Consider how stepper motors work, alternating electromagnets to push or pull a rotating magnet assembly to the proper angle. This works well, as steps can be repeated over and over through many iterations, causing the motor to spin in a very controlled manner. This project by Peter “bobricius” Misenko presents a different take on stepper-style actuation, with electromagnetic actuators printed onto a circuit board.
The effect here is that instead of each step causing a rotor to advance 1.8° (or however the motor is set up), steps cause a magnetic puck to advance to the next printed “coil.” As seen in the first video below, this functions very well in one direction. In the second video, actuation takes place in two directions, facilitated by a top section of PCB electromagnetic steps, and a bottom section arranged at 90° for perpendicular movement. It’s an ingeniously simple idea, allowing full X/Y control with six GPIO pins on an inexpensive PCB.
The prototype was designed with an ATmega328 MCU, but later control circuitry features a SAM D21 for greater programming flexibility. Notably, the device is compatible with standard stepper motor drivers and GRBL shields, acting as a drop-in replacement for stepper motors. PCB and software info on the design is available on GitHub.