Connect with us

stepper construction

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Jon Kirwan, Mar 17, 2013.

Scroll to continue with content
  1. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    I'm interested in the idea of actually building a stepper and
    I'd like to know if anyone knows of companies selling
    hobbyist quantities of parts for doing that. Laminations,
    stators, rotors, etc. I found one in Switzerland, but it's
    not a complete supplier of parts and I'm not sure about their
    ability to sell hobbyist qtys.

    I'm mostly interested in doing this to learn, though I may
    use the results as well. I would like to try building
    unipolar PM and hydrid types. I'm interested in prediction of
    performance, given a physical design, too. So details on that
    would be intriguing, but not necessary. I can play and just
    find out what I get as a result. Most steppers are prebuilt
    units, for hobbyists. I'd like to actually assemble and wind
    some by hand.

    It's a "highly technical sale" and I'm sure there are very
    few companies that want to step into this mire of horrible
    after sale customer support, for no decent profits. So I know
    why there would be few, or none, doing this. So any supplier
    names would be very much appreciated as I expect them to be
    as rare as hens' teeth.

    Perhaps there is a club doing this kind of thing where I
    could piggy back on purchase orders?

  2. Bob Masta

    Bob Masta Guest

    As an alternative, how about tearing down old steppers for
    parts? Old 5.25" floppy drives are one place to find them.
    The driver circuitry is right there as well, which might
    simplify some of your experimenting. There used to be (and
    probably still is) info on the Web about how to tap into it.

    Some years ago I built a simple robot from a couple of old
    drives, as a project to work on with my then-young nephew.
    Mounted the steppers from both drives on one chassis, axles
    sticking out on either side, installed wheels on them,
    mounted the second controller board atop the first, and
    wired both to a long cable with a printer port connector on
    the other end. (Plus an old PSU.) Simple commands in BASIC
    operated the steppers independently or together for
    steering, etc.

    The nephew had a blast, but is going into automotive
    technology instead of robots or programming... oh, well!

    Best regards,

    Bob Masta

    DAQARTA v7.21
    Data AcQuisition And Real-Time Analysis
    Scope, Spectrum, Spectrogram, Sound Level Meter
    Frequency Counter, Pitch Track, Pitch-to-MIDI
    FREE Signal Generator, DaqMusic generator
    Science with your sound card!
  3. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    I only have a couple of 5.25" floppies and I want them to
    keep working. I suppose I could go to a computer junking
    place and see what I could come up with. But eventually, I'd
    like to build up some Nema 42 frames for some practical
    applications. So that is where I'm headed in the end. And I
    won't be doing that with floppy motors. So eventually, I'd
    need a supplier. Though certainly I can do a lot of learning
    before that time.

    I could also just buy steppers and tear them down. But I'd
    really like to find a supplier. That's my big goal, right
    now. But I just can't seem to find more than the one is
    Switzerland. And they don't supply all the needed parts, so
    they provide the kingdom that fails for want of a nail, so to
    Hehe. Maybe he decided he couldn't compete with you and ever
    feel good enough about himself? ;)

    Anyway, still looking for a supplier. And thanks for any
    comments, though. Certainly, worth considering until I do
    find a few. (I can hope I will find them, perhaps.) Someone
    has to supply the parts that are used by these stepper

  4. I wsa thinking of doing something like that, only more like the "space
    crawler" from Major Matt Mason. It didn't have wheels, it had four arms
    coming out of the shaft, on each side of the vehicle, supposed to be
    better for climbing over things. I imagined it might make sense to have
    each side on its own stepping motor, so if stuck one could wiggle via the
    other one.

    Somewhat related, the regional science fair is happening here this week,
    and as always, it gets no publicity ahead of time. By the time the news
    covers it, it's too late to go and take in the event.

  5. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    I can use a DC motor, of course, _IF_ I add feedback
    (optical, for example.)

    As I understand it, open loop driving steppers works okay for
    positioning (my application) with the money going into better
    and better lead screws and backlash nuts. Up to a point where
    the lead screws are costing LOTS of money to get the
    increasing precision out of them. Then it's back to using
    cheaper motors and expensive precision optical feedback
    ruling for position control. Something like that, anyway.

    Torque is great of course. But I'm positioning, as well. Open
    loop with steppers, given enough torque for the job. Closed
    loop won't require them, I suppose. But it adds another whole
    element to the system.

    (Shorter term I'm targeting a 12" x 18" x-y platform motion
    with 10 micron positioning resolution, ±2 micron variation,
    and perhaps a few kg mass. Longer term will depend on
    successes there.)

