Microcontroller, stepper driver and encoder with Arduino compatability. Made by students for students



uStepper - Made by Students for Students

Why doesn’t there exist an Arduino compatible stepper driver that can compensate for lost steps? After experiencing lost steps by stepper motors through experience with CNC machines and 3D printers, Mogens Nicolaisen asked himself this question while studying electrical engineering at the Aalborg University in Denmark in 2015. Thomas Olsen, another electrical engineering student at the university, wondered the same thing.

Together they started developing the uStepper, a prototype which was revised twice before the product launched on Kickstarter in 2015. As it turned out, they weren’t the only ones looking for such a product and the campaign became a huge success. uStepper was born.

The following three years more functionality was added to the uStepper, and several applications such as a linear actuator and a robot arm were added to the company’s portfolio. However, Mogens and Thomas wanted to develop their product even further and decided to launch a new product to replace the original uStepper Rev B: the uStepper S, featuring the TMC5130, and uStepper S-lite, featuring the TMC2208.

Designing the uStepper S

“Choosing Trinamic drivers for the second generation of uStepper was the obvious choice since Trinamic has become widely adopted in the maker segment due to the drivers outstanding performance and a broad range of additional functionalities,” explains uStepper’s Director and Co-Founder Mogens Nicolaisen. “One of the significant benefits came with Trinamic’s smooth microstepping performance compared to more traditional stepper drivers as is evident from noise emission and vibration tests we performed. Besides this, we were able to offload our MCU to make more room for user scripts and save board space by utilizing the Trinamic drivers bus communication, for example to adjust microstep and power settings instead of using jumpers and potentiometers as is common practice on many drivers.”

Again, the compact product was a big hit on Kickstarter and is used by students to this day. The Arduino compatible board with integrated stepper driver and rotary encoder can be directly mounted on the back of a NEMA 17 sized stepper motor. By doing so, there’s only minimum wiring so students can easily realize clean designs while getting familiar with closed-loop stepper motors.

uStepper 3D Shield

Furthermore, the uStepper S can be combined with the uStepper S 3D Stepstick, a polulu stepstick-sized board with a RJ45 socket. With both signals and power fed through a single RJ45 cable, users can easily add uSteppers to their project without needing complex wiring schemes. Furthermore, the data transfer through these cables happens at extremely high speed, even over longer distances, making it an interesting choice for scalable designs.

Together with the product, users have access to a great variety of how-to videos and other guides that simplify use of the uStepper S, making it the perfect entry-level product for students and makers.