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Home » Applications & Technologies » Industrial Applications - Stepper Motor Electronics
Applications & Technologies

Industrial Applications - Stepper Motor

Stepper motors are inexpensive and rugged because they have fewer mechanical parts. They are brushless, easy to position, and are commonly used in automation systems, although they are small low power devices as compared to other motors...

This design is for reference only. The design, as well as the products suggested, has not been tested for compatibility or interoperability.

RS-485 for Stepper Motors

RS-485 is an electrical-only standard, in contrast to complete interface standards which define physical, functional, and electrical specifications. RS-485 signaling can be used with many protocols such as Profibus, Interbus, Modbus, or BACnet, depending on the requirements of the end user. Sometimes controller area network (CAN) or EtherNet are preferred for network requirements. RS-485 has a 10 Mbps maximum data rate (@ 40 feet) and a 4000 foot maximum cable length (@100 kbps.) RS-485 is robust and well suited for long distance networking in noisy environment.

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CAN Products for Stepper Motors

CAN is an acronym for Controller Area Network and refers to a fault-tolerant communications protocol that is flexible for system design, supports multiple network topologies, and has become a de facto standard for high integrity serial communications in industrial and automotive embedded applications. In a CAN network, several short pieces of data like a motor’s run status, temperature, or RPM is broadcast over the entire network at up to 1 megabit per second (Mbps.) CAN is meant for applications that have to report and consume numerous but small pieces of data consistently among nodes and has the ability to self-diagnose and repair data errors. CAN is well-suited to environments with machinery, since CAN is designed to be reliable in rugged environments that include interference or introduce noise. CAN is also well-suited to the transportation industry.

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USB Products for Stepper Motors

USB is a standard connection interface between computers and digital devices. A USB transceiver is a physical layer device that prepares data for transmission and then sends to, and receives data from, another transceiver. The transceiver detects connection and provides the low level USB protocol and signaling. The term "transceiver" indicates an implementation of both transmit and receive functions. It transmits and receives, encodes and decodes data, provides error indication, implements buffers to stage data until it can be managed, and adjusts for the clock rate from the serial stream on the USB SuperSpeed bus to match that of the “link layer” higher up on the communication stack.

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USB Receptacles for Stepper Motors

USB plugs and receptacles are designed to reduce human error by their unique shape; they fit together in only one way. USB plugs and receptacles are Type A (connecting to hosts or hubs) or Type B (connecting to devices) and are available 3 sizes: standard, mini, and micro. Type A plugs always face upstream, Type B faces downstream. USB is used in many applications covering all areas of electronics that require communication, but more commonly with devices that need fast or easy connections for interaction with computers. Since USB provides a small charging current as well, it is becoming a de facto standard for charging portable devices.

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ESD for Stepper Motors

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is a naturally occurring phenomenon. If you have ever been zapped by a socks-wearing kid who has just discovered static charge build up, you have experienced ESD first hand. ESD is like a miniature, localized lightning bolt caused by an electrical discharge. ESD can have seriously damaging effects on an integrated chip or system and cause poor performance or failure later on by merely weakening the circuits.

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LCD Displays for Stepper Motors

LCD means "liquid crystal display." It is an electronically driven flat panel screen that orients liquid crystals within the panel in a direction that blocks or transmits light coming from behind the panel. LCDs are a low cost, energy efficient visual display that can be controlled in segments or as individual pixels, in shades of black and gray or in full color. LCDs have most commonly replaced bulky cathode ray tubes in televisions and computers and are available in all sizes. Liquid crystals were first discovered in 1888, but were first put into common use in the early 1970s as electronic digital-display watches.

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Switches for Stepper Motors

Switches are devices that provide manual input or control for equipment, a device, or a process. Switches serve many purposes, provide immediate emergency control, local control, or indication; and are available in many formats, shapes, sizes, and colors. Switches and buttons are important in everyday use from light switches or buttons to automatic switches that shut off a motor when an attached gate has fully shut.

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DC / DC Regulators for Stepper Motors

DC/DC regulators are circuits that convert DC voltage from one level to another and maintain that voltage to a constant level. Electronic systems often have several sub-circuits, each with its own voltage level requirement that may be higher or lower than the main power supply. Step-up converters or regulators boost a voltage to a higher level. Step-down converters or regulators lower (or “buck”) a voltage to a lower level. DC/DC converters and controllers can also be used for the same purpose, but may offer options such as multiple softstart levels, undervoltage lockout, protection against overvoltage and undervoltage, and programmable short-circuit protection. All of these devices are considered to be in the same category of integrated chips, typically categorized as power management devices.

