The Different Types and Terms used to Describe Brushless Motor Controllers (including ESCs, controllers, drivers and more)

What do they all mean?!

Fundamentally all of the various types of brushless ESC or brushless motor controller that we discuss below all do basically the same job, making a brushless motor operate in the way that you would like it to. Some of these are much simpler than others and all have certain pros and cons both technically speaking and commercially speaking. Many of these terms are used interchangeably so you need to be careful but the terms are generally used with a specific focus.

So, let’s get started then….

The different terms used for brushless motor controllers

Brushless ESC –  a Brushless ESC standards for a brushless electronic speed controller. The term is used quite widely for the lowest cost type of brushless motor controller. Essentially these are low cost simple drivers for brushless motors which translate incoming power into the correct sequence required to successfully drive a brushless motor using discrete components. We sometimes use this phrase in relation to the ZDBL Series of Sensorless Brushless Motor Controllers as a useful shorthand for certain applications.

Brushless Motor Controller –  a brushless motor controller will typically feature more in depth and powerful control over the brushless motor and is often based around an intelligent microcontroller which can deliver increased reliability, improved energy efficiency and greater control over particularly difficult aspects of brushless motor control such as starting a sensorless brushless motor under load.

Where a brushless ESC will typically convert an incoming voltage into the right drive pattern for a brushless motor, a brushless motor controller can be much better optimised to deliver a range of performance advantages, including closed loop control using back EMF to deliver constant speed under a variable load. It is important to note that a brushless motor controller may be designed specifically for a sensored brushless DC motor (as opposed to a sensorless brushless motor). Always remember that a sensorless brushless motor controller can drive a sensored or sensorless brushless motor but a sensored brushless motor controller can only drive a sensored brushless motor.

Sensorless Brushless Motor Controller –  a sensorless brushless motor controller is a motor controller which is designed to operate specifically with a sensorless brushless motor. The crux of the matter is that a sensorless brushless motor does not include sensors which can tell the controller where the rotor within the motor is. Sensorless brushless motor controllers therefore typically operate an open loop system but can be used in an closed loop by using back-EMF to sense where the rotor is. 

BLDC Motor Driver –  As you probably know, the phrase BLDC is shorthand for Brush Less DC. A BLDC motor driver is generally very similar to a Brushless ESC in the sense that it is designed to drive the motor and control its speed without adding any additional control intelligence.

Category: Brushless Motor Controller FAQs
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