You are here: Home » Blog » China Stepper Motor » Understanding Bipolar Stepper Motors

Understanding Bipolar Stepper Motors

Views: 22     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-05-11      Origin: Site

facebook sharing button
twitter sharing button
line sharing button
wechat sharing button
linkedin sharing button
pinterest sharing button
sharethis sharing button

Introduction to Bipolar Stepper Motors

Stepper motors are special types of motors that move in discrete steps, allowing for precise control over their position and speed. Unlike conventional DC motors, stepper motors do not rely on continuous rotation. Instead, they move in discrete steps or increments, making them ideal for applications that require accurate positioning.

There are three basic configurations for stepper motor:

  1. Universal Stepper Motor – A universal stepper motor can be connected as a bipolar or a unipolar stepper motor.

  2. Unipolar Stepper Motor – A unipolar stepper motor can be used as a unipolar or a bipolar stepper motor.

  3. Bipolar Stepper Motor – A bipolar stepper motor can only be used as a bipolar.

Understanding Bipolar Stepper Motors

Basic Working Principle of Stepper Motors

The basic principle behind stepper motors is the use of electromagnets and magnetic fields to generate motion. By energizing the coils in a specific sequence, the motor can move in discrete steps. Each step corresponds to a specific angular rotation, allowing for precise control over the motor's position.

Bipolar Stepper Motors: Definition and Components

Structure of a Bipolar Stepper Motor

A bipolar stepper motor consists of several key components, including the rotor, stator, shaft, and coils. The rotor is the moving part of the motor, while the stator contains the fixed electromagnets. The shaft connects the rotor to the external load, enabling it to drive the desired mechanism.

Coil Arrangement and Magnetic Poles

Bipolar stepper motors have two coils, each with a center tap. These coils are arranged in such a way that the magnetic poles alternate between north and south. The arrangement of these coils and poles determines how the motor moves and steps.

Wiring Configuration of Bipolar Stepper Motors

Bipolar stepper motors differ from their unipolar counterparts in terms of wiring arrangement. Unlike unipolar motors, bipolar motors lack a common lead. Instead, they possess one winding per stator phase, resulting in a total of four leads for a two-phase bipolar stepper motor.

There are various wiring methods available for connecting stepper motors, depending on their type and desired performance. When it comes to a six-wire unipolar stepper motor and a corresponding unipolar driver, there exists only one specific wiring configuration. However, for bipolar drivers, the options expand, allowing for different wiring setups based on the number of wires involved.

While unipolar drivers are a more economical choice, bipolar drivers offer greater flexibility and compatibility with four, six, and eight wire stepper motors. The bipolar wiring configurations are further categorized into bipolar-series, bipolar-parallel, and bipolar half-coil setups.

For unipolar motors, the wiring can involve either six or eight wires. On the other hand, bipolar motors can be wired in bipolar-series using four, six, or eight wires. Additionally, the bipolar-parallel configuration is possible with four or eight wires, while the bipolar half-coil setup requires either six or eight wires.

To gain a clearer understanding, the accompanying schematic diagrams illustrate both the motor winding and the corresponding transistor circuit in the driver. These visual representations aid in comprehending the specific wiring arrangements for each method.

Unipolar and Bipolar Half-Coil

Unipolar stepper motor

In the case of unipolar and bipolar half-coil configurations, the primary approach involves dividing the full coil into halves and utilizing only one half of the winding at a time. This division results in a reduction of the total number of winding turns being actively utilized. Consequently, the motor's torque output is not as high compared to other wiring methods.

However, this deliberate reduction in winding turns serves a purpose. By keeping the inductance low through this wiring technique, the motor can maintain its torque output even at higher speeds. This characteristic is particularly advantageous in applications where speed is a crucial factor.

To summarize, the use of half-coil configurations in unipolar and bipolar wiring methods involves splitting the coil into halves, leading to a decrease in winding turns and subsequently limiting torque. Nevertheless, this reduction in inductance allows the motor to sustain torque output at elevated speeds.


Bipolar-series stepper motor

In the case of bipolar-series configuration, the complete coil or winding is employed. By utilizing the entire winding, the motor is capable of generating higher torque compared to the unipolar setup. This increased torque output is a notable advantage of the bipolar-series wiring method.

