Tag Archives: uStepper

uStepper is an Arduino-compatible board with an integrated stepper driver


Tired of the messiness? uStepper combines an ATmega328P MCU, a stepper driver and an absolute encoder in one ultra-compact design.


The brainchild of Mogens Nicolaisen and Thomas Olsen, who together make up Danish startup ON Development IVS, uStepper is an ultra-compact, Arduino-compatible board with an integrated stepper driver and 12-bit rotary encoder.

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Since it can be mounted directly on the back of your NEMA 17, uStepper makes it possible to develop applications using a stepper motor, without the need for long and messy wiring to an external Arduino or stepper shield. Aside from that, the 12-bit rotary encoder ensures that the absolute position of the motor shaft can be tracked, enabling the uStepper to detect any loss of steps.

The uStepper can be programmed with the Arduino IDE, giving you access to a wide range of easy-to-use libraries. With an ATmega328P at its core, key specs of the board include:

  • Clock speed: 16MHz
  • Input voltage: 8V – 30V
  • I/O voltage: 5V
  • Digital I/O pins: 12 (6 of which provide PWM capability)
  • Analog I/O pins: 4
  • Up to 2A stepper drive current (adjustable)
  • Up to 16x microstepping (user selectable)
  • 12-bit encoder resolution

The position of the shaft is tracked using a neodymium magnet and a magnetic encoder chip. This chip is able to sense the position of the north and south pole of the magnet, and use this information to determine the angle of the motor shaft. The encoder has a 12-bit resolution, meaning that the shaft position can be tracked in steps of 1/4096, corresponding to a resolution of 0.088 degrees. What’s more, since the location of both the magnet and the encoder chip is fixed, the measured shaft angle will not be reset between power cycles.

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Communication between the MCU and the encoder is done through the I2C serial protocol. The uStepper is completely expandable, thanks to the vast number of I/O pins available, which include SPI, UART and I2C interfaces. The I2C bus is equipped with the required pull-up resistors, eliminating the need to mount these externally. Additionally, the encoder enables the uStepper to perform closed loop regulation of the stepper motor position, with a sample frequency as high as 6.6 kHz.

“On our first prototype a linear regulator, regulating supply voltage down to the 5V I/O voltage, was implemented. During normal operation the linear regulator, regulating 12V down to 5V, will have a temperature rise of approximately 50 C° — that is above ambient temperature! This is because of the low efficiency, which is only 42% — supplying the uStepper with more than 12V would not be a wise thing to do with this type of regulator,” the ON Development IVS crew writes.

To increase efficiency, reduce temperature and at the same time allow supply voltages of up to 30V, the final version of the uStepper will include a switch mode regulator. The team adds, “Besides the benefits of increased efficiency and thereby lower temperature, the possibility of increasing the supply voltage to the stepper, will also increase the possible operating speed and torque!”

The uStepper stepper driver chip has a selectable microstepping level from full-step to 1/16 microstepping (using jumper configuration), giving a resolution of up to 3,200 steps/revolution with a 1.8-degree stepper motor and up to 6,400 steps/revolution if choosing a 0.9-degree stepper motor. The output current is adjustable using the on-board potentiometer, making smooth adjustment up to a maximum of approximately 2A possible.

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For ideal operating conditions, a large ground plane is connected to the thermal pad of the stepper driver chip. This makes certain that the large amount of heat is spread out and away from the stepper driver. For applications requiring high current (above 1.5A), its creators recommend a heatsink, and note that under very intense use (currents approaching 2A and/or high ambient temperatures), active cooling may be necessary.

On the bottom of the uStepper, a NTC resistor is embedded as close to the stepper driver thermal pad as possible. This lets you monitor the stepper driver temperature and take action if the temperature drastically rises. The stepper driver chip has an internal safety circuit shutting down operation should the temperature reach too high of a level, preventing damage to the board.

For its crowdfunding debut, the uStepper comes in two forms: a base and premium kit. The base set includes the board, four standoffs, along with a a magnet and bracket for the encoder. Meanwhile, the premium kit features all of that plus a NEMA 17 stepper motor. The open source kits are super simple to assemble, requiring nothing more than a Philips screwdriver, a wrench and five minutes of your time.

Sound like something you’d like to have? Head over to the uStepper’s Kickstarter page, where ON Development IVS is currently seeing $8,882. Delivery is expected to get underway in March 2016.

