How is a stepper motor used in 3D printers?


A 3D printer ( specifically a Fused Filament Deposition Type ) works by extruding a thin stream of molten plastic over a specific pattern that is encoded in the G-Code file. This operation is repeated over multiple layers, creating a 3D Print of any object that you can model.

3D printer stepper motor

Typical 3 D printer motion control systems include

  1. A Cartesian Robot - Which uses 3 orthogonal ( perpendicular ) axis , X Y and Z to move the head to any location on the Print bed. Total Print Volume is generally a Cuboid.
  2. A Deltabot - Which uses 3 verical Axes ( α,β,γ ) to position the head anywhere within a cylindrical Print Volume.
  3. A Polar Printbot - That typically has a print bed that rotates and an arm that tracks radially across the bed and can move up and down on a column axis.
  4. Scara Printbots - That use a double articulated arm -like mechanism to provide X-Y movement with a vertical Z axis.

All these axis movements and positioning need extremely precise positioning of the mechanical drive systems and stepper motors, that can offer extremely small incremental angular movement at a very reasonable cost, are perfect for the job. WIth typical controllers offering 16 microsteps / 1.8 Deg of rotation , you can get positional accuracy down to about 100 Microns on the X Y axis and 10 microns on the Z axis. These motors are also easily reversible with the same accuracy of positioning.

A stepper motor is also used to feed precisely measured lengths of filament into the hot end for extrusion.

This allows some fantastic print results at a price that makes them affordable to every hobbyist who wants one.

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