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Which is Better for CNC? Servo or Stepper Motors?

Author: Betty Alan
by Betty Alan
Posted: Dec 20, 2019

It is an engineering truism that there is no such thing as a perfect solution—just the best solution for the problem at hand. That holds particularly for servo motors and stepper motors. Both are broadly used in industry. Neither is a universal solution. When properly applied, however, both stepper and servo motors can provide effective, reliable power for a highly successful system. The decision tree for choosing between the two has many branches, but the most important are speed, acceleration, and price target.

Stepper MotorsStepper motors (such as nema 17 stepper motor or nema 23 stepper motor) consist of a rotor with permanent magnets and a stationary stator that carries the windings. When current runs through the stator windings, it generates a magnetic flux distribution that interacts with the magnetic field distribution of the rotor to apply a turning force. Stepper motors feature very high pole counts, typically 50 or more. The stepper motor driver energizes each pole in sequence so that the rotor turns in a series of increments, or steps. Because of the very high pole count, the motion appears to be continuous.

Servo MotorsLike stepper motors, servo motors have many implementations. Let’s consider the most common design, which incorporates a rotor with permanent magnets and a stationary stator with the windings. Here too, the current creates a magnetic field distribution that acts on the rotor to develop torque. Servo motors have significantly lower pole counts than stepper motors, however. As a result, they must be run closed-loop.

Final ThoughtsServo motors offer an undeniable performance advantage. In terms of repeatability, however, stepper motors can be quite competitive. This point brings up a common misconception about stepper motors, which is the myth of lost motion. As we discussed previously, the mass-spring nature of a stepper motor may result in a few lost steps. Because the drive is commanding the stepper to move to an angular location, lost steps are not carried over from rotation to rotation, however. Rotation to rotation, stepper motors are highly repeatable. Look for a more detailed discussion of this topic in a future blog post.

The discussion above brings us to a final key differentiation between stepper axes and servo axes, which is cost. Stepper motors typically don’t require feedback, they use less expensive magnets, and they rarely incorporate gearboxes. Because of the high pole count and their ability to generate holding torque, they consume less power at zero speed. As a result, a stepper motor can be up to an order of magnitude less expensive than a comparable servo motor.

To summarize, stepper motors are good solutions for applications with low speed, low acceleration, and low accuracy requirements. Stepper motors also tend to be compact and inexpensive. This makes these motors a good fit for medical, biotech, security and defense, and semiconductor manufacturing applications. Servo motors are a better choice for systems requiring high speed, high acceleration, and high accuracy. The trade-off is a higher cost and complexity. Servo motors are typically used in packaging, converting, web processing, and similar applications.

When your application is forgiving but your budget is not, consider a stepper motor. If performance is the most important aspect, a servo motor will do the job but be prepared to pay more.

What to Know to Specify the Right MotorTorque requirementsSpeed requirementsDesired accelerationLoad mass and inertiaBudgetSize limitations

About the Author

oyostepper.com is a professional stepper motor online china supplier at competitive prices coupled with a fast efficient service.

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Author: Betty Alan

Betty Alan

Member since: Dec 17, 2019
Published articles: 2

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