stepperaniWhen you think about it, most of us use electronics on a daily basis without fully understanding how they actually work. In fact, the majority of us are probably clueless about how a computer is able to compute, a TV is able to display a moving picture, or a motor is able to spin. Truth is, it really doesn’t matter to most of us how these electronic devices function, but in reality they are really all quite fascinating.

You may recall a recent story we did about a man named Anthony Garofalo, who had 3D printed his own working stepper motor. Certainly not the first 3D printed motor we had seen, it was very unique in its own right, and Garofalo had made the design files available for anyone to print out themselves. In fact, he created an entire Instructables tutorial to teach others how to do so, under the Proto G user name.

stepper4

Now Garofalo has taken things a step further, turning his already fascinating stepper motor into something even more incredible — an educational tool. He has added LEDs in order to help people better visualize how a stepper motor works.

“The main goal of this model was to show others how stepper motors work,” Garofalo tells 3DPrint.com. “I was hoping that it could inspire others to design educational models for schools and colleges. I am a visual learner and I feel working models like this really help students grasp concepts faster. I have already had multiple teachers and professor contact me saying they will make one to teach their students. I am almost done with Version 2 which I am really excited about. It is an Axial Flux stepper motor. Most people have never heard of them so I think it will make a great educational model as well. “

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In building his LED lit version of his motor, Garofalo took inspiration from a video of a pulse motor that a man who goes by the name “lasersaber”–a maker we covered back in January–created. He designed his stepper motor and then proceeded to 3D print it on his Ultimaker 2 3D printer.

“For larger prints, I like to take it slow and let it print overnight,” he tells us. “I believe it was about an 8 hour print but like I said, I was running the machine pretty slow @ 25mm/s.”

In addition to the 3D printed parts, the motor also uses over a dozen parts and adhesives which are not 3D printed. These include:

  • Six 1/4″ neodymium magnets
  • 608ZZ Bearing
  • Eight 8d 2-3/8″ nails
  • Magnet wire
  • Arduino Uno
  • Four transistors
  • 16 NeoPixel LED ring from Adafruit
  • Glue
  • Electrical tape
  • A compass to determine the poles of the magnets

When the motor is turned on, the LEDs light up showing exactly which coils are being activated. The motor takes full 15 degree steps and is capable of half stepping by activating two pairs of coils at a time. All of this can be seen through the lighting of the LEDs, thanks to this clever creation by Garofalo.

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“I love making things,” Garofalo tells us. “I’m a full time Mechanical Engineer, but I also consider myself an Electrical Engineer. I graduated from UCF and spent two summers working at NASA. While at NASA, I was introduced to many different 3D printers and is where I got bit by the 3D printing bug. “

Thanks to 3D printing, Garofalo’s creation could go a long way in helping students learn more about the electronics which are used in their everyday lives. The design files for his creation can be found on Thingiverse and full instructions on assembling it can be found on Garofalo’s latest Instructables tutorial. What do you think about this unique motor? Discuss in the 3D Printed LED Lit Stepper Motor forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below:

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