Motion Control - Steppers or BLDC?

As someone who is relatively new to working on motion control designs, what products / architecture would you recommend for a relatively simple 3 axis controller? My company has always used stepper motors in the past due to cost and simplicity; is that still the default solution? I like brushless motors for their low audible noise and efficiency; are those an option?

For simple 3 axis control, stepper motors are usually the easiest and cheapest option. A system can be implemented without any feedback, running the steppers open loop (with a “home” switch for initial calibration). In some cases shaft encoders are used as well just to confirm the motors haven’t stalled.

Brushless servomotors are also used. The system is considerably more complex, as feedback from some kind of encoder is required to control the motors using closed loop control. The benefits include higher potential speed, more efficiency, better accuracy and resolution (limited only by the encoders), and quieter operation.

MPS has reference designs for closed loop servomotors, and sells evaluation kits that integrate the drive electronics and encoder into the motor housing. We also sell the individual components, as well as PCB modules that can be fitted to a motor of your choice. MPS has accurate, low power magnetic angle sensor technology to provide the closed loop feedback.

MPS also has a number of stepper motor controllers / drivers that can be used along with a microcontroller to implement motion systems along with the standalone magnetic angle sensors, which are much less expensive than comparable optical shaft encoders.