What is Microstepping and how can it be used to improve Stepper Motor Performance?

Understanding microstepping is as simple as this ...

A typical stepper motor has 200 steps to complete a 360 degree complete rotation (hence 1.8 degree stepper motors such as the ZDSPN17059). Full step mode would therefore enable a total of 200 positions in the 360 degree circle. Microstepping allows you take this further…

Microstepping is where a stepper motor controller is driven in a way that enables it to divide these steps up into further steps (or microsteps). These start at half steps but can go as high as 1/128 microsteps with the ZD Series of Stepper Motor Controllers.

This means that each of the 200 individual steps that are built into the motor have now been divided up into 128 separate steps by the controller. This enables the combined motor and controller to stop at anyone of 25600 possible positions around the 360 degree complete revolution.

Microstepping does not just deliver improved positional accuracy...

When we first explain microstepping to some of our customers they assume that the main advantage of additional microstepping is that it delivers much greater positional accuracy for applications such as robotics or highly accurate dosing. However, there are a number of other additional benefits which can be derived from microstepping. 
 

These include quieter operation –  microstepping smooths out the drive signal going into a stepper motor by replacing the square wave step-step-step with a more smoothed out (finer resolution) curve. It is not a pure sinusoidal drive as might be seen on a sensorless brushless motor controller but the obvious analogy would be between very low resolution digital audio and higher resolution digital audio. This can lead to improvements in energy consumption and creates a more efficient package.

Remember microstepping is faster and when to think about using it ...

Don’t forget that, because microstepping is more energy efficient and uses smaller, more frequent pulses, it allows stepper motors to reach slightly higher speeds than they normally would. The trade-off here is that the torque of the motor is often reduced slightly as a result of this.

Based on the key points identified above it can be seen that the most appropriate applications for microstepping are those which either require exceptional positioning accuracy or those where energy efficiency and noise are important. In the majority of cases we would normally suggest using microstepping of some kind as it can usually lead to general improvements such as quieter and smoother operation but depending on the torque requirements of your project or application it is always best to discuss with one of our engineers first.

Conclusion

Using microstepping offers a large range of potential benefits depending on the nature of your application. From increased smoothness and positional accuracy to greater energy efficiency and speed. Why not browse our range of ZD Series Stepper Motor Drivers and see what they could do for your application today.

Category: Stepper Motor Controller FAQs
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