Wondering which, among the hundreds of options, is the best stepper motor driver for 3D printers? Well, you’ve found the most comprehensive guide on the internet!
These motors may be a little trickier to control as opposed to their stock motors or regular DC motors, and if you are a beginner you might experience a little difficulty at first. However, our reviews and buying debates combined with Amazon reviews should produce enough inertia for you to make an informed purchase decision for your 3D printer. Our top pick is the ULN 2003 Driver Board by Elego
If you are looking to upgrade your 3D printer controller, check out our comprehensive review article here of the 11 Best Printer Controllers on the market!
If You Are Short On Time, Here Is Our List of the Best Stepper Motor Drivers for 3D Printers:
- ULN2003 Driver Board for Arduino by Elego
- SainSmart CNC Micro-Stepping Stepper Motor Driver
- DROK® L298N V3 Stepper Motor Drive Controllers
- Adafruit TB6612 Stepper Motor Drive Controllers
- Qunqi L298N Motor Drive Controller Board
- Allegro 5 PCS A4988 StepStick Stepper Motor Drivers
- Gikfun EasyDriver Shield Stepper Motor Driver
- Hobbypower StepStick 4-layer DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver
- SMAKN® TB6600 Upgraded Version Stepper Motor Drive Controllers
All the details for Best Stepper Motor Drive Controllers:
1. ULN2003 Driver Board for Arduino by Elego <<Our Top Pick
Elego’s ULN2003 Driver Board for Arduino has a standard interface and it is directly pluggable. Other than its direct docking feature and convenient use, this stepper motor driver can connect to 2 phases while also supporting development boards.
This product is ranked at first place because it produces consistent results along with multiple repetitions. In addition, it has 4-phase LEDs that indicate the status of the stepper motor’s output.
- Convenient use
- Direct docking
- DC, 4-phase, 5 Volts
SainSmart’s Stepper Motor Driver is a high performing, cost effective 2-phase, bipolar stepping drive. A unique feature in this product is its pure-sinusoidal technique of current control and this makes it best suited for extreme low heat and noise applications.
This particular stepper motor driver can operate efficiently where the electrical supply is expected to fluctuate or to remain unstable. Additionally, it can be added into a wide range of stepping motors that range from NEMA sizes 17 to 34.
- Perfect for small-to-medium CNC controllers
- Low noise and heat operation
The inexpensive DROK L298N is the perfect stepper motor driver to learn how to control DC motors. Coupling these devices with a microcontroller such as the Arduino could help users control rotation direction and the speed of 2 DC motors.
This stepper motor driver can operate anywhere between 3 Volts and 30 Volts and its h-bridge motor controlling mode can help create higher working efficiencies.
- Stable and reliable
- Can be used for 2-phase, 4-phase or 2 DC motors
Adafruit is arguably one of the most reliable brands for hobbyists all over the world. This stepper motor driver can be used to fire off 2 solenoids using 1.2A per channel, or as a step one unipolar or bi-polar stepper.
While its 1.2A current may limit its usability, its ability to connect with a wide range of controllers (Beagle, Raspberry Pi, Arduino) makes up for this disadvantage.
- Compatible with a wide range of controllers
- Can be installed with light soldering
- Ultra quiet performance
The Qunqi L298N provides users with an external 5V power while it works with a 12 V driving voltage. In addition to this, this stepper motor driver is a dual-channel, H-bridge driver which comes fitted with after-flow diodes and free-wheeling protection for increased reliability.
The L298N can be used for motors that have voltages between 5V and 35V DC. Also, this controller board can be easily used to control the direction and speed of 2 DC motors or a bipolar stepper.
- Can drive one 4-phase and one 2-phase stepper motors
- Can produce high working efficiencies
In 6th place, we have another stepper motor driver kit for your 3D printer but this particular kit works a little differently than the previous products. This controller has 5 stepping resolutions which include full step, ½ step, ¼ step, ⅛ step, and 1/16 step.
