Stepper Driver Comparison 3D Printer Upgrade

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Stepper Driver components allow you can make anything with a 3D printer and a dream, putting the world at your fingertips. However, a 3D printer is nothing without its stepper motor. This motor transfers your idea into a 3D printed object through a stepper driver.

Stepper drivers are small electric devices that cache the print information coming from 3D printer controllers for stepper motors. They also provide the power for the motors, ensuring everything works as advertised.

Modele-stepsAVG $/PCS

Stepper Drivers What are They and Why Use One?

A stepper driver is a precision controller that makes the complicated inner workings of a stepper motor more manageable. Arranged in pairs with the option for up to 6 per machine, a printer uses its stepper drivers to manage every axis of a print. It may also provide other features such as stall detection, low noise operation, and enhanced precision. 

Stepper drivers come as integrated circuit chips in integrated and removable formats. Integrated drivers come pre-soldered on a connector board from third-party vendors. Removable drivers require some assembly or have some other means to easily replace them.

Integrated Stepper Driver

Why do People Upgrade Their Stepper Motor?

So we’ve established that stepper motor drivers are important in 3D printing, but what specific reasons are there for considering an upgrade? In this section, we’ll dive into some of the most common reasons for buying new drivers for your gear.

More Consistent Results

The primary benefit of these units is that they increase your overall control of your project. Higher levels of control translate to more consistent results. When working with less premium printers, you may notice that multiple prints of the same model come out differently every time.

With better units installed in your machine, you should find that it’s much easier to get the results you need every time.

Improved Precision and Control

If you’ve tried a few prints before on a low-end machine, you may have found it difficult to get specific with your projects. Want intricate details? Finishing touches that make the print really shine? You’ll need some better stepper motor drivers!

Once you’ve upgraded, you’ll benefit from superior precision, accuracy, and control.

Reduced Noise

In case you didn’t know this already, 3D printers can be super loud! This is especially true with certain types of stepper motor driver. Less expensive models can save you money, but their motors can produce a lot of noise.

If you can afford to invest in something a little more premium, your setup can run a whole lot quieter.

Slash Energy Consumption

This is another big benefit to upgrading your existing gear. Your energy bill can quickly go through the roof if you print regularly. A huge component of this energy consumption comes from powering the motors of your machine.

Upgrade these motors, and you stand to see substantial reductions in your energy use.

Improved Safety and Durability

This of course depends on your specific printing environment, but some less premium setups can overheat fairly quickly. When electrical components overheat, this can cause them to degrade – fast.

Poor thermals can impact the durability of your printer and your final results when printing. Improving your stepper motor drivers can help your machine run much more efficiently. If you play your cards right, this could mean that your printer lasts significantly longer than it was going to before.

Questions to Ask When Buying a 3D Printer Stepper Motor Driver

We know that this kind of purchase can be a baffling one. It’s not exactly the easiest topic to wrap your head around. For this reason, we outline a few useful questions that you should ask yourself below.

They’re designed to help you narrow down your search when shopping.

Will This Work With My Machine?

This is probably the first question you should ask yourself when looking to upgrade your system. Unless a motor is going to work with your printer, there’s 0 point in buying. Check and double-check the compatibility for any unit you consider.

The driver board is usually the sticking point when it comes to compatibility. If the driver board works with your machine, most other aspects should be fine too. Individual manufacturers usually publish helpful info for this kind of thing, so be sure to check this out too.

How Much do I Want to Spend on This?

Before looking at any specific products out there, it might be worth setting an upper price limit for yourself. How much did you spend on your printer in the first place? Is your max motor driver price reasonably proportional to this?

Upgrading your gear can make massive improvements, but it’s important to stay realistic when shopping. Setting limits for yourself will make it much easier to narrow down your search later on.

How Much Precision Do I Need?

Your level of upgrade will be determined largely by the type of work you’re hoping to achieve with your system. If you only ever want to print super simple projects, then a big investment probably isn’t worth it for you.

If you really want to take things up a notch, however, then you’ll want to consider a more premium stepper motor driver. It’s all about the type of hobbyist you are and the specific results you’re looking for.