However, it's important to note that this wiring technique also results in a significant increase in inductance, specifically four times higher than that of the unipolar configuration. As a consequence, the motor's torque performance diminishes rapidly as the speed increases. This rapid drop-off in torque at higher speeds is a characteristic associated with the bipolar-series wiring method.

To summarize, the bipolar-series configuration capitalizes on the full coil or winding, leading to enhanced torque output compared to unipolar wiring. However, the accompanying increase in inductance causes the motor's torque to decline rapidly as the speed rises.


Bipolar-parallel stepper driver

For optimal speed and torque characteristics, the recommended wiring configuration is bipolar-parallel. In this method, the full coil is utilized, resulting in a significant increase in torque, approximately 40% more compared to the unipolar setup. This enhanced torque output is a notable advantage of the bipolar-parallel wiring configuration.

Moreover, to maintain low inductance and enable torque to be sustained at higher speeds, it is important to keep the inductance level low, as in the other configurations mentioned. However, achieving these advantages requires increasing the current by approximately 40%.

To summarize, the bipolar-parallel wiring configuration is favored for achieving the best combination of speed and torque characteristics. By using the full coil, the torque output is increased by approximately 40% compared to unipolar wiring. Additionally, maintaining low inductance allows the torque to be sustained at higher speeds. However, to obtain these benefits, it is necessary to increase the current by approximately 40%.

Connections Resistance Inductance Current Voltage Holding Torque
(Ohms) (mH) (A) (V) (oz-in)
Unipolar N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Bipolar Series Unipolar X 2 Unipolar X 4 Unipolar X 0.707 Unipolar X 1.414 Unipolar X 1.414
BipolarHalf Coil Same as Unipolar Same as Unipolar Same as Unipolar Same as Unipolar Same as Unipolar
Bipolar Parallel Unipolar X 0.5 Same as Unipolar Unipolar X 1.414 Unipolar X 0.707 Unipolar X 1.414

The bipolar-parallel wiring configuration offers a beneficial combination of low inductance, high current, and low voltage, resulting in excellent overall torque performance. This configuration is particularly advantageous for maximizing the motor's torque capabilities.

By utilizing bipolar-parallel wiring, the inductance is kept low, which helps in achieving optimal torque output. Additionally, the configuration allows for the utilization of high current levels while operating at low voltage. This combination proves to be highly effective in enhancing the overall torque performance of the motor.

To summarize, the bipolar-parallel wiring configuration provides a favorable balance of low inductance, high current, and low voltage. This combination is instrumental in achieving superior torque performance, making it an ideal choice for applications where maximizing torque is a priority.

The Complexity of Operation

While the wiring arrangement of bipolar stepper motors is relatively straightforward, their operation entails a greater level of complexity. Unlike unipolar motors, bipolar motors do not have a natural reversal of the current direction through the winding. This means that in order to reverse the polarity of the stator poles, the current must be reversed, requiring the implementation of an H bridge circuit.

The Role of a Driver IC with an Internal H Bridge Circuit

To facilitate the reversal of current direction and thereby alter the polarity of the stator poles, a driver IC equipped with an internal H bridge circuit is indispensable for driving bipolar stepper motors. The H bridge circuit allows for the precise control and manipulation of the current flow, ensuring seamless transitions between different phases of operation.

There exist two additional rationales for employing an H Bridge integrated circuit (IC). The stepper motor draws a substantial amount of current, surpassing the microcontroller pin's maximum capability of providing merely 15 mA. To meet the stepper motor's current requirements, an external driver IC capable of managing significantly higher currents becomes indispensable. Moreover, the stator coils in the motor constitute inductors, resulting in the generation of spikes when the coil current changes direction. These spikes possess considerable magnitude and can cause detrimental effects on a regular microcontroller pin. Therefore, safeguarding the microcontroller pins necessitates the utilization of an H Bridge.

There are three distinct approaches to driving a bipolar stepper motor:

1. Single Phase Energization: In this method, only one of the phase windings, either AB or CD, is energized at a given time. The coils are energized in a manner that ensures correct polarity. However, since only one phase is active, this stepping technique provides relatively lower holding torque.