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Digital Isolation for Stepper Motors

Isolation is critical to protect both an electronics system and the user from potentially hazardous voltages, or where a high level of electrical isolation between electronics systems is necessary. Digital isolators are known for their speed of data transmission, high level of magnetic immunity, and long life expectancy. Used in combination with isolated power supplies, these devices protect circuits from high voltages, prevent current flow between remote system grounds, and avoid the creation of current loops. Digital isolators can be used to implement isolation in designs without the cost, size, power, performance, and reliability constraints found with optocouplers.

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Processors for Stepper Motors

The term "processor" refers to an electronic device that performs computational functions and carries out the instructions of a stored program. Other terms for processor are microprocessor, central processing unit, and digital signal processor. Essentially, the processor refers to "the brains of a computer."

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Drivers for Stepper Motors

Designers of power electronic circuits must often drive power switches that feed DC, AC, or power signals to a variety of workloads. Logic-level electronic circuits provide the driving signals. In general, however, the power sources and their loads have reference levels different from that of the control circuitry (ground). MOSFET selection begins by choosing devices that can handle the required current, then giving careful consideration to thermal dissipation in high current applications.

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ADCs for Stepper Motors

An Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC or A/D converter) measures the magnitude of an input analog signal and converts it to a digital number that is proportional to the magnitude of the voltage or current. An ADC often converts signals collected from the real-world to digital signals for processing. One of the more important specifications of an ADC is the resolution that it offers, which is the number of discrete values (represented in bits) that the ADC produces in relation to the analog signal it is converting. The more bits, the higher the resolution. A higher resolution yields a more accurate approximation of the analog input.

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Power Stage for Stepper Motors

Some applications must feed high levels of current and voltage to power heavy electrical loads. The power stage is a circuit of electronically-controlled transistors that act as high current switches. In applications powering heavy loads, the power stage is the driving force. MOSFETs or IGBTs are commonly used in a "bridge" configuration to drive motors. Selection for the power stage begins by choosing devices that can handle the required current, and careful consideration must be given to thermal dissipation. MOSFETs and IGBTs are transistors capable of withstanding the duty of switching high power signals, and mean "metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor" and "insulated gate bipolar transistor", respectively.

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Amplifiers for Stepper Motors

A precision amplifier is used for sensors to preserve accuracy. It increases the amplitude of weak signals it receives while introducing as little noise as possible so that the signal transfers an accurate or precise measure of what it is sensing. Amplifiers have enormous voltage gain, often use feedback of the output signal back to the input of the amplifier to operate, and can be classified in different ways. An amplifier can be identified by the device they are intended to drive (e.g., audio amplifier), the input that they are to amplify (e.g. sensing amplifier), the frequency range of the signal (e.g., RF, audio), and by the function that they perform (e.g. buffer amplifier, current-sensing amplifier.)

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Temp Sensors for Stepper Motors

A temperature sensor is a device that measures cold or heat as a temperature or temperature gradient. Many applications require some implementation of temperature sensing and measurement. For motors, the operating temperature inside the case is monitored by the processor and set to alarm or shut down at temperatures higher than the normal operating temperature of the motor. If a motor runs at too high of a temperature for too long, it can reduce the life of the motor. Operating temperature is an indication of the general operating health of the motor. Higher temperatures inside the motor case can mean too high of a load is placed on the motor, since as load increases, motor current consumption increases to meet the load requirements.

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Hall Effect for Stepper Motors

Hall Effect sensors are magnetically biased transducers that vary output voltage or current in response to changes in a magnetic field. Hall Effect sensors can be designed to sense rotary movement of a motor shaft. The rotation of the motor shaft changes the IC's position with respect to the magnets, and thus detects the change in flux density. The output of the IC is converted to a linear output over 90 degrees of shaft travel. The Hall Effect sensor gets its name from Edwin Hall, who, in 1879 discovered that a voltage difference can be produced across an electrical conductor where the magnetic field is perpendicular to the direction of current flow.

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Encoders for Stepper Motors

An encoder, when used with motors, is an electro-mechanical apparatus that translates the angular position of the shaft of the motor into an electronic signal that a processor can understand. The information is then used to calculate and report on speed of the motor, distance, revolutions per minute (RPM) or position, usually for the purpose of automatic feedback control, some kind of intervention, or shutdown.

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