Once you’ve figured this one out, the type of upgrade you need becomes much clearer.

Can I Install This Myself?

The process for installing a new stepper motor driver isn’t usually a complicated one. However, you should make sure that any specific model you’re considering doesn’t come with any unusual quirks that could make this step more hassle than it’s worth.

Most manufacturers usually have some form of installation guide online. YouTube is also full of tutorials for specific products.

Types of Stepper Motor Driver

As if things weren’t confusing enough already, there are multiple types of stepper motor driver available. Each achieves slightly different things so it’s definitely worth understanding the basics before spending your money.

The more you understand about what each motor type is for, the easier it will be to make the right decision when shopping.

PWM / Micro Step Drivers

Pulse width modulation drivers are sometimes also referred to as micro step drivers. As the latter name suggests, its movements are regulated as ‘micro steps’. This results in far smoother and more precisely controlled movements than you may be used to.

If you’re looking for a great deal of control, a PWM is a good way to go. One drawback here is that they tend to be a little more complex in design than other types of stepper motor driver. This means that they can be quite expensive.

Left / Right Drivers

Most people consider left/ right drivers to be a low-performance option. They operate within a low to medium power range and don’t offer nearly the same levels of control as something like a pulse width modulation driver.

The upside here is that left/ right products tend to be very affordable. If you’re on a shoestring budget, then they’re worth considering. Just don’t expect them to deliver much in terms of increased accuracy or overall performance.

Bi-Level Drivers

The name for these drivers comes from the fact that they can use both a low and high voltage depending on what’s required of them. Once they’ve reached the power level required for your project, they can switch to a lower voltage to save energy.

This means that bi-level drivers are great for energy efficiency. They also tend to be pretty cost-effective for those working to a budget.

A4988 Stepper Driver

A4988 stepper drivers are probably the cheapest and most tested driver out there. To be honest these things just work and are pretty durable drivers for the price point. If you are looking for some cheap, no setup drivers or want something to learn with these are the drivers for you.

A4988 Stepper Driver

Features and Benefits of the A4988

The A4988 is extremely easy to understand and deploy. It can drive any stepper motor up to the 8-wire models. Under its base setting, the A4988 can deliver 16 micro-steps per step or fewer with the right configuration. You can even use it to throttle voltage to increase your printer’s stepper speed.

  • 35-volt and ±2-amp output drive capacity
  • Built-in operation translator for steps and direction
  • 5 different step resolutions: full, half, quarter, eighth, and sixteenth.
  • Voltage throttling for increased speed

Pros and Cons of the A4988 Driver

  • Simple step and direction control interface
  • 5-way configurable step resolution
  • Well-documented and inexpensive
  • Intelligent chopping control with automatic shut-off
  • Requires a specific orientation to work
  • Easily overheats without proper cooling

How the A4988 Stepper Driver differs

The A4988 does not have many of the features you see from other drivers, but what it does have is very robust for the price. It is a great starter driver for anyone just getting into the world of 3D printing.

Try Using with RAMPS 1.4 Kit

Ramps A4988 Stepper Driver

DRV8825 Stepper Driver

Released in February 2013, the DRV8825 stepper driver from Texas Instruments is an upgrade from the A4988. Like the A4988, the DRV8825 is an integrated driver only available through third-party venders.

DRV8825 Stepper Driver

The DRV8825 Stepper Motor

Despite is size, the DRV8825 has the power to dive any stepper motor in style. It can output up to 45 volts of 2.2 amps of current to your printer’s coils, letting you create your dreams. 

  • Max output power rating of 2.2 amps at 45 volts
  • Built-in control translator
  • 6 step resolutions: full, half, quarter, eight, sixteenth, thirty-second
  • Adjustable current limiting
  • Overcurrent and overtemperature protection

Pros and Cons of the DRV8825 Driver

  • Simple step and direction control interfaces
  • Adjustable current control
  • Intelligent chopping control
  • Interfaces for 3.3 V and 5 V systems
  • Low-ESR capacitors vulnerable to LC voltage spikes
  • Expensive

How It Differs from Other Drivers

The DRV8825 comes with all the features and serves as a replacement for the A4988. The main difference between the two drivers is the DRV8825’s internal logic supply and fault output.