    I'd like to learn, though, if there are better ways to see

  6. Except I wasn't interested in real results, just the notion of using some
    of the stepping motors I have lying around.

    I remember the Steve Ciarcia column in Byte where he uses a cordless drill
    for the source of propulsion.

  7. Baron

    Baron Guest

    Jon Kirwan Inscribed thus:

    Just about every printer has one or more stepper motors, though the HP
    ink jets tend to use brush motors and encoders. If you want really
    powerful steppers grab an old photo copier.
  8. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    I'm gradually gathering that assembling your own stepper
    "isn't done at the hobbyist level" anymore.

    I definitely remember watching some club members building
    their own DC motors for model aircraft -- magnet wire,
    stators, etc., all laying on a table about the dozen or so
    people sitting around trying their hand FOR THE FIRST TIME
    making their own motors to whatever size they wanted. It was
    very pleasant to watch. At the time, I wasn't involved and
    didn't care so much. Now I do and now I'd like to be doing
    that, as well, but with steppers.

    Dismantling different motors will probably yield me parts
    that won't go together right in the end. (Different frames,
    etc.) And, at my level of ignorance right now, I'm not even
    sure if I selected all of them with the same frame that I
    would find I could make up a larger body without some want of
    a "nail" that wouldn't be there. I suppose I could just go do
    it. But a supplier of parts would be nice to know about just
    the same.

    But I'm getting the message. No one here knows of a supplier
    for hobbyist qtys. Which, together with my google
    difficulties finding one, I suppose says something. It's not
    done by hobbyists now.

  9. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    Education and the ability to build a stepper that is
    precisely designed for a specific application, no larger and
    no smaller than exactly needed, once I learn enough to do

  10. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    The goal is the process of doing, and then doing better, and
    then feeling a sense of accomplishment when finally able to
    both apply theory and test the final result for conformance
    to that theory and to feel a sense of "closure" about it.
    It's a very nice feeling.

  11. And you get the power supply too (which are often in the 20 to 30v range).
    I'd also argue that the driver circuitry is more accessible than from a
    floppy drive.

    There used to be projects in the hobby magazines for using printers (I
    guess theyw ere dot-matrix at the time) as the foundation of things like
    plotters. Mostly leave the printer intact. Of course, there was also
    that gadget for the Apple Imagewriter that looked like a ribbon cartridge,
    but was a a scanner sensor, so you'd put the paper to be scanned into the
    printer just like any other sheet of paper, and scan it simply by issuing
    commands to the printer (I guess something like spaces to advance the
    "scanner head" then carriage returns at the end of each line).

  12. I've never heard of anyone making their own stepper motors.
    Maybe way off in that direction, but never a mainstream thing if
    it was ever done. Stepper motors were never a real mainstream
    hobby thing, so there's less reason to build your own.
    Need may have been a requirement there. Making tiny motors that were
    otherwise unavailable. Model building has been like that, the first
    model airplane that wsa radio controlled was done with a ham license,
    since there was nothing else, until the hobby became so mainstream that
    a special radio service/license was created. That goes way back to the
    thirties, and since it started early as a hobby, it wsa hobbyists who
    built up the equipment. Likely the commerical manufacturers that
    eventually came along were started by hobbyists who had the background and
    saw a wider interest than just the ones who were building everything.

    Of course, at one point, motor building was a hobby thing. I remember one
    article in one of the hobby magazines were someone built endlessly small
    motors in his home workshop. IN part to show he could.

    I don't think there were ever "parts to build stepper motors for
    hobbyists". People tended to use surplus (which is the same thing as
    taking apart floppy drives and printers), hoping to find something useful,
    and if not, then they are buying off the shelf and paying the price.

    There was a time when hobbyists were looking to hobby shops, I can
    remember some articles in Byte about using servo motors from radio
    controlled modelling for various things. They were trying for off the
    shelf solutions.

  13. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    I'm not looking for "main stream." Back in the day, I built
    three telecopes. It took me about 1-2 thousand hours each,
    grinding and figuring the mirrors and some other work, too.
    Not a lot of people were doing that, then. But enough that
    there were hobbyist qtys of glass of various kinds AND
    suppliers of same for hobbyists.

