The Zikodrive Glossary of Motor and Controller Terms and Concepts

A simple method of controlling the speed of a motor via an input on a motor controller. This method uses either 0-3.3V, 0-5V, 0-10V or 4-20mA input signals to directly control the speed of the motor.

The speed of the motor is therefore directly proportional to the input voltage or current which is received on this input.

Back-EMF or Back Electro Motive Force is the electromagnetic resistance which builds up in motors in direct proportion to the speed they are rotating. Given that the frequency of the back-EMF is directly proportional to the speed of the motor it is possible to use this as a means of measuring the motor speed. This is especially important with sensorless brushless motor controllers.

A motor which uses brushes to alternately connect the stator to the rotor. A brushed DC motor runs from a direct power source with the internal design of the rotor and brushes ensuring continuous rotation of the motor.

A motor that has been designed without the use of brushes. Typically permanent magnets are included on the rotor with electromagnets mounted around the stator in pole pairs. The motor is made to turn by a controller alternately switching the pole pairs on and off. For more information on brushless motors and how they work please click here.

An electronic device designed to directly control the rotation of a brushless DC motor. A brushless motor controller will typically offer greater control of the motor than a simple brushless ESC.

A brushless ESC (or brushless electronic speed controller) is a simple electronic circuit designed to control the speed of a brushless motor. Typically the speed will vary directly in proportion the input power voltage.

A system in which the controller rotates the motor but uses one of several methods to actively monitor the actual speed of the motor. The controller then takes this information and can use it to adjust the control of the motor depending on the nature of the application. 

For example, if a pump was required to continually operate at the same speed irrespective of the input pressure a closed loop system would be able to monitor the actual speed of the motor and as the pressure dropped reduce the power (and hence speed) going into the motor. 

Methods for monitoring speed include hall effect sensors (typically found in brushless DC motors), encoders, absolute encoders and potentiometers.

A circuit in a controller which actively monitors the current draw. Can be used as a method of stall detection, to monitor energy efficiency or as a safety precaution enabling fault signals or cutouts at predetermined levels.

A motor controller which has been customised to the specific customer. Customisation can involve custom hardware, firmware or a combination of the two.

The percentage of on versus off time of a PWM drive. 100% duty cycle means the power is fully on. 10% means a 10% on time and a 90% off time.

The process of controlling a stepper motor in such a way that, rather than taking full steps, it instead takes ‘micro’ steps. Depending on the specific controller you are using, microstepping can be done in 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, 1/128, 1/256 microsteps. The main advantages of microstepping are positional accuracy and added smoothness of performance.

For more information on microstepping stepper motors please click here.

NEMA stands for National Electrical Manufacturers Association. The sizes which follow are the diameter of the face of the motor in imperial measurements. For example a NEMA 17 frame size measures 1.7 inches across (approximately 42mm).

For more information on NEMA sizes of motors please click here.

Driving a motor without any feedback of the actual speed. The controller or driver will output a drive pattern that should deliver a certain speed but will not be able to detect if the motor is actually rotating at this rate.

A safety circuit which will switch a controller off if the current draw reaches a certain point. Used to protect the motor and controller but can also be used as a method of stall detection.

A failsafe circuit which will cut power to the motor if the controller or motor reaches a certain temperature.

A small electronic pulse output which can be synchronised as required. Typical uses include as a means of measuring speed or as a trigger for another electronic item to start/stop a sequence.

PWM is a voltage signal which is turned rapidly on and off in order to create an average voltage. It can be used as a signal method (where the frequency relates to a particular speed requirement) but is also used as a means of driving the motor. The higher the PWM frequency, the more voltage which is being put into the motor coils.

RS232 is a serial interface which can be used to transmit and receive data.

A balanced serial interface able to transmit and receive data.

A brushless DC motor built without any inbuilt sensors or means of monitoring the rotor position. Requires a sensorless brushless motor controller for operation (a sensored brushless DC motor controller will not work).

A brushless motor controller designed specifically for use with sensorless brushless motors. This motor controller operates without the use of positioning data from hall effect sensors or encoders but can monitor motor speed using back-EMF.

A sensorless brushless motor controller will work with a sensored brushless DC motor but will not make any use of the onboard sensors.

A very low current voltage used as a signal to a motor controller (for example a 0-5V speed control).

A sinusoidal signal is a smooth sine wave which is used to directly control the phases of a brushless motor. Sinusoidal drivers have the advantage of being smoother, quieter and better at low speeds than the more common trapezoidal drive.

For more information on different methods of brushless motor control please click here.

Using electronics to detect stalls in the system. An important safety feature in many applications (for example where blockages can occur). There are several methods by which stall detection can be implemented.

A motor designed to rotate in steps. A typical stepper motor is designed to rotate at 200 (full steps). Stepper motors are used for a range of applications where accurate positioning is especially important.

For more information on stepper motors please click here

An intelligent electronic circuit which allows accurate control of a stepper motor. Strictly speaking, most stepper motor controllers are in fact stepper motor controllers and drivers, however, in common parlance, the phrase stepper motor controller is used. These circuits can include microstepping, positioning control, various communications interfaces and a range of other features.

For more information on what is possible with a stepper motor controller please click here.

A simple electronic circuit designed to rotate a stepper motor. Does not include any intelligence or accurate method of control but uses a simple circuit to make the stepper motor turn.

A method of driving brushless motors which uses a trapezoidal waveform to drive the motor. This waveform is typically not as good at lower speeds as sinusoidal but can often operate at faster speeds.

For more information on different methods of brushless motor control please click here.

UART stands for Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter. A method by which data can be both received and transmitted. Can be used as a method for programming motor controllers but also as a method for directly controlling the motor controller. Uses data packets which can be sent across various interfaces, including RS232 and RS485.

Accordion Content

The process of capturing and storing data. In a motor control context, this data is usually data about motor speed, motor torque, current levels etc. Depending on the nature of your application, the data gained from data logging can be used for general analysis. However, it can also be used to highlight the need for maintenance or attention in certain applications.

For more information on data logging in motor control applications please contact us today.

A brushless DC motor controller that is based on a sensored positional input from the motor to work. Will work with any sensored brushless DC motor but not with sensorless brushless DC motors. Click here to browse all Zikodrive sensored brushless DC motor controllers.