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10 tips for servos and steppers… a simple guide

What are the basic application differences between servos and steppers? Where would you choose one over the other? This short 10 point guide, offers a simple non technical explanation of the differences between these positioning technologies and attempts to de-mystify the subject, putting straight many misconceptions. By Nigel Dawson Edrives Product Manager nigel_dawson@festo.com

1. Torque comparison of steppers and servos Many people believe stepper motors do not have the torque capacity of servo motors. This is not necessarily true. The nominal torque of a stepper motor is very similar to a servo for a comparable frame size. Of course a servo has an additional time dependant peak toque rating and their speed curve is considerably more flexible and higher performance than a stepper. If a stepper solution is correctly sized, it offers a real low cost alternative to a servo.

2. Good applications for steppers Servo motors, despite many claims, are not always the best performance choice for applications. The structure of a stepper motor means that positions are discrete steps in its revolution cycle. If an application requires very good stand still stability, for instance positioning a vision system, a stepper will always be better than a servo. Servo motors resonate backwards and forwards at standstill, giving them their positioning characteristics; stepper motors stay very stable at standstill.

Positioning of vision systems is an ideal application for stepper motors

2

3. When is a servo not a servo? The term servo, often refers to a system with closed loop feedback, hence a servo motor is really only a servo when coupled to the drive to close the loop. This also means that any motor type can be built into a servo system to offer a cost optimised servo system. Such low cost servos utilise stepper…...

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