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El-cheapo drivers

Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:59 pm
by Tom Smith
Has anyone looked at/had experience with these drivers? While they are cheap, there is no apparent documentation with them, and therefore using them might be more trouble than the few bucks saved.

Image ... ino-120542

I am interested only as I am in the collection stage of the various components I need before the Inventables kit ships, and am evaluating options.



Re: El-cheapo drivers

Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:21 pm
by pourcirm
I think the biggest problem you run into with these is the lack of documentation you mentioned. Without that you don't really have a good way to tell how you should be connecting the driver to your Arduino or what kind of inputs the various pins are expecting.

The other thing I could mention is not directly relating to DealExtreme, but I can tell you from past experience that sometimes when you order something from China that looks cheap it's not the greatest functioning circuit. I have more than a few junk boards and parts that I went out on a limb and purchased from a questionable place before. Ends up costing more in the long run because you have to go and replace them.

Just my 2 cents.

- Ryan

Re: El-cheapo drivers

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:24 am
by sandro
From my experience and what I've read, drivers are not a place to cut corners.

I've used and upgraded drivers for various projects in the past, and in the end, motor issues due to cheap drivers are very frustrating.
Dropped steps, overheating, lack of torque/speed, etc.

CNC is tough enough without adding transient electronic issues to the mix.

I've finally settled on a Gecko 540, it's pricey, but so far it's been bulletproof (including user errors that would have killed a lesser board).
The Shapeoko will be the third rig that I use the Gecko on, I just move it between setups as needed.

I really mean to try a TinyG or SmoothStepper in the future, but so far it's been easier to let the Gecko do it's job and focus on software/mechtronics.
If I ever get a rig to the point of just turn-key operation, I might buy a new board to mess with for future projects.

Re: El-cheapo drivers

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:48 am
by edwardrford
I recently picked up one of these sets. The price ($93 + Shipping) was just too good to pass up. ... alers.html The package came with a controller, 3 nema17 motors and a 24v 6A power supply.

Here's the review:

Shipping took about 5 days total from the time of order. It came DHL.
The power supply is great. You plug it in and it puts out 24V volts. I don't have a method to measure the Amps, so I couldn't tell you if it's putting out the advertised value.
Stepper Motors are great - just what you'd expect for a nema17 stepper motor. The shaft is tight and has a flat ground on it, leads were about 12" each.
Controller: - not sure if it's great or not. I blew the z-axis driver about 10 minutes after everything was hooked up. As of now the X and Y work fine and I have a few ideas how to use the driver for something else. However, the driver chips (Toshiba TB6550AHQ) are completely replaceable. OK, they're not plugged in, I'll have to desolder the blown driver, but the spacing is ample and it should be an easy fix. I've ordered 3 more, which should arrive this week.

All in all I give it 6 stars (of out 10). I think I had something to do with blowing the driver as the board was just sitting on my workbench during testing (not mounted to anything, just sitting on a static bag. The z-axis I was using ended up binding, which is when the driver blew. The board also has a relay on it that says 230V max. I'm not sure how to tap into that, but the pins are accessible and I think the idea is to turn the spindle on and off. I haven't gotten that far due to not knowing how to go about hooking it up.

Surprisingly, besides the relay information, the documentation was good, the english was bad, but I was just looking for pinouts and other table type information that was easy to find.

As I said, the draw was the price. My expectations were low so I was surprised at the quality of the PS and the steppers, and like I said, the controller works great in the X/Y :-) Once those drivers show up I'll see just how easy it is to replace them and report back accordingly.

Re: El-cheapo drivers

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:58 am
by Tom Smith
Point taken - don't skimp on the brains :-)

Re: El-cheapo drivers

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:59 am
by RedOko
I'll like to try one out unfortunately, even my current desktop does not have a parallel port and its only a year old.


Re: El-cheapo drivers

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:33 am
by edwardrford
@RedOko Actually, that brings up a good point, and something I forgot to share in my informal review:

Although I have a computer with a parallel port, and use it to run EMC2, I started wondering why I couldn't run that driver board with an arduino? After all, it's only expecting 5v pulses right?

After starting to design an arduino shield with a DB25 port on it, I halted and ended up paying $7 for a DB25 breakout board from ebay like this one ( ... 2877781567)

In one side goes the DB25 cable, from the terminal blocks I used simple jumper wires to connect to my arduino! It works.

So, if you're in the market to try out one of those boards (and I am encouraging people to do so in order to get some reliable reviews) Just add the breakout board and you're all set!

Re: El-cheapo drivers

Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 5:16 pm
by AngusF
That driver definitely won't work without extra hardware. It has two enable inputs and 4 polarity inputs. It's a quad H-bridge, more suited to driving the wheels on a small robot than handling steppers. You would need an intermediate driver to take step and direction inputs and drive the driver.

Solarbotics makes a similar board,, which is well documented.

Re: El-cheapo drivers

Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:43 pm
by northbear
I don't have any first hand knowledge with this stepper driver board, but on the CNCZone Forums, it seems this driver has mixed reviews at best. ... inese.html ... river.html

It is too bad as there are a several electronics kits out there (ebay, with this driver that would be a good price if reliable.