Best CNC Stepper Motors for Every Type of CNC

Best CNC Stepper Motors for Every Type of CNC

Best CNC Stepper Motors for Every Type of CNC

Picking a stepper motor is about understanding your torque and RPM (speed) requirements. The stepper motor needs to be capable of delivering your required torque while also being fast enough.

It is easy to overpay with a too large motor or to pick a feeble motor that quits on you when you really push it.

This guide can help you decide the stepper motor you need for your CNC application.

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 As a CNC hobbyist and former machinist, I get asked for stepper motor recommendations by people looking to either build a CNC or replace the motor in their existing CNC.

I tell them my best picks depending on the category of the stepper motor:

Best NEMA 17 Stepper Motors

1. STEPPERONLINE NEMA 17 Stepper Motor

NEMA 17-2A Stepper Motor for CNC
NEMA 17-2A Stepper Motor for CNC
Rated Current2A
Holding Torque84 oz.in
Compatible DriverTB6600 or DM542T (or higher)

Brief Specifications

The STEPPERONLINE NEMA 17 motor is probably the most popular NEMA 17 stepper motor today, with good reason.

The holding torque on this motor is 84 oz.in, which is quite high for a NEMA 17 motor and this will suit most desktop CNC's and Laser engravers. In fact, it is ideal for 3D printers as well.

For perspective, most 30 x 18 desktop CNC's that are on the market today, such as the Sainsmart 3018 CNC run on stepper motors that have a holding torque of 35 oz.in and 1.3 A rated current.

Thus the torque is more than double that of popular desktop CNC's. But if you are going to run 8 ft. x 4 ft. full-size CNC routers, and not engravers then I suggest you look into NEMA 23 stepper motors instead.

This motor can handle a maximum current of 2A per phase.

To run this stepper motor you need a stepper driver that has its maximum current rating higher than 2 A. The most popular and cost-effective ones that meet this criterion are the TB6600 driver and DM542T driver.

With this motor, you have the potential to build a desktop CNC that is more powerful and smooth than any of the under $500 desktop CNC's on the market.

However, you need to also match the right controller with this. Ensure that you either use a stepper driver like TB6600 or better with this 2A motor. I say this because a lot of budget CNC controllers on the market have integrated stepper drivers and most of them are either A4988 or DRV8825.

If you are unsure of what controller you need, check this guide I wrote-CNC GRBL Controllers for Hobbyists.

Technically, you can run this motor using an A4988 or DRV8825 stepper driver at low current but you wouldn't be able extract the full performance of this motor. If you try to run this motor using those drivers at 2A, expect it to burn out after a while.

For those interested in how much torque this stepper motor will generate at different RPM's, when driven at 24V, this can help- Torque v/s RPM Chart for NEMA 17 Stepper Motor.

This motor has a step angle of 1.8 degrees and the step angle accuracy of this motor is +/- 5%

The inductance on this motor is 3.0 mH which is less than the recommended maximum inductance of 5.0 mH. This helps it achieve good torque even at higher RPM's.

This motor has an ambient temperature rating of 10-50°C and a maximum temperature rating of 80°C.

Almost all users of this motor report a temperature that's under this rated temperature and only a bit warm when run at 1A current.

The excellent heat management of this motor helps it avoid missed steps, that happen when a stepper motor gets too hot.

This stepper motor comes with clear documentation on which of the four wires go where and that's really helpful if you're not an expert.

If you want multiple NEMA 17 motors instead of just one, I suggest you opt for this set of 3 NEMA 17 motors for a bulk discount- STEPPERONLINE 3PCS Nema 17 .

PROS : 

  • High torque among NEMA 17 motors.

CONS : 

  • Needs TB6600 or better stepper driver.

2.Usongshine NEMA 17 Stepper Motor

Usongshine NEMA 17 1.5A Stepper Motor
Usongshine NEMA 17 1.5A Stepper Motor
Rated Current1.5 A
Holding Torque60 oz.in
Compatible DriverA4988 or DRV8825 (or higher)

Brief Specifications

With 60 oz.in holding torque, the Usongshine NEMA 17 stepper motor is a solid bipolar stepper motor.

To run this stepper motor you need a stepper driver that has a maximum current rating higher than 1.5 A. The most popular ones that meet this criterion are the A4988, DRV8825, and TB6600 driver.

If you want help on which stepper driver you need for your CNC, check out this guide I wrote- Stepper Drivers for Every CNC Application

If you have a controller with integrated stepper drivers, just make sure it has a driver that is A4988 or better (in terms of Amps).

Whichever stepper driver you choose or already have, make sure to limit the current that flows from it to the motor to be below the rated current of the stepper motor, i.e. 1.5 A.

The length of the cable on this motor is 1 meter with four wires, which is standard for bipolar stepper motors these days.

