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Gear Motors vs. Stepper Motors: How Do They Differ?

When selecting the right gear motor for your application, you need to consider the accuracy, size limit, torque, speed, and of course your budget. The purpose of this article is to enlighten you on the differences, pros & cons, and the applications of both gear motors and stepper motors.

What is a Gear Motor?

Gear Motors

A gear motor is a device that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy, and it’s usually powered by a direct current.Gear motors can reduce the speed produced by the motor and automatically increase the torque power as well. You can adjust the speed of a gear motor by varying the input supply voltage.

When combined with a gearbox, a gear motor is very effective in the application of small devices like mixers and small drills. This combination allows for the production of high power regardless of its small size. he energy that’s being produced is then put into the shaft at the other end, and this converts the energy to a lower-speed driving torque.

Click to learn more about What is the gear motors? types & how does it work

What is a Stepper Motor?

A stepper motor is a synchronous electric motor that keeps the rotation speed and position at a stable level, without using feedback transducers like encoders and tachymetric dynamos. 

Stepper motors don’t change the speed of rotation, regardless of the load, they maintain a constant speed. However, it stops rotating when the maximum torque has been reached. So, when you combine a gearbox with a stepper motor, the output torque will increase drastically. 

Gear Motors vs. Stepper Motors: How Do They Differ?

Knowing the differences between both motors will help you select the right one. Some of the major stand-out differences between gear motors and stepper motors are;

  • Motion. The movement of gear motors is continuous, while that of stepper motors is incremental
  • Durability. Stepper motors have a longer lifespan and can withstand more hours of usage, as opposed to gear motors; and that’s because stepper motors don’t feature brushes that are susceptible to wear and tear. 
  • Efficiency. The maximum efficiency of a gear motor is achieved at 85% percent, while with stepper motors, there’s a high current consumption when the stator poles are activated, and this helps reduce energy efficiency and increase heat dispelling.
  • Brushes. Gear motors come with brushes, while stepper motors don’t hence why they last longer
  • Speed. The maximum speed range for stepper motors is 1000 RPM, while gear motors have a range of 400 – 550 RPM. Stepper motors aren’t the fastest motors available, but some modifications and specifications make them operate faster. One thing you should note is that you might not benefit much when you increase the speed of a stepper motor, and that’s because they are designed to be relatively slow, precise, and discrete.
  • Control. Gear motors don’t need any external control to start, while stepper motors require a driver. 

If you are interested, you can also learn about gear motor vs brushless dc motor (BLDC)

Gear Motors vs. Stepper Motors: Application 

Gear motors have their specific applications, the same as stepper motors. So, your choice is dependent on the application area.

1. Gear Motors Application

  • They are used in automotive applications like power seats, power winches on trucks, and windshield wiper motors.
  • Gear motors are utilized in industrial applications including jacks, lifts, robotics, and conveyance. 
  • Gear motors are primarily used in vending, industrial automation, and electrical suspension adjustment. 

2. Stepper Motors Application

Stepper Motors

Some of the common applications of stepper motors include:

  • Textile machines
  • Small robotics
  • Gaming machines
  • CNC milling machines
  • Laser and optics
  • Medical imagining machine

Other applications are:

  • Stepper motors of microwatts are utilized in wristwatches
  • They are used for security purposes
  • Stepper motors are used in the numeric control of machine tools
  • They are ideal for computer-controlled systems
  • Stepper motors are used in the production of science-fiction movies

Note that stepper motors can be used for any application that needs speed control, low-speed torque, and accurate positioning. 

Gear Motors vs Stepper Motors: Benefits & Advantages

For instance, not all applications will work right with a stepper motor, and vice versa. So, knowing the advantages of both stepper and gear motors will give you an idea of what type will benefit you more.


