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# Two-phase Stepper Motors

Mar 03, 2017

There are two basic winding arrangements for the electromagnetic coils in a two phase stepper motor: bipolar and unipolar.

Unipolar motors

A unipolar stepper motor has one winding with center tap per phase. Each section of windings is switched on for each direction of magnetic field. Since in this arrangement a magnetic pole can be reversed without switching the direction of current, the commutation circuit can be made very simple (e.g., a single transistor) for each winding. Typically, given a phase, the center tap of each winding is made common: giving three leads per phase and six leads for a typical two phase motor. Often, these two phase commons are internally joined, so the motor has only five leads.

A micro controller or stepper motor controller can be used to activate the drive transistors in the right order, and this ease of operation makes unipolar motors popular with hobbyists; they are probably the cheapest way to get precise angular movements.

(For the experimenter, the windings can be identified by touching the terminal wires together in PM motors. If the terminals of a coil are connected, the shaft becomes harder to turn. one way to distinguish the center tap (common wire) from a coil-end wire is by measuring the resistance. Resistance between common wire and coil-end wire is always half of the resistance between coil-end wires. This is because there is twice the length of coil between the ends and only half from center (common wire) to the end.) A quick way to determine if the stepper motor is working is to short circuit every two pairs and try turning the shaft. Whenever a higher than normal resistance is felt, it indicates that the circuit to the particular winding is closed and that the phase is working.

Bipolar motors

Bipolar motors have a single winding per phase. The current in a winding needs to be reversed in order to reverse a magnetic pole, so the driving circuit must be more complicated, typically with an H-bridge arrangement (however there are several off-the-shelf driver chips available to make this a simple affair). There are two leads per phase, none are common.

Static friction effects using an H-bridge have been observed with certain drive topologies.

Dithering the stepper signal at a higher frequency than the motor can respond to will reduce this "static friction" effect.

Because windings are better utilized, they are more powerful than a unipolar motor of the same weight. This is due to the physical space occupied by the windings. A unipolar motor has twice the amount of wire in the same space, but only half used at any point in time, hence is 50% efficient (or approximately 70% of the torque output available). Though a bipolar stepper motor is more complicated to drive, the abundance of driver chips means this is much less difficult to achieve.

An 8-lead stepper is wound like a unipolar stepper, but the leads are not joined to common internally to the motor. This kind of motor can be wired in several configurations:

Unipolar.

Bipolar with series windings. This gives higher inductance but lower current per winding.

Bipolar with parallel windings. This requires higher current but can perform better as the winding inductance is reduced.

Bipolar with a single winding per phase. This method will run the motor on only half the available windings, which will reduce the available low speed torque but require less current