A CNC stepper motor is exactly what it sounds like.
A stepper motor (also called step motor or stepping motor) is a brushless DC electric motor that offers more precision than a regular DC motor. A stepper motor breaks down a full revolution into a number of equal steps, making it suitable for machine operations in which small and precise movements are required.
A CNC stepper motor is exactly what it sounds like. It’s simply a stepper motor that you can use to drive the motion system on a CNC machine. Multiple stepper motors are used on a CNC machine, each assigned to drive the movement on one of the three axes (XYZ).
There are several reasons why hobbyists prefer stepper motors over servomotors, the other type of motor often utilized in CNC machining. The most important of which is that stepper motors are much simpler in design and are easier to use, which immediately make them more appealing to people who are new to CNC machining.
You can think of servomotors as the premium option, especially considering they are generally more expensive than stepper motors, even with similar specs. In addition to the price difference, which matters a lot for many people, the fact that stepper motors are easier to get is another big reason they are more popular than servomotors among the CNC hobbyists crowd.
In regard to reliability and performance, stepper motors and servomotors don’t have a Grand Canyon-sized divide between them. Both motors offer good and reliable performance when configured correctly. But for high-performance operations, servomotors, which require an encoder, are more ideal. That’s not a knock against stepper motors; some applications simply call for servomotors.
CNC stepper motors are connected to stepper motor drivers, which affect the overall performance of the motors. If the stepper motor drivers are crap, the stepper motors won’t be able to reach their full potential, regardless of their quality.
When shopping for CNC stepper motors, you’ll notice that they come with the term “NEMA.” It stands for National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a US-based outfit that defines numerous electrical standards, one of which is for electrical enclosures. The NEMA designation of stepper motors refers to the size of the faceplate. For example, a NEMA 17 stepper motor means it has a faceplate of 1.7 x 1.7 inches.
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