    I don't think this is much different than that. Probably, the
    market would be even bigger than it was for people making
    telescopes. For one thing, the world's population was about
    40% then what it is today, so you've already got a 2.5 factor
    there. For another, I have to believe that NEMA 42's costing
    $200 each would be a motivation and there are more people
    interested in steppers than in telescope mirror grinding -- I

    I'm not arguing the market is big. But you used the phrase
    "mainstream." Neither telecope making, nor stepper making,
    would be mainstream. But that doesn't mean there cannot be
    suppliers. There may be. There may not be. I was asking.

    By the way, I do have ONE company doing it. Not for
    hobbyists, looking at the web site. But doing it, at least. I
    can, if they will sell to me, actually build up my own
    steppers from stacks of parts, wire, and their prefabbed
    magnet structures.
    I was there. It was about learning, mostly. These were first
    time builders there, not because they couldn't buy such a
    motor as they were building, but there because they thought
    this was fun. I can assure you it was about nothing else.
    hehe. Well, I'm still looking. And I won't be discouraged for
    at least another few months, yet. I will contact the Swiss
    company, too, and ask them about buying as well as if they
    can point me to some other companies who may be willing to
    cater to me. Might get a helpful reply. Can no more than ask.
    I've seen the parts for DC motors being used in a hobby
    class. (As mentioned.) So I KNOW for certain that someone was
    able to get such parts for that purpose. I see no reason why
    it's such a stretch from there to a stepper. Of course, I'm
    not even sure I can find out who they used as a suppler for
    the DC motors, either. But they stacked up as many stator
    laminations as they wanted to. Like the following:

    Which brings me to the point. These DO exist. People DO build
    steppers. They may do them as a commercial business, of
    course. But they DO get parts from SOMEWHERE. The issue may
    be that I have to buy in bulk. But that often can be
    finessed. I just need to find out WHO is doing this, who
    their competition is, what their selling policies are, etc. I
    can then work through the mail, phone calls, arguments, and
    so on to achieve my goals. But I have to have someone to talk
    to, to start.

    Anyway, I'll keep looking for a bit. I was mostly curious if
    anyone here had tried their hand and had some success at
    this. Seems not. Which is fine. The only sure way of finding
    out is asking.

  14. But telescope making was "mainstream". Not as in "everyone was doing it"
    but as in "within the niche of people who wanted telescopes, making your
    own was a fair subset". There were endless books, there were places like
    Edmund Scientific for the lenses and supplies, I imagine the astronomy
    magazines had construction articles about making telescopes.

    People made telescopes because there were all those surplus lenses from
    Edumund, but the books and supplies also existed because people were
    interested in making their own telescopes.
    I'd argue that in electronics, making components was mostly about
    curiosity, except if you go back to the early days when parts were less

    So you'd see articles about making capacitors in Elementary
    Electronics forty years ago. Nobody went and made their own capacitors
    for their projects, they made one or a few to see what it was like.

    I once saw an article about how people did things in the early days of
    radio (this article was in the early seventies), things like using broken
    pencils as resistors. Then there was a need, but once components became
    cheap, the only time people made them was for curiosity.

    Making telescopes was way bigger, within the subset that was interested
    in astronomy, than motor building was within the hobby of electronics.
    Neither main hobby is "mainstream", but within the specific hobby, some
    things are more mainstream than others. While I mentioned that article
    about someone who made tiny motors at home, in terms of actual
    construction articles the best I can remember was how to make a
    rudimentary motor for the sake of demonstrating how electric motors work.

    I'm saying motor building was never "mainstream" within the hobby of
    electronics. The fact that the hobby magazines never covered the area
    other than as a crude demonstrator motor is the indicator of that. That's
    how you tell mainstream from niche.

    And that's always been there, pay the price and you can get it. Hobbyists
    aren't the only people in the world, there are prefessionals who need to
    prototype something and off the shelf won't work. Just like that one
    company offered a line of pots that could be combined endlessly to make
    whatever exact type of pot you needed.

  15. Guest

    They did. Many universities, observatories, and planetariums held
    classes in mirror grinding, as well. There were several places where
    one could send one's blank to have it aluminized and coated. Some of
    the above classes used silver, as well (could be done without
    expensive equipment).
    I would bet that *very* few refractors were built by amateurs. They're
    rather pointless.

  16. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    I very well may have to go with that. But I'd like to explore
    and learn. And if I buy everything premade, the learning
    experiences will be ... very expensive. Plus, you only learn
    how to _use_ something that way. You don't learn deeper
    concepts because they aren't exposed to you, then.

    Just to make it clear where I come from....

