Stepper Motor Control In Python

Having played with LEDs, switches and buzzers I felt the natural next step was playing with a stepper motor or two. This might form part of an idea I had to create an automated stop motion animation “turn table” for rotating and photographing objects.

There is a huge selection of motors to buy but I decided to experiment with a 28BJY-48 with ULN2003 control board.

The reasons I chose this device where :

  • It is cheap
  • Widely available from both overseas and UK sellers
  • Easy to obtain with a controller board
  • Small but relatively powerful
  • Runs on 5V
  • Easy to interface

I ordered two from “4tronix_uk” on eBay and they arrived the next day. There are additional details in the Stepper Motor 28BJY-48 Datasheet

Interfacing With The Pi

The motor connects to the controller board with a pre-supplied connector. The controller board has  4+2 pins that need to be connected to the Pi header (P1).

  • 5V (P1-02)
  • GND (P1-06)


  • Inp1 (P1-18)
  • Inp2 (P1-22)
  • Inp3 (P1-24)
  • Inp4 (P1-26)

The P1-XX references above represent the Pi header pins I used. These are defined in the Python example below in the StepPins list so if you use different pins be sure to update the Python list as well. You can use other GPIO pins if required just remember to update your Python script.

To rotate the stepper motor you provide a sequence of “high” and “low” levels to each of the 4 inputs in sequence. By setting the correct sequence of high and low levels the motor spindle will rotate. The direction can be reversed by reversing the sequence.

Python Script

Here is a copy of the stepper motor script I used to rotate the stepper motor. It uses the RPi.GPIO library and defines a 4-step and 8-step sequence.

#!/usr/bin/env python

# Import required libraries
import sys
import time
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO

# Use BCM GPIO references
# instead of physical pin numbers

# Define GPIO signals to use
# Physical pins 11,15,16,18
StepPins = [17,22,23,24]

# Set all pins as output
for pin in StepPins:
  print "Setup pins"
  GPIO.output(pin, False)

# Define advanced sequence
# as shown in manufacturers datasheet
Seq = [[1,0,0,0],
StepCount = len(Seq)-1
StepDir = 2 # Set to 1 or 2 for clockwise
            # Set to -1 or -2 for anti-clockwise

# Read wait time from command line
if len(sys.argv)>1:
  WaitTime = int(sys.argv[1])/float(1000)
  WaitTime = 10/float(1000)

# Initialise variables
StepCounter = 0

# Start main loop
while True:

  for pin in range(0, 4):
    xpin = StepPins[pin]
    print StepCounter
    print pin
    if Seq[StepCounter][pin]!=0:
      print " Step %i Enable %i" %(StepCounter,xpin)
      GPIO.output(xpin, True)
      GPIO.output(xpin, False)

  StepCounter += StepDir

  # If we reach the end of the sequence
  # start again
  if (StepCounter>=StepCount):
    StepCounter = 0
  if (StepCounter<0):
    StepCounter = StepCount

  # Wait before moving on

You can download it directly to your Pi using :


As with all Python scripts that use the GPIO library it needs to be run using “sudo” :

sudo python

Press Ctrl-C to quit.

To specify a different wait time you can pass a number of milliseconds as an argument on the command line using :

sudo python 20

where 20 is the number of milliseconds.

In this example the default wait time is set to 0.01 seconds (10 milliseconds). To change the speed of rotation you can change this value. I found I could reduce it to 4ms before the motor stopped working. If the script runs too fast the motor controller can’t keep up. This performance may vary depending on your motor and its controller.

The 4 step sequence is faster but the torque is lower. It’s easy to stop the rotation by holding the motor spindle. The 8 step sequence is slower but the torque is much higher. For my turntable application I prefer the torque over speed so I will be using the 8 step sequence.


You can now control a stepper motor using a Raspberry Pi and some Python script. Add another motor and you’ve got the beginnings of a small robot!

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28 Responses to Stepper Motor Control In Python

  1. David says:

    As I understand it, the torque is higher when you select two inputs because you have twice the number of coils “activated”. If this is the case, then surely your 8 step sequence actually does High Torque turn (2 inputs), Low Torque turn (1 input), High Torque turn (2 inputs), Low Torque turn (1 input)…

    I could be very wrong, but think you may not be using the entire torque available.

    • Matt says:

      The 8 step sequence is the official one in the datasheet. The 4 step version was just one I tried because it was easy to implement in my Python script. I think what you are saying is correct but I think that’s just the way you have to drive the motor.

  2. Can you connect more than one motor to the Pi?

    • Matt says:

      Yes you can. As long as the 5V supply can provide the current and you’ve got 4 GPIO outputs to drive each motor you can add more. Technically you could add 4 using 16 GPIO pins. With a 1A rated supply you’ve got 300mA to play with on the 5V pin once the Pi has taken it’s 700mA.

  3. Stu says:

    Thanks for this post, I was able to get my stepper motor spinning in next to no time. I found that I needed to add a few 1/100ths of a second WaitTime or I got buzz but no spin. Probably a current thing, but for now I’m just glad to have graduated beyond flashing LEDs.

