[Neumi] over on Hackaday.IO wanted a simple-to-use way to drive stepper motors, which could be quickly deployed in a wide variety of applications yet to be determined. The solution is named Ethersweep, and is a small PCB stack that sits on the rear of the common NEMA17-format stepper motor. The only physical connectivity, beside the motor, are ethernet and a power supply via the user friendly XT30 connector. The system can be closed loop, with both an end-stop input as well as an on-board AMS AS5600 magnetic rotary encoder (which senses the rotating magnetic field on the rear side of the motor assembly – clever!) giving the necessary feedback. Leveraging the Trinamic TMC2208 stepper motor driver gives Ethersweep silky smooth and quiet motor control, which could be very important for some applications. A rear-facing OLED display shows some useful debug information as well as the all important IP address that was assigned to the unit.
Control is performed with the ubiquitous ATMega328 microcontroller, with the Arduino software stack deployed, making uploading firmware a breeze. To that end, a USB port is also provided, hooked up to the uC with the cheap CP2102 USB bridge chip as per most Arduino-like designs. The thing that makes this build a little unusual is the ethernet port. The hardware side of things is taken care of with the Wiznet WS500 ethernet chip, which implements the MAC and PHY in a single device, needing only a few passives and a magjack to operate. The chip also handles the whole TCP/IP stack internally, so only needs an external SPI interface to talk to the host device.
Talking about firmware for a moment, to ease deployment, the network configuration is handled by DHCP, although some control over MAC address assignment is promised for the future. All control is via UDP over ethernet, and again the basic functionality is there, but some niceties such as motor synchronisation and state querying are again subject to further releases. Hardware design is implemented in KiCAD and FreeCAD, with Arduino covering the firmware and host control side in python. You can read all about it on the Ethersweep project GitHub, what is there not to like?
If you thought you’d seen this stepper-mounted driver setup before, you’d be correct, here’s a Hackaday Prize 2017 Entry for a CANBUS controlled driver. We also saw this on Dummy: the obscenely well made robot arm by [Zhihui Jun], which if you missed it, then do circle back and take a look, you won’t regret it!