2. Dual Phase Energization: Here, both phases are simultaneously activated, causing the rotor to align itself between two poles. This configuration yields higher holding torque compared to the single phase method.

3. Half-Stepping: The third method involves half-stepping and is commonly employed to enhance the stepping angle precision. In this sequence, during the first step, only one phase is powered ON, then in the second step, two phases are energized, followed by another single phase activation, and so on.

Bipolar stepper drives have gained popularity, with numerous companies now manufacturing their own versions. However, it is crucial to ensure the correct connection of the stepper motor to the drive to avoid any issues. Additionally, the drive itself must have the capability to deliver an adequate amount of current to meet the requirements of your stepper motor. In this setup, the role of the microcontroller is solely to provide the step and direction signals to the drive. By adopting this method, you can conserve microcontroller pins, as it only necessitates the utilization of two pins. This can be advantageous for projects that require a multitude of microcontroller pins for other essential functionalities.

How Bipolar Stepper Motors Work?

Bipolar stepper motors operate based on the principle of electromagnetic induction. The coils in the motor are energized in a specific sequence, creating magnetic fields that interact with the permanent magnets within the motor structure. This interaction generates the stepping motion.

Step Sequence and Phases

The stepping motion of a bipolar stepper motor is achieved by energizing the coils in a specific sequence. This sequence is often referred to as the step sequence. There are four possible coil states in a bipolar stepper motor: two coils can be energized in the same direction, two coils can be energized in the opposite direction, or both coils can be de-energized.

The step sequence determines the direction and magnitude of each step the motor takes. By controlling the timing and order of coil energization, the motor can move forward or backward in precise increments.

Role of the Driver Circuit

To control a bipolar stepper motor, a driver circuit is used. The driver circuit provides the necessary power and timing signals to energize the motor coils correctly. It translates the control signals from a microcontroller or other control system into the appropriate coil states.

The driver circuit ensures that the motor receives the required current and voltage levels to produce the desired torque and motion. It also protects the motor from overcurrent or overheating conditions.

Controlling the Stepping Motion

To control the stepping motion of a bipolar stepper motor, the driver circuit sends electrical pulses to the motor coils in the specified sequence. These pulses generate magnetic fields that attract or repel the permanent magnets within the motor.

Each pulse causes the motor to move one step, which corresponds to a specific angular rotation. By varying the frequency and duration of the pulses, the speed and precision of the motor's motion can be adjusted.

It's worth noting that the step angle of a bipolar stepper motor depends on its design and construction. Common step angles include 1.8 degrees (200 steps per revolution) and 0.9 degrees (400 steps per revolution). The step angle determines the motor's ability to achieve fine or coarse movements.

Advantages and Applications of Bipolar Stepper Motors

Advantages of Bipolar Stepper Motors

Bipolar stepper motors offer several advantages in various applications. Here are some key benefits:

● Precise Positioning: Bipolar stepper motors allow for precise and accurate positioning, making them ideal for applications that require high levels of control and repeatability.

● High Torque: Bipolar stepper motors can generate substantial torque, allowing them to drive mechanisms that require significant force.

● Versatility: These motors can operate in both full-step and microstep modes, providing flexibility in controlling the motor's motion and resolution.

● Wide Range of Sizes: Bipolar stepper motors are available in various sizes and configurations, enabling their use in applications of different scales.

Common Applications

Bipolar stepper motors find applications in numerous industries and systems, including:

●  Robotics: Stepper motors are widely used in robotic systems for precise control of joint movements and positioning.

  CNC Machines: These motors play a crucial role in computer numerical control (CNC) machines, ensuring accurate and repeatable movements for cutting, milling, and engraving operations.

● 3D Printers: Bipolar stepper motors are commonly used in 3D printers to control the movement of the print head and the positioning of the build platform.

● Automated Systems: Stepper motors are employed in various automated systems, such as conveyor belts, automated doors, and industrial machinery.