    I'd rather spend $1000 buying tools and parts and making
    something I need than spend $1000 to pay someone else to do
    it. In one case I have some new tools and parts for later,
    have learned a lot more than I knew before, and also have my
    solution. In the other case, I pay someone else to do it,
    learn nothing new myself in the end (though they may learn
    something from doing it), but I get a finished end result. I
    like learning and don't mind paying money and time for that.

    (Even when I just can't succeed at it -- even then I've
    learned something more and can be a much smarter purchaser
    for that spent labor. Even failure is success.)

    I'll give you a recent example to illustrate. I could hire
    someone to build me a specialized door I needed (pocket door,
    exterior style thickness, designed to withstand my profoundly
    autistic daughter's pounding and kicking, with a top rail
    strong enough to carry the door and a person hanging on it.
    -- I actually need 5 of these.) Hiring someone to build a
    custom door, or else compromising and accepting some mass
    manufactured door, is what MOST people would do, especially
    if they have never built a door before (as I haven't.)

    I first shopped around (literally for a few months because
    some of the dealers needed the time -- one of them took 3
    weeks to quote a price, for example.) I called distributors
    in other states (they aren't in Oregon.) I finally called the
    few companies that ACTUALLY make the doors themselves (many
    distributor roads lead to the same few places, it turns out)
    and spent some good time learning about their processes and
    capabilities. In the end, I realized it would have to be
    custom to satisfy the necessary parts of my requirements.
    Once I realized that, and the price for each door (approx.
    $800 ea, delivered), I set out to make them myself. I bought
    the necessary router and bits, various clamp types and
    clamps, glues, sanders, and so on. In the process of making
    these doors, I've learned a great deal and the result is
    actually much better than I could have requested by custom
    order. (I was able to custom design the rails and the hanging
    hardware for it to make a perfect and extremely strong blend
    that can support a hanging weight of 800 lbs for each door.)
    These doors are stunningly beautiful, made from hard woods
    and a custom interior fill, four rails, two stiles, custom
    locking system, and custom hanging system. Took interior
    walls down to the structural members and built it all back up
    in the house. Myself. And I'm proud of the result. It's
    really wonderful. And I learned a lot from doing it. I would
    have learned NOTHING from having hired it done. I'd rather
    spend the money on myself. I change. And that's what's

    Education is a lifestyle.

    I'm looking to see if that is possible here. I have end goals
    and don't need to include this process, of course. If it
    isn't possible, then it isn't and I'll have to move on. I was
    just entertaining the idea and asking for informed opinions
    about the possibility. I have a few other lines out on this
    topic, as well, and I'll see what I catch in the process.
    Might get lucky. Might not. Either way, life moves on and I
    won't look back. But this project is out about a year so I
    have some time to dawdle a bit.

  17. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    Okay. That's interesting to note!! Thanks.
    For hybrids, right? (But possibly not in the case of some
    Any links you may share?
    I would be hoping for "standardized" parts that are pre-made
    to a specific frame size, but could be assembled into longer
    or shorter motor structures. I don't have the equipment here
    to build all this from scratch. (I have plate steel up to
    about 1/3" thickness and can do some modest cutting and
    welding, but no precision equipment for metal working.)
    If I find some generous suppliers, I'll post it up. I'm not
    expecting much. From comments here and the relative "hearing
    crickets chirp" when looking for suppliers so far, it may be
    the case that I've no reasonable options outside of buying.
    But it would be a lot of fun if I could find just one
    practical alternative where I get to assemble and wind my own

    Tim has also made some strong recommendation about geared DC
    motors and I take his point and must investigate that side,
    as well. I can fabricate custom gearing, including planetary
    gear systems. Which then would leave open the idea of winding
    my own DC motors, as well. A separate, but related question.
    And in that case, I've actually observed hobbyists winding
    their own for the first time. But it was years ago and I've
    no idea how to track down their supplier. So I'd be back here
    asking about that, as well.

    It's all fun. Maybe I'll get a good bite at some point.

    Thanks so much for your comments. Appreciated a lot!

  18. Jon Kirwan

    Jon Kirwan Guest

    I'd like to learn something new. I'll keep looking a bit
    longer before giving up.

  19. Jasen Betts

    Jasen Betts Guest

    AFAIK only AlNiCo magnets need keepers, I think most steppers use
    ceramic or neodmyium magnets.

  20. A few wooden yoyos, some scrap metal cut to size and a few magnets and a
    few electro magnets and have fun.

Ask a Question
Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?
You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.
Electronics Point Logo
Continue to site
Quote of the day