Stepper Motor

Photos by Proto G

Stepper motors are an incredibly precise, incredibly useful tool in any Maker’s arsenal. They’re the heart of any CNC machine, robot, drawbot, or 3D printer. Open up a stepper motor and you’ll find a dense, mechanically beautiful mass of copper coils, gearing, and magnets. That complexity is what makes it all the more amazing that Engineer Proto G took it upon himself to both 3D print and hand-wind his own stepper motor.

Using an Arduino, a 3D printer, six neodymium magnets, eight nails, one bearing, and a ton of copper magnet wire, this stepper motor doesn’t have the compact convenience of an off-the-shelf NEMA, but it’s got heart and a beauty all its own.

To help you build your own version of this stepper motor, Proto G created an Instructable and posted all of his 3D printing files and his Arduino code on his Google Drive account. But beware, the 3D printing is the easy part.

The real challenge of this project is winding your own motor coils with magnet wire. To help make short work of it, the video demonstrates a method of attaching a nail to the end of an electric drill and using it to slowly wrap the wire in multiple passes. It’s kinda awesome how he pulls this off. Once wrapped, the wire is taped down to keep the coil tight.

Coil wrapping on nail

Between the video and the 3D printer files, the Arduino code, and a trip to the hardware store, you have almost everything you need to roll your own stepper motor. When you’re done, the motor itself may not be the most practical alternative to buying one that’s been precisely manufactured and calibrated, but it sure looks like it’s fun to show off. I also love how this project is a mix of high and low tech, combining an Arduino and 3D printing with nails, wire, tape, and magnets.

A Schematic of Proto G's Stepper Motor design

The schematic for Proto G’s Stepper Motor design