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Anthony Garofalo's Giant Arduino Stepper Motor Project

Gareth Halfacree

Taking things apart to see how they work is always a joy, but in modern electronics miniaturisation has made that a challenge for the hobbyist. Even ignoring devices like integrated circuits, which can't be properly analysed without a bath of acid and a microscope, taking some components apart to understand their inner workings can be a challenge - and can leave you with a pile of parts and no hope of restoring them to working condition. That's one of the reasons we're so taken with Anthony Garofalo's latest project: a super-sized home-made stepper motor. Built to demonstrate how a stepper motor, one of the most common components of robotics projects, operates, the oversized version is somewhat more complex than its miniaturised equivalent thanks to an Arduino Uno board providing the controlling logic. Despite this integration of a component that would ordinarily be separate, the operation of the motor is as traditional as you would expect: hand-wound coils are founds alongside rare-earth magnets, while the rotor and stator is constructed from 3D printed parts - but could, of course, be CNC milled, laser-cut, or even constructed by hand, if you'd prefer. A video shows the device in action, and while the finished device is more demonstrative than practical it's certainly worth watching if you've ever wondered just how a stepper motor works.

I designed this stepper motor with eight electromagnets, six neodymium magnets, with a 3D printed rotor and stator housing. This is specifically a permanent magnet stepper motor capable of 15 degree full steps and 7.5 degree half steps. There are many different types of stepper motors but most of them work very similar to the one I have designed here. This is an educational display to show others how stepper motors work.

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