepper motor moves in increments or steps, and the resolution of stepping motors is limited to the size of the step.

DC Motor

DC motors are continuous rotation motors and provide constant displacement. Thus, you can control or position DC motors accurately.

Rotor Control

Stepper Motor

Stepper motors can control the position of the rotor.

DC Motor

DC electric motors are not capable of controlling the position of the rotor.

Advantages of Stepper Motors

Here are some of the advantages of stepper motors.

1. The input pulse of stepper motors is proportional to its rotation angle.

2. Stepper motors provide maximum torque at standstill positions.

3. They offer an excellent response rate to reversing, starting, or stopping the motor.

4. Stepper motors are reliable because they lack brushes. In return, the life expectancy of stepper motors solely relies on the bearings.

5. Their response to a digital input pulse is of open-loop control. It makes the overall motor structure less complicated and very easy to control.

6. The low-speed synchronous rotation can be achieved in stepper motors by maintaining a load directly coupled to the shaft.

Disadvantages of Stepper Motors

Here are some of the disadvantages of stepper motors.

1. They might skip steps as stepper motors tend to have low top speeds.

2. They provide low efficiency because the current consumption of such motors is independent of load.

3. They deliver limited high-speed torque.

4. Stepper motors generate noise during operation.

Applications of Stepper Motor

Stepper motor is used in a variety of applications in industrial and personal use. They are commonly used in:

1. Computing.

2. Robotics.

3. Cameras.

4. 3D Printing.

5. Process automation and packaging machinery.

6. Positioning of valve pilot stages.

7. Precision positioning equipment.

Stepper Motor For 3d Printer

The most common use of a stepper motor is in 3D Printing because they are highly accurate and pocket-friendly. The drivers in 3D printers and stepper motor technology allow controlled movement along every axis. Thus, proper positioning is achieved without encoders and additional sensors.

In most 3D printers, multiple stepping motors are used. You can find these stepper motors in filament extruders or platforms to pull in filaments and control the supply of material to the machine.

Advantages of DC Motors

Here are some of the advantages of DC motors.

1. They are easy to control. You have to apply a voltage to drive the motor. Similarly, lower the voltage when you want to slow the machine down.

2. A common DC motor provides excellent high torque at low speeds.

3. The efficiency of a common DC motor is high.

4. A typical brushed DC motor is inexpensive and easily accessible.

Disadvantages of DC Electric Motors

A DC motor has some limitations or drawbacks. Here are some disadvantages of DC or direct current motors.

1. They are noisy. The noise is not just from rubbing parts, but they also generate electromagnetic noise that may cause strong sparks.

2. Brushed DC motors tend to require regular maintenance as the brushes in these motors easily wear out, limiting the speed due to constant heating.

Applications of DC Motor

A DC motor is optimal for several industrial applications where constant torque is needed. DC engines are most commonly used in:

1. Beauty Apparatus.

2. Model Toys.

3. Power Tools.

4. Cruise Control System.

5. Electric Toothbrush.

DC Motor or Stepper Motor- What’s the Best For You?

The main difference between the stepper motor and DC motor is clear. Now the main question arises, “What’s the best for me?”

The answer is straightforward.

If your field of application requires anything that is fast, continuous rotation, and spins at a high RPM. For example, power tools, fans. You should go for a DC motor.

Yet, if your field requires slow, precise motion control and rotation. For example, in 3D printers, where the position is fundamental. Always go for the stepper motor.

Conclusion

By looking at the differences between the stepper DC motor and DC motor, we can conclude that both the stepper motor and DC motor are electrical devices that generate mechanical power. But DC motors can be brushed or brushless. At the same time, a stepper or digital motor is a brushless DC motor with unique characteristics.

Both the motors run on direct current. Also, they are cheap and easily controllable. But from the comparison, it is evident that their working principle, functions, and purposes are different.

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