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I’ve become so familiar with using standard DC and servo motors for my electronics projects that I’ve been neglecting a resource that I seem to have an unlimited supply of. There is a mountain of old floppy drives growing in the basement chock full of stepper motors waiting to do a robot’s bidding.

The benefit to using stepper motors, besides the abundant availability in all sorts of junk electronics from printers to floppy drives, is that they can be controlled in precise increments. The only downside is that they are a little more complicated to use. For the electronics gurus in the room, controlling a stepper motor is probably old hat. For the rest of us, here are some handy links that’ll help you resurrect some old peripheral guts.

To use a stepper motor with the Arduino, check out Tom Igoe’s documentation (third link). The circuit is straightforward— you’ll only need the stepper, your Arduino, and a Darlington array (for unipolar motors). There’s an additional tutorial that ties this all together here: Unipolar Stepper Motor Arduino Tutorial.

Go forth, make some cool stuff, and send us a link to your creations.

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  1. Hard disks contain stepper motors as well. And those are usually bigger more durable and powerful than those found in floppy drives. Taking apart an old hard drive is even more appealing because i have no use for a noisy, slow 40MB hd, but who knows if I’ll never want to read one of those 5.25 floppies (if they aren’t dead yet). :) Hmm… I’ve got to check if my Amiga still works.

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