21 smart crowdfunding campaigns you may want to back this week


Every Friday, we’re taking a look at some of the smartest, most innovative projects that caught our attention on Kickstarter and Indiegogo over the last seven days. 


ŌURA

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This ring-sized computer analyzes your daily activities to help you sleep and perform better. ŌURA has already well surpassed its $100,000 goal on Kickstarter.

Mycroft

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This A.I. platform is an open source alternative to Amazon Echo that allows you to play media, control lights and much more. Mycroft is currently seeking $99,000 on Kickstarter.

Fotokite Phi

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This GoPro-carrying quadcopter can capture bird’s-eye view photos while being leashed to your wrist. Fotokite is currently seeking $300,000 on Indiegogo.

Mayday

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This standalone machine learning device can detect when your drone is about to crash and deploy a parachute. North UAV is currently seeking $12,000 on Kickstarter.

LightBug

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This solar-powered tracker lets you find nearly anything (or anyone) using GPS. LightBug is currently seeking $77,782 on Kickstarter.

Ohm

Ohm

This intelligent car battery will never need to be jumpstarted, works reliably on the coldest winter days, and lasts twice as long as the average lead-acid battery. Ohm is currently seeking $50,000 on Indiegogo.

Formaker

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This four-in-one machine allows you to laser cut, mill, etch and 3D print a wide range of materials. Zhuhai CTC Electronic Co. is currently seeking $35,000 on Kickstarter.

Exploride

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This futuristic head-up display provides hands-free access to maps, phone calls, text messages, notifications, music and on-board diagnostics for your car. Exploride is currently seeking $100,000 on Indiegogo.

OnCourse Goggles

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This pair of point-and-click goggles allow athletes to stay on course, swim in a straight line in open water and receive real-time feedback. OnCourse Goggles is currently seeking $60,000 on Kickstarter.

uStepper

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This ultra-compact, Arduino-compatible board features an integrated stepper driver and 12-bit rotary encoder, enabling it to be mounted directly on the back of your Nema 17 motor. ON Development IVS is currently seeking $8,882 on Kickstarter.

OMO+

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This portable battery-powered gadget can illuminate your pool or hot tub for an awesome light show along with sound through its Bluetooth speakers. Andreas Haase is currently seeking $50,000 on Kickstarter.

Pearbuds

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This pair of super small, Bluetooth-enabled buds fit comfortably in your ear without a single cord and boasts a battery life of six hours. Pear Designs has already well surpassed its $50,000 goal on Kickstarter.

Trekz Titanium

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This pair of wireless, open ear headphones offer runners, cyclists, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts superior safety, comfort and high-quality sound through bone conduction technology. AfterShokz has already well surpassed its $65,000 goal on Indiegogo.

Verti

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This Bluetooth tag clips and sticks onto anything you’d like to keep tabs on, all of which can easily be tracked right from your smartphone. Verti is currently seeking $10,000 on Indiegogo.

OrbMi

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This voice messaging system is reinventing the answering machine by having you communicate with family and friends using an orb. Retropreneur Labs is currently seeking $75,000 on Kickstarter.

go-e ONwheel

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This lightweight, add-on motor can transform your bike into an e-bike in a matter of seconds. Frank Fox has already well surpassed his goal of $55,253 on Kickstarter.

Lumma

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This smart appliance tracks, sorts and dispenses your pills whenever it’s time to take them. LITE is currently seeking $100,000 on Kickstarter.

Knut Water

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This connected detector can sense water, temperature and humidity to protect your home from water damage. Amperic is currently seeking $50,000 on Kickstarter.

Luvit

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This standalone “like” button gives you the ability to express your adoration for anything and everything, while also collecting input and other forms of crowdsourced data. Luvit is currently seeking $25,000 on Kickstarter.

iGia

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This smart home security kit is comprised of a central control unit, an HD camera, a motion sensor, a door/windows sensor, a smoke detector and an alarm trigger. iGia is currently seeking $10,000 on Indiegogo.

Nixie

Robo

This highly-customizable, privacy-enhanced robot not only can serve as your personal companion, but can learn by doing, keep an eye on things, snap photos, receive weather and traffic reports, connect to household devices, and much more. Nxt Robotics is currently seeking $50,000 on Indiegogo.

If your project is powered by Atmel MCUs and you’ve been featured on our blog, be sure to download the respective badges here for use in your ongoing marketing efforts. 

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