This motor is a 1.8 degree stepper motor, meaning it will take 200 steps for every full revolution.

The step angle accuracy of this motor is +/- 5%, and most users report very minimal missed steps unless running at the highest amperage all the time.

The PCB boards in the motor compartment have been upgraded from previous versions to ensure the smoother motion of the motor. 

The whole surface of the motor is coated with epoxy resin which gives it higher stability and lower noise.

The Usongshine motor, like it's housing, also has high stability, uniform speed of operation and low noise.

The copper coils used in the motor and the silicon steel rotor, evenly disperse heat.

The silicon steel rotor along with the rubber-coated surface makes sure that the output is stable, the noise is lower and the lifetime of the product is longer. 

This motor runs at a temperature around 50°C when under normal loads and heats up to 70°C when run at its maximum rated current of 2A.

The manufacturer does not specify the inductance of this motor, but it is low which gives this motor reasonable torque even at higher RPM's.

The low resistance also enhances the thermal conductivity of the motor, producing both better performance and reduced heat loss. 

Overall, this NEMA 17 stepper motor is a solid option for any desktop engraver, laser engraver, or 3D printer.

Pros:

  • good compatibility with budget stepper drivers and controllers.

Cons:

  • Lower torque compare to the 84 oz.in StepperOnline NEMA 17 Motor.

Best NEMA 23 Stepper Motors

1. STEPPERONLINE NEMA 23 2.8A CNC STEPPER MOTOR 

NEMA 23 2.8A Stepper Motor
NEMA 23 2.8A Stepper Motor
Rated Current2.8 A
Holding Torque178.5 oz.in
Compatible DriverTB6600 or DM542T (or higher)

Brief Specifications

The STEPPERONLINE NEMA 23 stepper motor is overall the best pick among NEMA 23 stepper motors if you are looking for a motor that balances price and torque. 

The bipolar motor produces 178.5 oz.in of torque and has a fixed step angle of 1.8 degrees.

This stepper motor can do most tasks you need for a DIY CNC Router that cuts wood, plastics, aluminum and PCB's.

As a benchmark, the highly popular Openbuilds Lead CNC ( 60 in. x 60 in. size) has a 175 oz.in NEMA 23 stepper motor, which is very near to this stepper motor.

Most 7 inch lathes and small mills such as the Sherline Bench Mill run well 170-280 oz.in torque.

This motor has a phase resistance of 0.9 ohms and is rated for 2.8A current per phase.

The 57x57x56mm body is made up of a mixture of steel, copper, metal and aluminum. This gives the motor durability and also it weighs less compared to NEMA 23 motors of similar torque.

The StepperOnline NEMA 23 motor weighs 1.54 lbs (700g).

The motor is also capable of running at 1000 RPM at no-load condition and has overall great efficiency for carving different materials.

You can run this motor using the TB6600 driver or DM542T stepper drivers. Of course, you can use even better drivers if your application demands it.

The Driving Voltage required for running this stepper motor is 24-48V, which is standard for most NEMA 23 motors.

This motor has 4 lead wires and 300 mm wire length.

The inductance on this motor is 2.5 mH which is quite low giving it high torque even at high RPM's.

PROS:

  • Lightweight ( 700g )

2. STEPPERONLINE NEMA 23 3.0A Stepper motor 

NEMA 23 3A Stepper Motor
NEMA 23 3A Stepper Motor
Rated Current3 A
Holding Torque269 oz.in
Compatible DriverTB6600 or DM542T (or higher)

Brief Specifications

This StepperOnline NEMA 23 Motor has the same size (form factor) as the 2.8A NEMA 23 motor above.

However it has a 3A maximum current per phase, and a 269 oz.in holding torque. This is higher than the 178.5 oz.in in the 2.8A NEMA 23 motor.

The real question is, do you need it? It's difficult to say if you need this without knowing how fast you want your machine to cut.

How fast the CNC moves is related to the feed rate and that depends on your stepper motor RPM.

The problem is that the torque you get from a stepper drops off linearly when you increase the RPM, to make the router move faster.

For this NEMA 23 motor, you still get around 80% of it's maximum torque, i.e around 226 oz.in at 400 RPM, when run with a 48VDC supply.

Torque v/s RPM Chart for 3.0A NEMA 23 Motor

If your RPM need is more than 400 RPM, and you need above 250 oz.in torque even at that speed, I suggest you go to the next motor in this list with higher torque.

This motor also has higher resistance (1.12ohms).

This motor can also be run using the TB6600 driver or DM542T stepper drivers. Of course, you can use even better drivers if your application demands it.

The Driving Voltage required for running this stepper motor is 24-48V, which is standard for most NEMA 23 motors.

