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December 8, 2014
about 5 years ago
I'll preface this by saying that I don't own the AutoDriver, but I'm a physics graduate student that just finished building something that required precise, reproducible, automated control of some stepper motors so I have some perspective on the topic. I originally bought an Arduino stepper motor shield from another company because it was cheaper and looked easier to use, but if I had to do things over I would without a doubt go with the AutoDriver.
The AutoDriver can only control a single motor, which makes it much more expensive at $37 each, but you get a lot for your money. This board keeps track of your current position, allows you to set a "home" position, tells you when the motor is moving (via the "busy" pin), and lots of other advanced features. A lot of these things I had to implement in my own C++ library for the Arduino using the shield I bought. Did I mention it has stall detection? When you're using a beefy stepper motor with a ton of torque, you don't want to worry that a bug in your hastily thrown together code will let the motor blow through it's home position and destroy the delicate insides of your scientific equipment that's "ask for a quote first" level expensive.
Another benefit of this guy is that it can handle 3A continuous, whereas the motor shield can handle 3A for ~20ms before you're visited by the blue smoke monster. Even if you don't need 3A continuous, it buys you some security if you screw up.
It sounds like I'm a shill for SparkFun here, but I really think the AutoDriver is a cool product. The motor shield you can buy from another company is probably quicker and easier to use, but if you're doing something that requires precision or a current-hungry motor just buy this instead. The motor shield is probably better for hobbyists who just want to get up and running, but the AutoDriver is the better product for someone who knows what they want and knows what they're doing.
about 5 years ago
Prepare to lose these set-screws. I was setting something up on an optical table (a large metal table with regularly spaced screw holes that allow you to bolt things to the table), and one of these set screws fell down a hole, never to be seen again. It would be nice if Sparkfun provided the size of the screws so that you could go order more, or better yet, they could provide a spare screw with the shaft coupler.
No public wish lists :(