make your own robotHow to make your own robot on 2 wheels, using stepper motors with Arduino parts and sensors … Part 2

In Part 1, we got as far as driving a stepper motor using a library. This time, we will study the stepper motor programming in a little more detail and learn how to control it, the problems that are encountered in handling stepper motors, and some solutions.

Electronic Construction Recipe

Approximate time: 90m
Required parts

Stepper motor review

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Picture 1 – Stepper motor and L6470

I will review how to control a stepper motor through programming in this post. You can see from the below characteristics that what is unique for the stepper motor compared to regular motors and servo motors is the ability to control rotation.

  • Motor: Rotates when power is turned on
  • Servo motor: Rotates in the range of 0 to N degrees corresponding to a signal
  • Stepper motor: Able to control with no limitations corresponding to a signal

Also, you send PWM signals to the motor in order when actually controlling it. That said, control is difficult if you connect the Arduino directly to the stepper motor. So normally, for micro-controllers like an Arduino, you will want to control the stepper motor via a motor driver, which makes various types of control possible. (Refer to #12 for handling normal motor drivers.)

The L6470 stepper motor driver used this time is both cheap and has onboard control/oscillator circuits for detecting overcurrent to the stepper motor, DSP, and communication I/F. Fundamentally, when you’re trying to control the number of revolutions or power to the motor or accurate movement is desired, you need to choose a motor driver with functions and abilities like the one below to complete your circuit.

Because I want one that’s easy to use and cheap for this project, I’m using the L6470. But, last time and the time before that, when I tried to drive the stepper motor, I expected it to rotate. Instead, I only got noise and vibration but no turning of the axis. I wonder if I did something to make it act weird?

The phenomenon of stepper motor “step-out”

When working with stepper motors, you often encounter step-out. Put simply, step-out is what happens when a stepper motor’s actual movement doesn’t keep up with the rotation control signal and the rotational position expected by the motor driver and the actual stepper motor position get misaligned, causing a loss of synchronicity and the motor to not turn.

There are various causes of step-out. Driving the stepper motor as described below commonly causes it.

  • Suddenly accelerating or decelerating the stepper motor
    • The timing of sudden acceleration/deceleration brings the possibility of the signal and motor losing sync. In these cases, gradually accelerating/decelerating at first removes this possibility.
  • Insufficient torque
    • Step-out can happen if the motor doesn’t have sufficient torque (turning power). In this case, you have to switch to a motor that has the torque required.
  • Driving voltage is low/unstable
    • If the driving voltage is low/unstable, this can cause step-out. The L6470 Specs call for 8V-45V, but use caution when running right at 8V.
  • Effects of vibration
    • If vibration is applied to the motor, it may cause step-out.

In general, when step-out occurs, the above causes are all possible but sudden acceleration or overspeed caused by insufficient torque is the most common causes. So, if your stepper motor steps out, these causes are worth investigating.

Also, STMicroelectronics sells L6470 and has a detailed description, so you can also refer to that.

L6470 Product Descriptions

Programming the stepper motor

Now, let’s dig into the subject of this post, stepper motor programming. In order to control the stepper motor from the Arduino via the L6470, you have to program the l6470 to send control signals. The circuit is as below.

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Illustration 1 – A circuit connecting the Arduino, the L6470, and the stepper motor

Flow of the stepper motor control program

Below is the stepper motor program. We will now peruse the flow of this program.

Control Signals – About SPI transmission

First, the exchange of control signals between the L6470 and the Arduino occurs over a method call SPI transmission (Serial Peripheral Interface). This SPI transmission is used to exchange signals between microcontrollers like Arduinos and IC chips.

In the “#include SPI.h” expression in the program’s second line (1), I am preparing to use SPI transmission on the Arduino. When using libraries, remember there have always been these “#include <***.h>” expressions.

Next, in (2), I set the pin used by the L6470. Here you see written MOSI and MISO. These are the basic signal lines that SPI transmission uses.

In SPI transmission, signal lines are constructed of the below 3 basic elements (4 elements when using SS signals). Each signal line has specific role of either Clock (SCK), Output Signal (MOSI: Master Out Slave In), and Input Signal (MISO: Master In Slave Out). When actually transmitting, communication is arranged so that the Arduino outputs the standard Clock signal (SCK) and then together with the L6470 transmits data back and forth using the In and Out (MISO and MOSI) connections.

  • SCK – Serial Clock
  • MISO – Master In Slave Out
  • MOSI – Master Out Slave In
  • SS  – Slave Select

In (3), the pin mode for the signal line used is set. Next, in (4), the SPI transmission mode to be used is set. The device being connected determines the mode.

Once SPI transmission preparation is complete, in (5), we finally get to use SPI transmission and begin L6470 setup. The part that actually sends the SPI transmission signal is (6) where L6470_send() function is written.

When doing the L6470 setup, set up the required elements based on the specs recorded in the datasheet and manual.

L6470 Datasheet

When you look at the contents of the datasheet, you will see the below table of command addresses. This time, because we’re using the 12026 motor, send the register address recorded in the table via SPI transmission to initialize the L6470.

As an example of how to use the table in programming:

Above is the code. If we look in the table at the “highest revolution speed” function line, the address is “0x07”, the length is “10” bits, and the initial value is “0x20” (in this 12026 mode example). By sending the values in the table via SPI transmission, you can do various settings.

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Table 1 L6470 Datasheet. 

Once initialization is complete, the commands to actually drive the stepper motor are found in the (8) main process. You can see the various commands recorded in the datasheet again.

  • Rotation commands
    0x51(Forward rotation)、0x50(Reverse rotation)
  • Stop (soft) command 0xB0

In the example, a forward or reverse rotation command is sent, followed by a 20 bit rotation speed command, and then delay(1604). This sets it to turn for that period of time. If this rotation speed value is changed, it can be sped up or slowed down.

This is the flow when using Arduino to drive the stepper motor via L6470. Also, corresponding to this, by changing some of the connection methods, several stepper motors can be controlled as introduced last time.

Let’s try driving a 2-wheeled robot

Now that we understand the flow of the programming functions for stepper motors, let’s finish off the 2-wheeled robot. I completed printing the wheels and body with the 3D printer in the last post and will now mount the necessary parts on the body so you can completely make your own robot.

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Picture 2 – All the necessary parts to make your own robot are mounted on the body

With the Arduino, breadboard, and 9V batteries for the stepper motor (2 in series) all mounted, there’s hardly any space left…Yikes.
So, rather than use an Arduino UNO, I tried changing it out for an Arduino Pro Mini.

Make Your Own Robot With an Arduino Pro Mini

Picture 3 – With an Arduino Pro Mini, it’s perfect!

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Picture 4 – It mounts neatly on the breadboard

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Picture 5 – Wheels mounted firmly to the axes so they don’t slip

Once all parts are mounted, we finally get to turn on the power and try driving it.

It works! In the video, a 12V adapter is attached to the stepper motors. When I connected 9V batteries they were a little too heavy and I noticed that the stepper motors didn’t have quite enough torque. In this case, if it’s too heavy, like I described earlier, you can change out the motor itself, do some weight reduction, or improve the power source a bit more to make stable operation possible.


This time, we used stepper motors to make your own robot on two wheels. The movement happened as written in the code. You could add other things when you make your own robot like attach light sensors on each side and make a robot that moved towards the brightest light, or a robot that moves towards sound, or even advance to a robot that could be driven by a smartphone using WIFI communication via the ESP-WROOM-02 that was introduced previously. All kinds of applications are possible. I may try to introduce some improvements in subsequent posts.

Next time, I think I will make a device that uses a magnetic sensor or something else cool.