Engineers selecting stepper drives have to match drive to the motor, obviously. However, beyond this, matching drive to the application is also an important consideration. Some drives are better suited for certain operating conditions and load types than others. Stepper drives find use in as many applications as stepper motors themselves, as they must work together. Such applications include medical, automation, manufacturing, 3D printing, robotics and more.
One factor to keep in mind is AC or DC input. Some applications may have easy access to a wall socket for powering AC input drives while others may not. Even if there is access to AC power, remember to ask if an AC input drive is what suits the application best. If the requirement is to drive a smaller, lower horsepower motor, or to power a stepper motor off batteries—as in medical prosthetics for example — then perhaps a DC input is a better choice. Larger, more powerful drives may require AC, and the application should have power available if this is the case. A system that involves packaging, such as food, are usually required to have high torques. High torque drives are most often AC input.
Remember that when selecting a stepper drive combination using torque-speed curves, multiple motor and drive combinations may ostensibly suit the system at hand. In these cases, it is often best to select a stepper drive combination based on other factors. These factors include stepping type and control, direction control, programmability and type of configuration available, analog or digital inputs and microstepping capabilities. Microstepping is especially a concern for systems that require fine, smooth movements, such as 3D printing.
Some specific applications may require specific drives. Pharmaceutical applications often have large numbers of axes to drive and thus require specific kinds of drives. Another use specific kind of stepper drive is the integrated drive. This can either mean the drive and controller are integrated, or the drive and motor are integrated or all three are integrated. These are useful when an application is relatively uncomplex and only requires basic motion controls, such as in food and automotive uses. Finally, some manufacturers make specific, proprietary drives for their motors alone and these are use-specific in that sense.
When selecting a drive, keep in mind power requirements, heat production, input power type and its use case. This can avoid situations down the line when the drive and motor end up not working together.
For more information, read Omega’s piece on Stepper Motors and AMCI’s SMD23 – Industry Applications.