As a 3D printer owner, you probably want to change your printer when upgrading to a better one, but not because your current one is broken. Replacing specific 3D printer components can increase its lifetime. Is the stepper motor one of the components you need to worry about replacing?
3D printer stepper motors last between 10,000 and 20,000 hours. Among stepper motor parts, bearings are the most susceptible to failure. They can last for 20,000 hours. However, operating conditions like excess heat and intense use lower motor durability.
In this article, I’ll explain the factors that affect stepper motor durability. I’ll also show you how to get the most out of your stepper motors.
Stepper Motors Are Relatively Durable
A minimum of 10,000 hours and a maximum of 20,000 hours is pretty durable for a 3D printer component.
Assuming an eight-hour work day, if a stepper motor lasts 10,000 hours, you will have used it for roughly three-and-a-half years. That is also assuming that you use it every day of the year.
If the motor lasts for 20,000 hours, you will have used it for around seven years with the assumptions we made above.
However, the above assumptions reflect pretty heavy usage. Such usage might be possible for professional, large-scale 3D printing services with numerous orders. However, for 3D printing enthusiasts and small 3D printing shops, such heavy use, sustained throughout the year, is highly unlikely.
Working with an average daily usage of four hours for five days a week is more realistic, in which case 10,000 hours translates to a stepper motor lifetime of around five years.
The main question is: Will you need to change the stepper motor to prolong the lifespan of your 3D printer?
How a Stepper Motor Affects the Lifespan of a 3D Printer
The lifetime of a 3D printer primarily depends on its usage and the quality of its parts. The heavier the use, the lower the durability of the printer. Also, the cheaper the printer parts, the faster they wear out, which lowers the printer’s lifespan.
You can expect to use your 3D printer for 7,500 to 15,000 hours without significant problems. That means that, on average, a 3D printer lasts 11,250 hours.
With a minimum lifespan of 10,000 hours and a maximum lifespan of 20,000 hours, on average, a stepper motor lasts 15,000 hours.
As such, you will likely need to upgrade your 3D printer before it becomes necessary to change the stepper motor.
Still, there’s no guarantee that your stepper motor can’t fail. Luckily, as with most other electrical components, you can increase the lifetime of your stepper motor by optimizing operating conditions.
Below is a breakdown of the factors that affect the durability of a stepper motor.
Factors Determining How Long a 3D Printer Stepper Motor Lasts
By considering the factors determining a stepper motor’s durability, you can create optimal conditions to ensure the stepper motor does not wear out prematurely.
The factors affecting the lifespan of a 3D printer stepper motor include:
- Duty cycle
- The load on the stepper motor
Electrical components can generally withstand a given temperature range. Going above the provided temperature rating accelerates the disintegration of elements and reduces their durability.
The same goes for a stepper motor.
The heat a stepper motor can withstand depends on the class of its insulation equipment. Accordingly, stepper motors can withstand the following temperatures:
- With class B insulation – 130° C (266° F)
- With class F insulation – 155° C (311° F)
- With class H insulation – 180° C (356° F)
Most stepper motors have class B insulation and can withstand a maximum temperature of 130° C (266° F). Printing at higher temperatures results in a decrease in durability. The higher the temperature above the allowed temperature, the higher the negative effect on the motor’s lifespan.
That’s why it’s critical to read up on the filaments you can print on your chosen printer before you start a print job. Some filaments require temperatures that your printer may not be able to handle.
The duty cycle is a parameter that describes how heavily you use your 3D printer. The duty cycle is the time gap between uses of a 3D printer, denominated in hours per day, minutes per hour, or strokes per minute.
For example, if you use your 3D printer for four hours daily, its duty cycle is eighteen hours per day.
The higher the duty cycle, the less the intensity of use, and the longer your stepper motor will last.
The Load on the Stepper Motor
Each stepper motor comes with a recommended load rating from the manufacturer. Exceeding the recommended load will shorten the lifespan of your motor.
Additionally, if your load is “eccentric,” it will reduce the motor’s lifespan. A load is eccentric or de-centered if its center of gravity does not go through the motor shaft axis.
To maximize the durability and reliability of your stepper motor, you should operate within the manufacturer’s specifications.
Stepper Motor Maintenance Tips
The stepper motor is one of the most durable parts of a 3D printer. One reason for its high durability is that it doesn’t use electric components like an encoder. Such electric components are a common source of failure.
While a stepper motor is relatively durable and highly reliable, it can still fail and affect the performance of your 3D printer.
Below are some measures you can take to reduce the probability of your stepper motor failing:
- Avoid stitching on the stepper motor power supply too rapidly, as it can cause internal components to age faster.
- When routing power and signal wiring, be careful to prevent noise from nearby electrical components as it can result in communication errors.
- Avoid loose connections when wiring, as they can cause erratic stepper motor function.
The stepper motor is a highly durable 3D printer component. You will likely upgrade your 3D printer before you ever need to change a stepper motor.
That said, a stepper motor has a limited life span. The bearings in a stepper motor are the most susceptible to degradation. They can last for 20,000 hours. Since the other stepper motor components can last almost indefinitely, bearings determine the motor’s lifespan.
Disregarding the temperature rating and load specifications given by the manufacturer significantly reduces the durability of a stepper motor.
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I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.