Factors to Consider When Using Bipolar Stepper Motors

When utilizing bipolar stepper motors in your applications, it's essential to take certain factors into account to ensure optimal performance. Consider the following:

Power Requirements

Bipolar stepper motors require an appropriate power supply to function correctly. It's crucial to provide the motor with the voltage and current specified by the manufacturer. Insufficient power supply may result in reduced torque and inaccurate motion, while excessive power can lead to overheating and damage to the motor.

Speed and Torque

The speed and torque requirements of your application should match the capabilities of the bipolar stepper motor. Different motors have varying speed-torque characteristics, so it's essential to select a motor that can meet your specific needs. Higher speeds may require additional considerations such as cooling mechanisms or the use of specialized driver circuits.


Microstepping is a technique used to achieve smoother and more precise movements with bipolar stepper motors. It involves dividing each step into smaller increments, allowing for finer control and reduced vibration. Microstepping can enhance the motor's performance, but it requires compatible driver circuits and may result in reduced torque at higher resolutions.

Troubleshooting and Maintenance Tips for Bipolar Stepper Motors

To ensure the longevity and reliability of your bipolar stepper motors, consider the following troubleshooting and maintenance tips:

Overheating Issues

Excessive heat can damage the motor and reduce its performance. To prevent overheating, ensure proper ventilation and cooling mechanisms. Monitor the temperature of the motor during operation and make adjustments if necessary. If the motor consistently overheats, it may indicate a power supply or driver circuit issue.

Motor Stall or Loss of Steps

Motor stalls or loss of steps can occur due to various reasons, such as excessive loads, insufficient power, or incorrect driver settings. Check for any mechanical obstructions or binding that may prevent the motor from moving freely. Ensure that the power supply and driver settings are appropriate for the load and application. Adjusting the current limit on the driver circuit can help prevent stalling and improve performance.

Regular Maintenance

Perform regular maintenance to keep your bipolar stepper motors in optimal condition. This includes cleaning the motor and surrounding areas to remove dust and debris that may affect performance. Check for loose connections, damaged wires, or worn-out components. Lubricate the motor's moving parts as recommended by the manufacturer.


Bipolar stepper motors are versatile and reliable devices that offer precise control and accurate positioning. By understanding their working principles and considering important factors such as power requirements, speed, and maintenance, you can effectively utilize these motors in various applications. Whether it's in robotics, CNC machines, or other automated systems, bipolar stepper motors provide the necessary control and performance for your specific needs.


1. What is the difference between bipolar and unipolar stepper motors?

Bipolar stepper motors have two coils, while unipolar stepper motors have four or five coils. Bipolar motors generally provide higher torque and are more suitable for applications that require greater force.

2. Can I run a bipolar stepper motor using a unipolar driver?

No, bipolar and unipolar stepper motors require different driver circuits due to their coil configurations. Attempting to run a bipolar motor with a unipolar driver may result in incorrect operation or damage to the motor.

3. How do I determine the appropriate driver for my bipolar stepper motor?

Consider the motor's voltage and current requirements, as well as the desired level of microstepping and control features. Choose a driver that can supply the required power and has the necessary capabilities to meet your application's demands.

4. Can I use a bipolar stepper motor for high-speed applications?

Yes, bipolar stepper motors can be used for high-speed applications. However, the achievable speed is dependent on various factors such as the motor's design, driver circuit, and the load it needs to drive. It's important to select a motor and driver combination that can meet the speed requirements of your specific application.

5. What are the common alternatives to bipolar stepper motors?

     ● There are several alternatives to bipolar stepper motors, depending on the specific application requirements. Some common alternatives include:

Servo Motors: Servo motors offer precise control and feedback through a closed-loop system. They are often used in applications that require high accuracy and responsiveness.

     ● Brushless DC Motors: Brushless DC (BLDC) motors provide high efficiency, longer lifespan, and improved speed control. They are commonly found in applications such as drones, electric vehicles, and industrial machinery.

     ● AC Induction Motors: AC induction motors are widely used in applications that require high power and constant speed operation, such as pumps, compressors, and conveyor systems.

Each alternative has its advantages and considerations, so it's important to assess the specific needs of your application before selecting the most suitable motor type.

Contact us
Cosda Automation is a manufacturer of a wide variety of automatic products.



Consult Your Cosda Automation Experts

Contact us