Good Upgrade for RAMPS 1.4 Kit

LV8729 Stepper Driver

Released in June 2014, the LV8729 stepper driver is ultra-quiet. You can find it with the heatsink on top or below the driver chip.

LV8729 Stepper Driver

Features and Benefits of

Branded as an ultra-quiet driver, the LV8729 driver outputs a decent current up to 1.5 amps for steady, precise, and quiet motor operation. It is fully compatible with MKS ROBIN, MKS GEN, MKS SBASE and RAMPS1.4 3D printer controller boards. It also produces little heat to go along with its quiet nature.

  • Current range: 0.8 to 1.5 amps
  • Works with 8-bit and 32-bit printer controllers. 
  • 8 possible step resolutions up to 1/128 step
  • Single channel operation

Pros and Cons of the LV8729

  • Selectable 8-mode phase excitation
  • Adjustable step resolution
  • Low vibration silent operation
  • Overcurrent and thermal protection
  • Single-channel PWM current control
  • Will not work with all setups
  • Some errors when running at 1.5 amps, limiting the max current to 1.3 amps
  • Some OEM models have poor soldering and other defects

How the LV8729 Differs from Other Drivers

The LV8729 shares its silent operation with the TMC2100 but runs cooler.

Great to use with MKS Gen V1.4 Controller Board

MKS Gen 1.4 Controller

TMC2130 Stepper Driver

Trinamic released the TMC2130 integrated stepper driver in 2016 with a built-in micro-step indexer, senseless stall detection, and noiseless current control. The driver is compatible with bipolar stepper motors found in most A4988-based printers.

TMC2130 Stepper Driver

TMC2130 Features & Benefits

The TMC2130 is packed with more features than you need in a typical 3D printer setup. It is fully software configurable, letting you control your printer’s entire operation with a few lines of code. The chip is normally affixed under the driver board, for better heat dissipation.

  • Max current of 1.2 amps per coil
  • Automatic step velocity and decay switch
  • Adjustable resolution up to 256 micro-steps
  • Software configuration interface
  • 2 efficient, silent drive mores: spreadCycle, and stealthChop

TMC2130 Pros and Cons

  • Silent operation
  • Software configurable
  • Low energy consumption
  • Automatic mode switching
  • Sensor-less load detection
  • No overcurrent protection

How the TMC2130 Differs from Other Drivers

The TMC2130 offers a few useful features such as silent operations, high-speed printing, and failure detection and recovery. It also has numerous software configurable options.

Try with a 32-bit board like the SKR V1.4 Controller Board

SKR Controller Board

TMC2208 Stepper Driver

Released in 2018, Tinamic’s TMC2208 integrated stepper driver comes in around $30 for sets of 4 or 5 units. These kits require some assembling, but everything you need is packaged together including heatsinks and cables.

TMC2208 Stepper Driver

Features and Benefits of the TMC2208

While every TMC2208 vendor sells the chip on different colored boards, the chip and board specs are nearly universal. Labeled as an ultra-quiet two-phase stepper driver, the chip can drive 1.4-amp and 2-amp currents within a 2.75 to 36 voltage range. It also has a max step resolution of 256 micro steps. 

  • Hardware and software configuration interfaces
  • Power output: 1.4-2 amp current, 4.75-36 volts
  • Native 256 micro-step step resolution
  • CoolStep ™ current dynamic adjustment technology
  • dcStep ™, stallGuard2 ™ stall detection technology
  • Automatic velocity and decay switchover
  • Automatic standby current reduction

TMC2208 Pros and Cons

  • Compatible with all 3D printers
  • Easy to use and configure
  • Lower heat generation
  • Silent operation
  • Sinusoidal 128 micro-step resolution
  • Some implementations have design flaws
  • Expensive

How the TMC2208 Differs from Other Drivers

The TMC2208 shares many of its features with the TMC2209 driver including its 256th step resolution. They also have the same silent operation. However, the TMC2208 provide less current, but what it does is more than enough for most consumer printers, often requiring not heatsink as well.