Allegro’s A4988 lets users vary the maximum current output while its intelligent chopping control automatically sets effective current decay modes.
- Provides over-temperature and over-current protection
- 5 different micro-step resolutions to choose from
Gikfun’s EasyDriver is an inexpensive stepper motor driver which is compatible with 4, 6 and 8 wire stepper motors. Additionally, this product offers a great level of versatility since it can perform anywhere between 7V and 30V.
This stepper motor driver is very easy to use and can provide more control and flexibility over your stepper motor compared to older versions. Also, the higher the voltage it passes through, the higher the torque it can produce at high speeds.
- Compatible with any voltage ratings in 4. 6. and 8 wire stepper motors
- Easy to use
Hobbypower’s DRV8825 can be described as the best stepper motor driver for 3D printers used by DIY enthusiasts. It offers 6 different micro-step resolutions which include full-step, ½ step, ¼ step, ⅛ step, 1/16 step and an additional 1/32 step.
This particular stepper motor driver is very easy to use since it has an easy step and direction control interface. Also, the adjustable current control allows users to set maximum current output or higher voltages for higher step rates.
- Can be interfaced directly with 3.3V or 5V system
- Features under-voltage lockout, over-current shutdown and shorted-load protection
While it may be the final product in our review, it can still be considered the best stepper motor driver for 3D printers. The TB6600 is a motor driver with 32 segments and it can work efficiently between 9V and 40V DC inputs. This driver controller’s board is designed to sustain maximum currents of 4A and can employ 4, 6 or 8 line motors.
While it supports 8 current controls and 7 different micro-step adjustments, it employs automatic semi-flow in order to reduce heat. It also provides protection action short circuits, over current and overheat.
- Support 7 kinds of micro-step adjustments
- Features automatic semi-flow to help reduce heat
- Protects 3D printers from short circuits, overcurrent or overheating
Buying Debates: Buying the Right Stepper Motor Driver for 3D Printers
The Different Types of Stepper Motor Drivers and Controllers
Stepper motor performance and functionality can greatly depend on the type of stepper driver that is used for a 3D printer. There are 3 different types of stepper motor drivers and here’s how each of them can be set apart:
L/R Stepper Driver – Resistance Limited
An L/R stepper motor driver can be described as a low-performing driver but it can still provide a full-rated rotation. However, this rotation will be provided at low to medium speeds which typically result in limited ranges of power output.
L/R stepper drivers were the basis of the designs of old drivers and they were usually operated at half and full-step modes of operation. Additionally, these drivers don’t have the features to provide control over variable current levels. For this reason, they are only able to produce system performances that lie somewhere between low and moderate.
Bi-Level Stepper Driver
Bi-level stepper drivers have the ability to switch between high-level and low-level voltages. When this stepper driver uses high voltage, it gains high rates of current which are required to increase their rise times for motor windings.
Once optimal current levels have been reached, the stepper motor can automatically turn the supply of voltage off while maintaining the current supply with low voltages. These stepper motors are known as ‘bi-level’ because of the two stages they operate in. Their ability to switch between high- and low-level voltage is the reason they produce at a lower cost and are more efficient.
Chopper Stepper Driver – Micro-step (PMW)
Chopper Stepper Drivers are also known as PMWs, which is short for ‘pulse with modulation’. This category of stepper motor drivers are also commonly known as constants or Micro-step drivers. Unlike the other two drivers mentioned on this list, PMWs use a single supply of high voltage to operate.
In order to regulate their average level of current, PMW stepper motor drivers utilize output transistors which are switched off and on automatically. This unique kind of operation presents both advantages and disadvantages.
A PMW’s most important and prominent feature includes its ability to drive a stepper motor in Micro-step mode. This mode results in the level of smoothness that isn’t typically offered by any other type of driver.
The Micro-stepping mode can regulate the rate of current at different speeds. Also, there is no doubt about the fact that this feature results in excellent levels of performance. However, it also results in a more complex and costly operation as compared to any other type of stepper motor driver.