This motor also has the same 4 leads but has a longer shaft length 21mm when compared to the previous NEMA 23 which has 20.6mm. 

PROS : 

  • Produces higher torque 
  • Affordable price 

3. High Torque NEMA 23 4.2A CNC Stepper motor

NEMA 23 4.2A Stepper Motor
NEMA 23 4.2A Stepper Motor
Rated Current4.2 A
Holding Torque425 oz.in
Compatible DriverDM542S (or higher)

Brief Specifications

This is really the monster among NEMA 23 motors.

With a 4.2A rated current per phase and 425 oz.in holding torque this stepper motor is usually the biggest, you find in any CNC Router that cuts materials like wood, plastics, aluminum, and PCBs.

You go higher than this only if you want to do some serious metal machining. Even then it might not really be necessary.

A lot of larger lathes (10" x 22" or 10" x 32") and heavy benchtop mills ( X and Y axis) have their torque between 400-600 oz.in.

This motor has a really impressive torque v/s RPM curve.

If you look at the curve, it delivers a 283 oz.in RPM even at 360 RPM when run using a 36V supply. You can expect even more power with a 48VDC.

This stepper motor can be run at moderate speeds using a DM542T driver while a TB6600 might be too weak for this motor.

If you want to really push this motor to its limit, i.e 4.2A, you should get a driver that can handle at least 5A, like the DM542S (5.0A) or the DM556 (5.6A) or the Trinamic TMC5160 (included in the xPro V5 controller).

The motor has a 1.8 degrees step angle with four wires. The lead length on the wires is 400 mm (40 cm).

As you can expect, this motor is quite heavy for a NEMA 23. It weighs 4 lbs (1.8kg).

The power supply for this motor should be in the range 24-48VDC.

This motor has a maximum rated temperature of 80°C. If it heats up more than this, then you might need to upgrade your stepper driver.

Overall this is what you need if you want absolute muscle at the size of a NEMA 23.

PROS :

  • Very high torque even at high RPM.
  • Almost never misses a step even after long use.

CONS : 

  • Heavy and needs 5A drivers for full performance.

4. TOAUTO Integrated Closed-Loop Nema23 Stepper Motor with Driver

TOAUTO NEMA 23 Closed Loop Stepper Motor
TOAUTO NEMA 23 Closed Loop Stepper Motor
Rated Current3 A
Holding Torque283 oz.in
Compatible DriverIntegrated Driver

Brief Specifications

The TOAUTO NEMA 23 Stepper Motor is a good choice if you want a closed-loop Stepper Motor instead of an open-loop stepper motor.

The closed-loop stepper motor has a high holding torque of 283 oz.in. The 36V 5A rated driver accompanies the motor, so you do not need to look for a compatible stepper driver.

All the motors listed before this motor are open loop motors. Open loop motors suffer from lack of feedback to the controller.

The biggest advantage in choosing a closed loop stepper motor is that it gives feedback to the controller similar to a SERVO motor at almost 1/3rd the price of a SERVO Motor.

Open loop stepper motors can sometimes miss steps, especially when run at their current limits with the motor getting too hot.

The additional feedback that is given to the controller in a closed-loop stepper motor, gives the stepper motor a chance to either correct its position or stop after each move in case there are missed steps.

If you are doing critical work, where a missed step can ruin your workpiece, then a closed loop stepper motor might be a better option for you.

It alerts you regarding the missed step and stops moving, so that you can make changes in the input.

Closed Loop stepper motor also runs cooler than an equivalent torque Open loop stepper motor because it detects the actual load and supplies only the current which is necessary.

At the stop position (0 RPM), it almost stops supplying current resulting in no heat, while an open loop stepper motor is at its hottest when in stop position.

The real-time synchronization of the hybrid step servo system provides feedback for very quick start and stop, zero speed stop stability.

The position tracking technology used in the real-time closed-loop system ensures that there is no loss of synchronization. It works by positioning a position encoder behind the step motor.

The position encoder makes sure that the degree of stepping or positioning is as accurate as possible. The encoder also applies an encoding and filtering technique to overcome the resonance problem.

This results in smooth and accurate motion at low speed and overcomes the noise and vibration problems encountered by the traditional stepper motors. 

The hybrid servo drive system applies a current control technique which results in a 30% speed performance increase and improves the effective torque by 70%. The combined effect is high torque operation at high speed. 

This motor driver system does not require any additional setup and is plug-and-play like other stepper motors.

PROS : 

  • Position tracking technology provides better real-time synchronization
  • Comes along with the stepper driver 
  • Does not heat up much

CONS : 

  • The NEMA 23 motor would have 0.25 inch shaft while this stepper motor has 0.327 inch shaft and hence it is more like a NEMA 24 
  • Pricier than other NEMA 23 motors.

