DC Motor vs. Stepper Motor

Written by jason thompson
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It is important to choose the right motor for your motorised do-it-yourself project. DC motors and stepper motors are two of the most commonly available motors on the market. Though similar, they each have different strengths and weaknesses. Each is better for certain applications and worse for others.

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How They Work

A DC motor uses a commutator to supply continuous direct current to a coil placed between two or more magnets. A stepper motor receives pules of electricity from a pulse generator and sends them through a similar coil-magnet set-up. In both cases, the Oersted effect causes the coils to turn the motor's shaft.


Any errors in the positioning of a stepper motor do not add up. Errors in DC motors' positions do. Over time a stepper motor might have less error than a DC motor. However, DC motors can be positioned with greater accuracy than a stepper motor in any given instance.


DC motors have faster response times than stepper motors do.


DC motors are more cost-effective in the long run when driving heavy loads or accelerating rapidly. Stepper motors have a lower upfront cost.


DC motors are best used when heavy loads need to be driven, a load needs to be accelerated rapidly or short response times are needed. Stepper motors are better for all other applications, especially digital applications.

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