The optimizations that you can perform on your 3D printer to take your 3D prints to the next level are practically endless, with many parameters to fine-tune on the software side of things and plenty of potential upgrades that will allow your 3D printer to work more reliably on the hardware side of things.
While both software and hardware optimizations have challenges of their own, we can accept the hardware side to be slightly more challenging in general, as it often requires a certain degree of expertise with electronics to get everything working correctly, especially considering that a mistake can lead to permanent damage in severe cases.
Today, our focus will be on the hardware side of things, particularly the stepper drivers of the 3D printer, where we will be making a deep comparison between two of the well-known stepper drivers in the market, known as the TMC5160 and the TMC2209, which we believe will be helpful for 3D printing enthusiasts who are looking to replace or upgrade the stepper drivers of their 3D printer.
So, what are the differences between the TMC5160 and TMC2209 stepper drivers?
While the TMC2209 and the TMC5160 share many features, we can consider TMC5160 a more advanced stepper driver as it has a higher maximum phase current (RMS) value, a lower RDSon value, support for the SPI protocol, and access to Trinamic’s DcStep technology.
Moving forward, we will dive deeper into the differences between Trinamic’s TMC5160 and TMC2209 stepper drivers, discuss how to make the correct choice between these two drivers on a case-by-case basis, and find out the difference between SPI and UART communication used by the TMC2209 and the TMC5160, respectively.
What Are the Differences Between TMC5160 and TMC2209?
While both the TMC5160 and the TMC2209 are stepper drivers that Trinamic develops, each of these drivers comes with a distinct set of specifications that separate one from the other, making it essential to familiarize yourself with the differences.
Below, we have created separate sections for each of the differences between Trinamic’s TMC5160 and TMC2209 stepper drivers, where we will be talking about them in greater detail.
Maximum Phase Current
The maximum phase current value determines how much current the stepper driver can feed the stepper motors, with higher values allowing you to power faster motors.
While the TMC5160 has a maximum phase current value (RMS) of 3A, the TMC2209 has a maximum phase current value (RMS) of 1.7A, meaning that the TMC5160 is capable of powering stronger motors compared to the TMC2209.
The RDSon value stands for drain-source on resistance, and it determines the total resistance of the MOSFET.
The RDSon value of the TMC5160 is 0.1 Ohm, whereas the RDSon value of the TMC2209 is 0.2 Ohm, meaning that the TMC5160 will run more energy efficient and, as a result, cooler due to less power being lost across the MOSFET.
The communication protocol determines how the stepper driver communicates with the mainboard.
While the TMC5160 only supports the SPI communication protocol, the TMC2209 has support for UART and standalone mode.
For the most part, UART and standalone modes are more common in 3D printing, meaning that it will be easier to configure the firmware for these protocols. On the other hand, SPI is a faster and more efficient technology.
Finally, the special features are extras that allow the stepper driver to bring some perks to the table.
The TMC5160 comes with Trinamic’s DcStep technology that the TMC2209 does not have, which allows it to prevent the stepper motors from losing steps in overload situations.
How to Choose Between the TMC5160 and the TMC2209 Stepper Drivers?
Making the correct choice between two stepper drivers essentially comes down to being familiar with the specifications of both the drivers and identifying the set of specifications that would work the best in your case, as it’s practically impossible to say that one is better than the other.
While the choice primarily depends on your needs, your budget, and what your firmware and motherboard support, there is no denying that TMC5160 is a better driver than the TMC2209 if we disregard every other factor except the features they bring to the table.
As a result, if your firmware and motherboard support SPI and you don’t mind the price difference, we recommend going for the TMC5160 over the TMC2209 based on the specifications alone, which will provide the best performance possible out of the two.
On the other hand, it’s also worth mentioning that the TMC5509 can be considered a bit of an overkill for a 3D printer and that the TMC2209 is still one of the best drivers you can get for your 3D printer, making a great upgrade over the default A4988 or even TMC2208 drivers that you can find on many of the Ender 3 printers.
What Is the Difference Between SPI (TMC5160) and UART (TMC2209)?
One of the significant differences between the TMC5160 and the TMC2209 is the communication protocol they use, which can be a vital point of consideration as the controller that will be communicating with the steppers may not be compatible with both protocols.
As there are a lot of technical differences between SPI and UART that require embedded systems knowledge, below, we have tried to explain the differences more understandably:
- The SPI protocol requires more pins than UART. While four pins are needed for SPI devices, this number is only two for UART.
- SPI supports more active connections than UART. While UART is limited to a 1-to-1 connection, SPI can establish multiple connections at once.
- SPI is significantly faster than UART. On average, SPI is considered to transfer data roughly three times faster than UART.
- SPI is cheaper than UART to implement. From a hardware perspective, it’s more cost-friendly to manufacture drivers with SPI protocol support rather than adding the UART chip.
- SPI communication is synchronous. On the other hand, UART uses an asynchronous approach.
- SPI devices require less physical space than UART chips. As a result, SPI is a better option in cases where the board space is limited.
The stepper drivers are some of the most critical components in the 3D printer since they are directly responsible for how the extruder motors operate, which makes it extremely vital to choose the correct stepper drivers for your 3D printer if you’re looking for a replacement or an upgrade.
To quickly recap, TMC5160 is a more feature-packed driver than the TMC2209 with its higher phase current capability, lower RDSon value that allows it to run cooler, support for SPI protocol, which is much faster than UART, and the DcStep technology that does not exist on the TMC2209.
On the other hand, we can consider one drawback of the TMC5160 to be the lack of standalone mode, meaning that it will not be compatible with mainboards that do not support the SPI protocol to communicate with the stepper drivers.
Mike started his 3D printing journey with the Anet A8 when it first came out back in 2017, and has been obsessed with 3D printers ever since. Nowadays, he primarily uses his Ender 3 to print functional parts that make his life more convenient whenever possible.