Also a great choice for the SKR V1.4 Controller Board

TMC2209 Stepper Driver

Released in July 2019 as the upgrade for the TMC2208, the TMC2209 offers improved versions of the TMC2208’s features.

TMC2209 Stepper Driver

TMC2209 Features and Benefits

The TMC2209 is backwards-compatible two-phase, ultra-silent driver. Its built-in StealthChop 2 chopper ensures it operates silently and efficiently. It even sports a highly dynamic motor velocity range with fast current regulation. It even has sensor-less homing capabilities. 

  • Max output: 2.8 amps, 29 volts, 256 micro-step resolution
  • Precise noiseless operation
  • Four pre-set power output settings with built-in voltage regulator
  • Automatic stop and power down
  • Integrated pulse generator

Pros and Cons of the TMC2209

  • Built-in overcurrent protection and diagnostics
  • Hardware and software configuration interfaces
  • Internal 5-volt linear regular
  • Low power standby mode
  • Sensor-less state detection
  • No overheat protection
  • Runs hot, active cooling required
  • Some variants incompatible with some SKR boards due to pin layout

How the TMC2209 Differs from Other Drivers

The TMC2209 is the culmination of the TMC220x line of stepper drivers from Trinamic. It is as silent as the TMC22008 but runs at cooler temperatures. It has both software and hardware configuration options as well. It can even work without end-stop switches or operate as a standalone device.

Try with one of the 32-Bit Controller Boards here: 32 Bit 3D Printer Board Comparison Chart

TMC2225 Stepper Drivers

Released as a low-cost alternative for the TMC2209, the TMC2225 is updated TMC2208, packaging the same features in a larger package.

Features and Benefits of the TMC2225

The TMC2225 comes with all the features of the TMC2208. It has a 1.2-amp, 36-volt RMS output with a max resolution of 32 micro-steps. If features a UART hardware configuration interface with standard step and direction options, serving as a drop-in replacement for the A4988 and DRV8825 drivers. 

  • Output: 1.4 amps continuous, 2 amps peak, 4.75 to 36 volts
  • Max step resolution: 256 micro-steps
  • UART configuration interface
  • Dynamic current adjustment and stall detection
  • Automatic velocity and decay switch

Pros and Cons of the TMC2225

  • Low heat emission
  • Automatic standby current reduction
  • Noiseless operation
  • Perfect sinusoidal pulse control
  • Compatible with all 3D printers
  • Low current capacity 
  • No sensor-less homing
  • Requires active cooling

How the TMC2225 Differs

The TMC2225 is a TMC2208 in a bigger format, giving it slightly better thermal characteristics. As such, it does not have the current or homing capabilities of the TMC2209 released along with it. The TMC2225 does offer more micro-steps modes.

Try with the MKS Gen L Controller Board

MKS Gen L Controller Board

TMC2226 Stepper Driver

Trinamic released their latest stepper driver, the TMC2226, in May 2020 with much fanfare. It is a replaceable driver capable for insertion into TMC2225 systems and boards, though you can buy it in prepackaged kits as well.

TMC2226 Stepper Driver

Features and Benefits of the TMC2226

The TMC2226 operates two-phase bipolar stepper motors in style with a maximum output current of 2.8 amps with a voltage that can range from 4.75 up to 29 volts. You can easily program it through a single UART wire. It also features Trinamic’s latest technology in both silent operation and efficiency. 

  • Built-in OTP programmable memory
  • Internal pulse generator
  • Max output: 2.8 amps, 29 volts
  • 6, 16, 32, and 64 micro-step configurations
  • 256 micro-step max step resolution 
  • 3 operating modes: legacy, assisted step, UART

Pros and Cons of the TMC2226

  • Standalone operation with its internal pulse generator
  • Stall detection
  • Overcurrent and overheating protection
  • Silent operation
  • 3 operating modes for better compatibility 
  • Open source layout tool files
  • Limited community support
  • Untested on some devices

How the TMC2226 Differs from Other Drivers

The TMC2226 comes with open source tools and three operating modes. Thus, you can design the driver the way you need it for your printer. Otherwise, it just offers updated technology from Trinamic’s line of motor control drivers, including low heat emission.

