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Project Notes

#430 Bipolar Linear Stepper with an H-Bridge

Testing some linear/worm-drive stepper motors salvaged from a DVD drive unit, using a bespoke H-bridge circuit and Arduino .. or pushbuttons!


Here’s a quick demo..



Many CD/DVD drives use a biopolar stepper motor with worm gear for linear positioning of the laser head. The tear down of an HL GCR-8483B is a good example.

Here are two similar motor units I’ve scavenged. The part numbers are un-googlable internal references:

  • D4907M1F/15RF073K for upper in the picture below
  • D6124NID for the lower


Drive Specifications

I haven’t been able to find any specifications for these drive units, but from my experiments I’ve gathered the following:

Item Specification Notes
Voltage 5V operates from ~2.5V but at that level not able to deliver much torque
Current 170mA total current while rotating without load, including h-bridge circuit
Steps per Revolution 20  
Revolutions Full Travel 11 any attachment would reduce effective full travel

These measurements have only been verified for the D4907M1F/15RF073K unit.


It seems the 4 wires to the drive are connected in a somewhat unusual order: A, B, D, C.

  • A and B are a coil pair
  • D and C are a coil pair, but reversed polarity

NB: if the connections for D and C are reversed, the stepper still “works”, but at only a fraction of the torque as half the time the coils are battling each other.


Driving a Bipolar Stepper

Some great resources for bipolar stepper motors:

Kevin Darrah also has a good introduction and demo of driving a bipolar stepper with push buttons:


The essence of bipolar stepper control:

  • two independent coils
  • exciting the coils in a specific sequence, generally either:
    • in 4 full steps: 1, 3, 5, 7 in the diagram below
    • or 8 half steps
  • since this requires reversing the polarity on the coils, is best achieved with an H bridge


The result is 8 combinations of drive conditions as tabulated below:

  • can be cycled in either direction for forward/reverse drive control
  • using only the 4 steps that drive both coils (1,3,5,7) is full-step control and delivers maximum torque
  • using all 8 steps provides half-step control provides more selectivity of positioning, but at a loss of torque (because half the steps only use one drive coil)
Step A B C D Full Half
1 + - - + Yes Yes
2     - + No Yes
3 - + - + Yes Yes
4 - +     No Yes
5 - + + - Yes Yes
6     + - No Yes
7 + - + - Yes Yes
8 + -     No Yes

The Arduino Stepper Library

The Stepper Library is used in the example SimpleHBridge.ino sketch.

It supports 4-wire bipolar steppers using an external H-bridge, and only implements full step control with the following sequence:

Step A B C D
1 1 0 1 0
2 0 1 1 0
3 0 1 0 1
4 1 0 0 1

A Bespoke H-bridge Circuit

To control a bipolar stepper, we basically need an H bridge for each coil. There are dedicated chips/modules for this - a popular one being the DRV8825 Stepper Motor Driver.

But in this case I decided to build the H bridge control circuit on a breadboard. Key points to note:

  • all MOSFETS not BJTs for more positive switching control
  • all n-channel (rather than paired p-channel, n-channel) as control and motor circuits are running at 5V, so switching the high-side nFETs is no issue.
  • I’ve included flyback diodes, though at these power levels they are not essential

I’ve included manual push-buttons in addition to Arduino control, and used these to verify drive control before hooking up the Arduino.





I hooked it up to a scope to see the control signals..


Not much to see here. However, this is a capture of the onset of one coil being activated:


Credits and References

Project Source on GitHub Project Gallery Return to the LEAP Catalog

This page is a web-friendly rendering of my project notes shared in the LEAP GitHub repository.

LEAP is just my personal collection of projects. Two main themes have emerged in recent years, sometimes combined:

  • electronics - usually involving an Arduino or other microprocessor in one way or another. Some are full-blown projects, while many are trivial breadboard experiments, intended to learn and explore something interesting
  • scale modelling - I caught the bug after deciding to build a Harrier during covid to demonstrate an electronic jet engine simulation. Let the fun begin..
To be honest, I haven't quite figured out if these two interests belong in the same GitHub repo or not. But for now - they are all here!

Projects are often inspired by things found wild on the net, or ideas from the many great electronics and scale modelling podcasts and YouTube channels. Feel free to borrow liberally, and if you spot any issues do let me know (or send a PR!). See the individual projects for credits where due.