1. Advantages of Gear Motors

Gear motors are resilient to torsional stress, and are less prone to issues generated by load torque variations

  • Gear motors have high torque output and strengthened rigidity, which means they are resistant to torsional forces 
  • They have high-resolution
  • Using gear motors will achieve a short positioning time
  • When the inertia load is high, gear motors increase the damping effects effectively

2. Advantages of Stepper Motors

  • Stepper motors have highly precise positioning, perfect speed control, and repeatability and accuracy of movement
  • Stepper motors have low-speed torque, meaning the motor can accommodate heavy loads without the need for any gearbox mechanism
  • They provide full torque at a standstill, which means the motor can stay in place even when the rotor isn’t moving
  • Stepper motors are highly reliable and durable because of the absence of contact brushes in the motor, so most of its moving parts are frictionless
  • They are mostly used in Open Loop Systems where positional feedback is not required; meaning stepper motors are simple and cheap to control
  • A stepper motor is a good choice for applications that need low speed and high precision. 
  • Stepper motors can be used in various applications, as many different rotational speeds can be achieved. Plus, it offers flexibility for a different range of applications, because the motor provides a stable holding torque without the motor being powered
  • They cannot be damaged by mechanical load unless the load increases beyond the design
  • Stepper motors don’t increase your expenses on maintenance cost
  • Stepper motors have an excellent response to starting and stopping

Gear Motors vs. Stepper Motors: Disadvantages

All types of motors come with their setbacks, the more reason why you should be aware of what variant of motor is required for your application.

1. Disadvantages of Gear Motors

  • Gear motors cannot handle large amounts of torque
  • They can be too loud at high rotational speeds
  • The high pressure at the inlet and low pressure at the outlet give rise to high-bearing loads
  • Gear motors are relatively expensive to manufacture
  • Gear motors are not ideal for high-torque and low-speed applications because they are prone to high internal leakage

2. Disadvantages of Stepper Motors

Stepper motors are not ideal for applications that require high torque at high speeds. When the motor speed increases, the torque drops rapidly. They are very noisy and vibrate too much when in moderate or high-speed

  • Stepper motors have low output power for weight and size
  • No feedback in the stepper motor points out missed steps. While this may sound like an advantage, when there’s no feedback path in the system to monitor changes, the motor begins to operate out of its initial stage. Failure to notice this will cause your application to start failing
  • They have a low torque torque-to-inertia ratio making them unable it accelerate loads quickly, and this can cause the motor to heat up in high-performance applications
  • Stepper motors experience “RESONANCE” and this is a problem applicable to most variable reluctance motors
  • Stepper motors have low accuracy, but when modified, they can be fixed. You can improve the accuracy by using a micro-stepping or simply using a stepper motor with more teeth
  • They are harder to operate at high speeds
  • Stepper motors also have low efficiency, meaning they draw a great amount of power regardless of how light or heavy the load is
  • Stepper motors cannot run at very high speeds, but they do have a high-holding torque

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Type Of Applications Are Gear Motors Not Used For?

Any application that needs high shaft speed like fans, pumps, and engine starters will not benefit from a gear motor, because the higher the torque of a gear motor, the lower its speed

2. What’s The Biggest Advantage Of Using A Stepper Motor Over A Gear Motor?

The main advantage of a stepper motor is that it enables positional control of motors and accuracy at high speed. 

3. Are Stepper Motors Faster Than Gear Motors?

The answer is subjective, as the speed of a stepper motor depends on the specification of its controller. However, the maximum speed of a stepper is 1000 RPMs, while that of a gear motor is between 400 – 550 RPMs.


Choosing the right motor for a project/application has become a bit tricky because of the advancement in technology in recent years. While both gear motors and stepper motors run on DC, their operating principles and functions are different. 

Donghui Motor emphasizes the importance of understanding the type of motor suited for your application. It’s paramount to take your time to find a motor that’s well-made, like those from Donghui Motor. Avoid investing in cheap products that’ll break down after a few months.

click to read: The significance of brushless gear motors in a wide variety of fields


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