Prototypes for stepper motor control

David Wagner

I have a unipolar stepper motor I want to control with my Raspberry Pi. First I needed to figure out the motor coils’ wiring, then I wrote a small test script to provide the correct sequence on the GPIO ports.


I read about stepper motors, and made the following circuit on the breadboard.

Stepper motor prototype

A 9V battery, an indicator led to show if the power is on, and four switches. When a switch is pressed one phase (half coil) is energized. For some unknown reason I managed to get the wiring right for the first time, so pressing the switches one after the other, from top to bottom, made the motor turn one step.

The 6 wires of this motor (Japan Servo KP68P2-406, 12V, 33 Ω/phase, 1.8 deg/step) are the following:

  • 2 red (center taps)
  • orange (phase 1)
  • brown (phase 2)
  • yellow (phase 3)
  • black (phase 4)

Sequence test

I wrote a small test script to output the step sequence on the Pi’s GPIO ports. It has a lot of cool features:

$ sudo python -h  # help
$ sudo python  # turns the motor indefinitely, Control-C terminates
$ sudo python -s half -r -n 4  # 4 times the half-step sequence, reversed
$ sudo python -s kitt  # nothing to do with stepper motors ;)

And the code of

#!/usr/bin/env python
# - Stepper motor sequence test
# Copyright (C) 2013 David Wagner
from itertools import chain, cycle, repeat
import argparse
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
import signal
import sys
import time

sequences = {# Wave Drive, One-Phase
             'one': [[True, False, False, False],
                     [False, True, False, False],
                     [False, False, True, False],
                     [False, False, False, True]],
             # Hi-Torque, Two-Phase
             'two': [[True, True, False, False],
                     [False, True, True, False],
                     [False, False, True, True],
                     [True, False, False, True]],
             # Half-Step
             'half': [[True, False, False, False],
                      [True, True, False, False],
                      [False, True, False, False],
                      [False, True, True, False],
                      [False, False, True, False],
                      [False, False, True, True],
                      [False, False, False, True],
                      [True, False, False, True]]}

sequences.update({'kitt': (sequences['one'][:-1] +

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description='Stepper motor sequence test.')
parser.add_argument('-p', '--pins', metavar='num', type=int, nargs=4,
                    default=[11, 12, 13, 15],
                    help='GPIO pins to activate (numbering by BOARD)')
parser.add_argument('-s', '--seq', type=str, default='one',
                    help='Coil activation sequence.')
parser.add_argument('-d', '--delay', type=float, default='0.5',
                    help='Delay in seconds.')
parser.add_argument('-r', '--reverse', action='store_true',
                    help='Reverse direction.')
parser.add_argument('-n', '--num', type=int, default=0,
                    help='Number of complete cycles.')

args = parser.parse_args()

def init_board():
    for pin in args.pins:
        GPIO.setup(pin, GPIO.OUT)

def init_pins():
    for pin in args.pins:
        GPIO.output(pin, False)

def signal_handler(signal, frame):
    print "Interrupted. Exiting..."

def ncycles(iterable, n):
    "Returns the sequence elements n times"
    return chain.from_iterable(repeat(tuple(iterable), n))

def step(num=0):
    pin_order = list(reversed(args.pins)) if args.reverse else args.pins
    rep = cycle if num == 0 else lambda it: ncycles(it, num)
    for seq in rep(sequences[args.seq]):
        for pin, status in zip(pin_order, seq):
            GPIO.output(pin, status)

def main():
    signal.signal(signal.SIGINT, signal_handler)

if __name__ == '__main__':

Sequence test hardware

I put together a circuit to test the script above. It contains four LEDs, each connected to one of the Pi’s GPIO ports through a transistor. The LED’s could be directly connected to the IO ports, but in this project I wanted to refresh how to use a transistor as a switch so that the LEDs can be powered from an external power supply.

Stepper motor prototype schematic

And on the breadboard it looks like this:

Stepper motor prototype breadboard