    • Matt says:

      I think stepper motors sometimes need a bit of time to complete a “step” before the next sequence is applied. I’m wondering if I might need to re-introduce a small delay now that the new version of the RPi.GPIO library (0.3.1a) is much faster.

  4. Stu says:

    For what it’s worth, this main loop does away with the expensive array lookups. It must be more efficient because I need another 0.001 of delay ;-)

    #alt. loop
    mask = 3 # set to 1 or 3
    while True:
    # print mask
    GPIO.output(24,mask & 1)
    GPIO.output(25,mask & 2)
    GPIO.output(8, mask & 4)
    GPIO.output(7, mask & 8)
    mask = (((mask & 1)<>1

  5. Pingback: Controlling a stepper motor 28BYI-48 with a Raspberry Pi |

  6. Paul says:

    Hi Matt,
    since you’ve commented my version of the source I just wanted to mention that the motors can get hot in case you do not switch of the GPIOs after using them :)
    Thanks anyways, this page is a good start with stepper motors.

  7. Dave Barnwell says:

    Thanks for your stepper program, but I keep getting
    File “stepper” , line 45, in
    GPIO.output( xpin, True)
    RuntimeError: The GPIO channel has not been set up as an OUTPUT

    I have checked the wording and it is the same as yours
    Any suggestions

    Thanks again
    Dave Barnwell

    • Matt says:

      The error implies the GPIO pins are not being configured properly by lines 33-39. In your error message it says line 45 is “GPIO.output( xpin, True)”. That doesn’t appear in my script until line 68 so I suspect you’ve got some code missing from your file. I’ve uploaded a copy of the script to my Bitbucket account and updated the post to include a download link. Use wget to download this directly to your Pi and try it again.

  8. Pete says:

    I configured this code (Matt’s original) on the new RPi B+ and it works a dream. I then tried the speed at 0.001 and 0.0 respectively and they both worked as well. Looking for some code to go to a specific point (i.e. rotate x steps forward or reverse) and/or rotate x degrees forward or reverse, but I’ll be experimenting in the meantime. Thanks for the “start” Matt.

  9. Eldhose says:

    Hi Matt
    thanks i try the code and i got good result . now i look for a code for controlling the number of steps .ie if i want to stop the motor after 100 rotation ,any code is available for this purpoe pls help

  10. Great post, I got my motor going right away. I did rewrite the code to be more “pythonic” here:

  11. Jerry says:

    Would you just sequence the pins in reverse order to get the motor to spin in the opposite direction?

  12. david says:

    hi there
    just trying to learn Pi & python

    I have this script running with the steps moving on the screen, the LED’s flashing but the motor not moving

    Any idea


  13. Pete says:

    Hi Matt,

    Am I correct in thinking that you could power the driver board of the stepper motor(s) from an independent source rather than the RPi ?


  14. Steve says:

    I have it wired properly. The lights flash in sync but the motor does not turn. And the motor is getting warm. Using the 5 volts off of the board as shown. What do I need to change?

    • Matt says:

      Try increasing the time delay. Also try physically twisting the motor axle at the same time. One of my cheap stepper motors was stuck but started turning with a quick twist.

      • Steve says:

        Matt, thanks for the assistance. The motor was actually moving but so slow I was not aware it was advancing. I changed the time delay and now it is moving fast. Do you recommend any sites that can expand on using this little motor? Would like code that moves fast one direction, stops and moves another direction faster. And code that takes input to start, stop and speed changes. Again, thank you for the very quick reply. I have spent a lot of time on your site due to how well you present the information to a new person. Steve, Joplin, Missouri, USA

  15. Brian Grawburg says:

    Any reason why I can’t use an external 5V supply (keeping both grounds in common) instead of using the Pi’s? If I do, I wonder if using a level shifter between the controller board and the Pi wouldn’t be a good idea.

  16. kv36 says:

    How can i connect 2 stepper motors on a single raspberrypi? Will I need two control boards? If so then 2 control boards can be connected to a single raspberry pi? Please repl asap. I’ve got my project to be done in 2 weeks. I’m new to raspberry pi.

    • Matt says:

      You can connect two stepper motors and you would need two control boards. The second board would be connected to another 4 available GPIO pins. The Python code would need to be modified to use those 4 pins.

  17. Wlliam Forster says:

    Thanks so much for the info and the code, got my motor going with only some minor troubles.

    Some things that would have helped me:
    Maybe make a note that raspberry pi 2 (and model b) have different GPIO pinouts.
    Please for future people change the code so on line 37 it casts to a float rather than int. I was trying to get my motor to run quite slow so I did $sudo python stepper.pi 500.
    Unfortunately as an int this evaluates to 0 and waits for 0 seconds.

    • Matt says:

      Hi William, I’ve changed the GPIO pins I use in the example to avoid GPIO27 as that changes between the B and B+ configurations. I’d updated the BitBucket version of the code to fix the wait time issue but hadn’t updates the version on the page. So work ok now.

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