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Switchmode Constant Current SourceOperating a stepper motor using a fixed (constant) voltage supply results in poor torque at high speeds. In fact, stepper motors tend to stall at fairly low speeds under such conditions. Several approaches can be used to overcome this problem, one of which is to use a constant current supply in place of the more conventional constant voltage supply. A disadvantage of many constant current supplies is that simple circuits are inefficient but that doesn't apply to switchmode supplies such as the circuit shown here.
Basically, this circuit is a conventional switchmode regulator adapted for constant current output and is specially designed for stepper motor drivers - although it could be used for other applications as well. The circuit works as follows: IC1 (LM2575T) and its associated components (D1, L1, C1, etc) operate as a switchmode power supply. Normally, for constant voltage operation, the output is connected - either directly or via a resistive divider - back to the feedback input (pin 4) of IC1.
In this circuit, however, Q1 senses the current flowing through R1 and produces a corresponding voltage across R3. This voltage is then fed to pin 4 of IC1. As a result, the the circuit regulates the current into a load rather than the voltage across the load. Only one adjustment is needed: you have to adjust VR1 for optimum stepper motor performance over the desired speed range. The simplest way to do this is to measure the motor current at its rated voltage at zero stepping speed and then adjust VR1 for this current. The prototype worked well with a stepper motor rated at 80O per winding and a 12V nominal input voltage. Some components might have to be modified for motors having different characteristics.
Author: H. Nacinovich - Copyright: Silicon Chip Electronics