How do you source smaller motors?

One of the things that distinguish interesting hardware projects from a mobile processor+network is if they actuate something!

Making things that move and otherwise accomplish something physical can be a bit of a challenge an electrical or computer engineer. One overriding question for someone not working in the mechanical space is: where to source the motors?

I’ve heard plenty of rumour about this-or-that specialty Swiss firm that can provide higher-torque motors at a surprisingly high cost, but where would one find the catalogue for this kind of thing?

By way of example, what if we wanted to actuate this desk lamp? How would you go about finding a reasonably-priced solution?

Follow-up: Miguel Templon has a great piece in MakeZine about designing a robotic arm for $250 – a huge achievement! The article is lacking in some of the technical details though. Anyone know more about Miguel’s project?

We can start at the bottom: swiss dc motors google results.

Next step: Evaluate results. This particular search is nice and juicy. You have the high-end, NASA-preferred Maxon, another longtime favorite FAULHABER, and then the really interesting results. Aliexpress and ebay hawking used or knockoff DC motors.

From here we can do

  1. a deeper search based on results Google Results Mini DC Geared Motors
  2. Start to dig in to some of our suppliers

Typically, if you’re just prototyping and want to get to MVP ASAP, ebay is a great bet. Aliexpress can also be useful, but if you haven’t used it before it’s not an ideal first place to start. It’s way more reliable than Alibaba, but there can still be communication gaps. If you’re closer to production, then I’d say go to Aliexpress. Ebay motors will often be from factories or resellers and you can leverage that contact into a real supplier, but Aliexpress is the factory or trading co. so you’ll save time going that way if you’re ready.

Next step, find stores you like with good reviews, and then contact if the standard product offering isn’t quite what you need. Send them your specs and find out what the sample cost is. It shouldn’t be more than what’s listed for the standard product in the store unless the specifications are much higher.

Now, if you have a bit more money or are short on time, go with a US supplier. Danaher, Pololu (low-end DC and steppers), etc. Know when and why to use a stepper vs. DC motor and differences in driving. Steppers are easier to drive but not necessarily the best if you’re going for performance.

As for Miguel’s project: it looks like he’s using standard or lightly-modified hobby servos with a wire linkage. The servos pull the fishing line which actuates the joints in a pre-determined manner.