Try with a 32-bit board like the SKR V1.4 Controller Board

SKR Controller Board

TMC5160 Stepper Driver

Released in 2018, the Trinamic Motor Control 5160 integrated stepper driver offers an impressive 3 amps at 35 volts.

TMC5160 Stepper Driver

TMC5160 Features and Benefits

The TMC5160 is a high-power, two-phase stepper driver capable of driving 20 amps of current with 60 volts through its serial interfaces. It can do automatic target positioning with is flexible internal ramp generator. 

  • Built-in ramp generator with 20-amp coil current
  • Wide voltage range: 8 – 60 volts
  • SPI and single-wire UART configuration interface
  • Native 256 micro-step step resolution
  • Passive Braking and freewheeling mode

TMC5160 Pros and Cons

  •  Bult-in motor logic, no control software needed
  • Sensor-less overcurrent and stall protection
  • Silent, low-heat operation
  • Dynamic speed control
  • High power output
  • Stall guard can fail with high micro-step resolutions
  • Some implementations cannot handle the current capabilities of the chip

How the TMC5160 Differs from Other Drivers

The TMC5160 is the culmination of the TMC210x, TMC213x, and TMC513x driver families with the highest current and voltage ratings on the list. It also comes with excellent idle and slow-motion modes with real-time feedback control.

Try these drivers with the SKR PRO 32 Bit Controller Board

SKR Pro Controller Board

TMC5161 Stepper Driver

The Trinamic Motor Control 5161 driver is an upgrade for the TMC5160. Released in April 2019, the fully integrated driver works with all two-step motors and devices.

TMC5161 Stepper Driver

Features and Benefits of the

Trinamic’s highly compact TMC5161 driver chip is easy to use and comes with an innovative current regulator. It also provides higher maximum power and torque ratings for excellent stepper motor control. It even has an internal ramp generator and automatic target positioning. 

  • Two-phase 3.5-amp stepper motor coil current
  • Intelligent motion controller
  • 40-volt max voltage
  • SPI and UART configuration interfaces
  • 256 micro-step max step resolution

TMC5161 Pros and Cons

  • Smooth and quiet operation
  • Mid-range resonance dampening
  • Highly dynamic motion control
  • Overheat and overcurrent protection
  • Sensor-less stall detection with passive braking and freewheeling modes
  • Software and hardware configuration options
  • SPI functions can run faster than the driver can process them
  • Limited community support

How Does the TMC5161 Differ from Other Drivers?

The TMC5161 is an easy-to-use update to the TMC5160 driver. It has improved motion controls and improved current and voltage outputs. It also comes with its own evaluation software and development environment.

These would also be good to try on the SKR PRO 32 Bit Controller Board


This stepper driver comparison offers ways you can customize the operation of your 3D printer with smooth and quiet features. While essential to your printer, you rarely find these driver chipsets sold on their own. Instead, you buy them in stepper breakout kits that you just plug into your printer’s mainboard.

We hope this comparison thought you something about stepper drivers for 3D Printers. Drop us a comment if you have questions and if there are any new ones in the future we should add.

Want to read deeper?

Check out our article on Stepper Drivers Guide for 3D Printer Mainboards

Wanna learn about mainboards?

32 Bit 3D Printer Board Comparison Chart

8 Bit 3D Printer Board Comparison

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Garrett Dunham

A trained Mechanical Engineer and lifelong tinker, Garrett chose to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's engineering proram because they had a 3D printer... back when they were called "rapid prototypers". "The first time I held something I designed and 3D printed, my mind exploded. Just hours earlier my idea was just a thought - and now it's a thing I'm holding." Now, years later, Garrett brings his love of tinkering, inventing, engineering, and 3D printing to the Makershop community.

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