In a nutshell, this type of driver can provide mid-range stabilization and current boosts but at the cost of a few disadvantages, such as the production of RFI and WMI. Another typical issue of chopper drivers is overheating.
Things to Consider Before Choosing the Best Stepper Motor Driver for 3D Printers
Phases of Stepper Motors
Stepper motor drivers can be found in 2 phases i.e. uni-polar or single-phases and bi-polar or dual-phases. This is an important consideration because drivers depend on the phases of stepper motors and every motor is compatible with different phases.
The two types of currents include AC (Alternating Current) and DC (Direct Current). Most drivers that are offered with DC current have been found to be perfect for 3D printers. Stepper motor drivers can be found with AC current, but these are pretty rare.
Stepper motor drivers can be found in a wide variety of voltages and traditional motors work at 2.8 Volts and a maximum current of 1.68 Amps. However, if it runs at a higher voltage current, it will also be prone to getting very hot. Stepper motors help regulate current flows and if it reaches higher than 12 Volts, then it will start to draw more current.
Current Output Rating
The current output rating signifies the minimum power output produced by the stepper motor in phase 1.
Stepper motor drivers can adjust levels of power supply by adjusting the current. This feature is usually easy to use and allows for manual adjustment of on-board resistors.
Command Signal Input Type
Many different types of compound signals are found in each stepper motor driver and they have unique advantages. The most common type of input that is used for CNC is Direction and Step.
Each stepper motor driver operates in different modes, namely, micro-stepping, half-step and full-step. Full-step are hybrid stepper motor drivers and they add to the strength for variable reluctance and magnet permanent motors.
Half-step motors operate motors by rotating it at 400 steps / revolution. On the other hand, Micro-stepping divides each of these steps into 256 discrete steps. This, in turn, allows for a total of 51200 steps / revolution.
A few other important considerations include:
- Driver Type
- Switching Speed (PWM Drivers Only)
- Step Frequency
- Protection Circuitry
- Idle Standby Feature
More great information:
Are you a miniature gamer or are you excited to create miniature items and you haven’t decided which 3D printer to purchase yet? You’ll enjoy reading our review article of the Best 3D Printers For Miniatures here.
Wondering how long it take for 3D printing to work? We have a great article about that here!
How to get the best settings out of your 3D printer:
What Is a Stepper Motor Driver?
A stepper motor driver is used to control a 3D printer’s motor more precisely. A 3D printer’s stepper motor can be found under its hood and its main function is to trigger the motor’s coils and make rotations according to its specifications.
Is a Stepper Motor Better Than Usual Motors?
Even at a low speed, a stepper motor driver can produce more torque when compared to usual motors. For this reason, they are the best choice for high precision at low speeds.
How Can You Choose the Best Stepper Motor Drivers for 3D Printers?
The most important features one should consider and never overlook include current, voltage, torque and size. All of these features can be paid attention to shortlist a silent stepper motor with the best functionality.
How Many Stepper Motors Can the Arduino Control?
The Arduino can control up to 7 stepper motors. Of course, you shouldn’t forget that all of these steppers will require a lot of amps via external batteries to function seamlessly.
An efficient and silent stepper motor driver that also comes at a reasonable price is everything you need to experience ultimate precision. For instance, the ULN2003 Driver Board has the capacity to place objects at repeatable positions and this can be quite complicated during manual efforts.
While silent stepper motors are the way to go for most robotic or electronic items, every buyer should not overlook certain requirements. For instance, you should definitely check to see whether a stepper motor driver has built-in translators or not. Every high-grade stepper motor driver should also have settings for multiple-step resolutions and adjustable current control.
Additionally, you should also avoid getting fooled by the large frame of a stepper motor driver because a larger frame doesn’t always mean that it offers more torque. With all of these things considered, you should always read Amazon reviews as an additional precaution, to know exactly what you’re buying.