5. RATTM Motor 4 Axis CNC NEMA 23 stepper motor kit

NEMA 23 Stepper Motor Kit
NEMA 23 Stepper Motor Kit
Rated Current4 A
Holding Torque425 oz.in
Compatible DriverFMD2740C (or higher)

Brief Specifications

If you want stepper motors for your CNC and you don't want to bother with finding compatible stepper drivers and power supply then this kit is for you.

The kit comes included with 4 powerful NEMA 23 stepper motors, the FMD2740C stepper motor driver, controller, power supply, and a breakout board. 

The kit features a NEMA 23 stepper motor which is able to produce holding torque of 425 oz.in with a step accuracy of 5%.

The resistance and inductance accuracy of 10 and 20 percent respectively makes sure that the motor follows a fixed step angle of 1.8 degrees.

The switching power supply has a wattage of 400W and is a single output producing 36V / 9.7A while the input being 100 - 120 V AC or 200 - 240V AC.

The USB CNC breakout board provides easy connection via USB. The board has a high performance motion controller providing exceptional control of the motor.

The only downside to this is that since it is a USB-connected board, it only works with pc board software like windows 7. Meaning Mach3 cannot be used.  

PROS : 

  • All in one kit and no need to check for additional compatible drivers and supply.

CONS : 

  • Mach3 is not supported.

Best NEMA 34 Stepper Motors

1. Hobby-Unlimited NEMA 34 stepper motor

NEMA 34 Stepper Motor
NEMA 34 Stepper Motor
Rated Current6A
Holding Torque1200 oz.in
Compatible DriverDM860T (or higher)

Brief Specifications

This is a NEMA 34 Stepper motor with 1200 oz.in holding torque and a rated maximum current of 6A per phase.

The holding torque on this is three times that of the previous NEMA 23 motor with 4.2A rating.

This motor is suitable for the Z axis of heavy benchtop mills. A single motor of this size can theoretically lift 75lb weight.

The only reason why you'd need this motor for DIY CNC Router is if you want to run constant production work and need the bit of extra edge you get from the higher power.

However the extra power comes at a cost. You need bigger mounting brackets for this motor.

Also check whatever application you are using the motor for has the space for a motor of size 86 x 86 mm with 114 mm length.

If you need to use a motor as powerful as this, make sure the rest of your mechanical system supports it.

You need a highly rigid and strong chassis that can take the high torque this motor produces. If you run this on a weak mechanical system that can't handle the stress, the whole setup can crumble and cause damage.

To run this motor you need a driver capable of delivering more than the 6A.

The DM860T stepper driver is a good choice for this motor. It is built to run NEMA 34 and NEMA 42 motors, with a current range of 2.4-7.2A and 18-80VAC or 36-110VDC power supply.

This NEMA 34 motor has four lead wires.

Also it weighs a whopping 7.5 lbs (3.4 kg).

With a body made of steel, the heavy duty HobbyUnlimited stepper motor is built to last a long time.

The motor produces a high holding torque of 1200 oz.in through its long 14mm shaft with a 5mm keyway.

The motor has a fixed step angle of 1.8 degrees and a step accuracy of 5 percent.

The motor also works at an ambient temperature range of 20°C to 50°C (approximately). 

PROS : 

  • High torque 
  • Durable body built to last  

CONS : 

  • Heavy- 3.6 kg 

Things to consider before choosing a Stepper Motor for your CNC

  • NEMA Sizing: Generally as NEMA sizing number increases, the power and torque of a motor increases. However, check the holding torque as well as it is possible to have NEMA 17 motors.
  • Overbuying: It is easy to overbuy stepper motors. Any excess capacity in terms of torque above a safe margin is a waste that will never be used. You will need to spend more on power supply, stepper driver and controller for extra torque you don't really need.
  • Torque and RPM: First estimate the torque and RPM you need for your application and work from there to determine everything else you need like stepper drivers, power supply, and controllers.

    As RPM of a stepper motor increases, the torque drops in the stepper, almost proportionately. This can be compensated by applying a higher input voltage through the stepper driver. However, this means you need to manage the increased heat through some cooling mechanism.
  • Inductance: Motors with low inductance have better torque at higher RPMs. As a thumb-rule, motors with inductance below 5mH is to be preferred.
  • Heat: More current in the motor means more heat. As a general thumb rule, every 10% reduction in current results in 20% heat reduction.
  • Power Needed: Say you have four stepper motors requiring 2.8A. This means that a total of 4 x 2.8 = 13.2A is required. If 24V is the rated voltage then the rated power will be V*I = 24 x 13.2 = 316.8W. So here in this case a 350W 15A supply would work great.

About John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNC's and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNC's and writing about CNC's for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNC's. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNC's and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNC's and writing about CNC's for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNC's. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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