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stepper motor

A stepper motor is a special type of electric motor that moves in increments, or steps, rather than turning smoothly as a conventional motor does. The size of the increment is measured in degrees and can vary depending on the application. Typical increments are 0.9 or 1.8 degrees, with 400 or 200 increments thus representing a full circle. The speed of the motor is determined by the time delay between each incremental movement.

Inside the device, sets of coils produce magnetic fields that interact with the fields of permanent magnets. The coils are switched on and off in a specific sequence to cause the motor shaft to turn through the desired angle. The motor can operate in either direction (clockwise or counterclockwise). When the coils of a stepper motor receive current , the rotor shaft turns to a certain position and then stays there unless or until different coils are energized. Unlike a conventional motor, the stepper motor resists external torque applied to the shaft once the shaft has come to rest with current applied. This resistance is called holding torque.

Stepper motors have been used in computer hard drive s, because they can be moved and positioned with precision. They have also been used in various robot ic devices and as antenna rotators.

This was last updated in September 2005

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