# DC motors in parallel causing voltage drop

• Dionysus2
In summary, Dionysus2 is trying to control an accurate amount of water flow with a 12V peristaltic pump head using DC motors. He is having issues because the regulating circuit cannot keep up with the gulps of current the motors take. Dionysus2 has tried a 1.5A and a 5A power supply with the same results. He has also tried measuring the AC voltage over the motors and found that it only has a non-zero value during start and stop processes and then the voltage is ~0. The DC voltage drop caused by the motors is steady and constant, not transient. Dionysus2 has tried two power packs, a 1.5A and a 5A, both regulated,
Dionysus2
Hey PF, first time here, I have a problem I can't seem to solve! Any help is appreciated.

I am using some DC motors with peristaltic pump heads to pump water (picture). I was having issues so I've broken my circuit down to the bare basics:

1) 12V regulated power supply
2) 12V motor
3) free-wheel diode

That's all that's plugged in, the power pack is connected directly to the motor.
The voltage measured across the power pack is 12V open circuit. For each motor I add (in parallel) the voltage measured at the power pack drops by 0.2-0.5V.

I've measured (with a multimeter in current mode) 450mA being drawn by the motors. I've tried 2 power packs, a 12V 1.5A, and a 12V 5A, both regulated. Interestingly, while each pump dropped the voltage by 0.2V on the 1.5A supply, they dropped it by 0.5V on the 5A supply.

The issue is that I need to control an accurate amount of water flow, which needs a consistent voltage regardless of the number of pumps used at any time.

Other searching has returned that maybe the backEMF of the motors is to blame, but I'm at a loss how to solve this.

Last edited by a moderator:
The battery has an internal resistance. The voltage drop depends on the current it produces. This drop is ΔV = IR where I is the current and R is the battery resistance. The greater the current, the greater the drop in terminal voltage.

AM

Dionysus2 said:
I've tried 2 power packs, a 12V 1.5A, and a 12V 5A, both regulated. Interestingly, while each pump dropped the voltage by 0.2V on the 1.5A supply, they dropped it by 0.5V on the 5A supply.

Hi Dionysus2.

Sounds like the regulating circuit can't keep up with the gulps of current. How long are the power leads from the 12V supply to the motors?—they should be short and heavy gauge. That 450 mA is merely the average current, though the motors likely take it in big gulps, so I wouldn't expect the 1.5A power pack to work here. Try extra capacitance across your bundle of motors, say a 1000 uF, 25V electrolytic capacitor. (Also, add a 2uF polyester capacitor parallel to the electrolytic.)

See whether the voltage remains stable with that.

Dionysus2
0.5/12 = 0.04 or 4% If you need the flow rate to be accurate to better than 4% is it safe to rely on the motors and pumps being that consistent? For example the flow rate might change as the motors and pumps wear or if the pumps or water changes temperature? Might be necessary to measure the flow rate and set up a control loop to control the motor pump speed.

Wall adapters and power supplies come in two basic flavors

linear, with a big line frequency transformer inside and maybe a voltage regulator
switching, with a small high frequency transformer inside and always a voltage regulator .

You can tell them apart, switchers are small and light compared to linears.

A regulated supply will hold voltage rock steady unless the motors take a "Gulp" of current larger than the capability of your supply.

I'd try a five amp supply That'll let each motor take a 250% gulp. A switcher will be smaller and cheaper.

Dionysus2
Andrew Mason said:
The battery has an internal resistance. The voltage drop depends on the current it produces. This drop is ΔV = IR where I is the current and R is the battery resistance. The greater the current, the greater the drop in terminal voltage.

AM
Should still be an issue if I'm using a regulated power supply?

Dionysus2 said:
Should still be an issue if I'm using a regulated power supply?
Yes, because at moments when the motor tries to draw more current than the regulator can supply the power pack falls out of regulation.

NascentOxygen said:
Hi Dionysus2.

Sounds like the regulating circuit can't keep up with the gulps of current. How long are the power leads from the 12V supply to the motors?—they should be short and heavy gauge. That 450 mA is merely the average current, though the motors likely take it in big gulps, so I wouldn't expect the 1.5A power pack to work here. Try extra capacitance across your bundle of motors, say a 1000 uF, 25V electrolytic capacitor. (Also, add a 2uF polyester capacitor parallel to the electrolytic.)

See whether the voltage remains stable with that.

I've also used a 5A power pack with this setup, somehow it seems to get more of a voltage drop than the 1.5A one.
I've measured the AC voltage over the motors and it is only non-zero on start and stop (a process which takes <0.1 seconds) and then the AC voltage is ~0. The DC voltage drop caused by the motors is steady and constant, not transient.
The 2 power packs I'm trying are this 1.5A one and this 5A one.
The distance from the power supply to the motors is pretty much the length of the supplied power cable (50cm) plus my wiring (10cm).
I've moved everything to a soldered perfboard just in case it was the breadboard, though it hasn't fixed it.
I live a bit remote and driving to the shops just to pick up a capacitor is a bit of a pain; I understand how a capacitor would fix a transient/fluctuating voltage issue, though would it fix a constant steady drop?
Thanks for your help thus far :)

jim hardy said:
Wall adapters and power supplies come in two basic flavors

linear, with a big line frequency transformer inside and maybe a voltage regulator
switching, with a small high frequency transformer inside and always a voltage regulator .

You can tell them apart, switchers are small and light compared to linears.

A regulated supply will hold voltage rock steady unless the motors take a "Gulp" of current larger than the capability of your supply.

I'd try a five amp supply That'll let each motor take a 250% gulp. A switcher will be smaller and cheaper.

Hey Jim, I've tried a 5A regulated power supply, and there is a voltage drop with just 1, and again with 2. Interestingly the voltage drop seems to be linear with the increase in motors, roughly 0.2V. If each motor is generating 0.2V in back EMF, could this cause this drop?

Dionysus2 said:
I've measured the AC voltage over the motors and it is only non-zero on start and stop (a process which takes <0.1 seconds) and then the AC voltage is ~0. The DC voltage drop caused by the motors is steady and constant, not transient.
If your measuring instrument has been a multimeter then its readings are meaningless when we are discussing transient conditions; it requires an oscilloscope.

You may have a discarded piece of electronic equipment that contains a large electrolytic capacitor you could salvage?

Dionysus2 said:
The voltage measured across the power pack is 12V open circuit. For each motor I add (in parallel) the voltage measured at the power pack drops by 0.2-0.5V.

Power pack is not very well regulated then, is it ?

200 millivolts drop for 450 milliamp current increase is 0.44 ohms, about 22 feet of #20 two conductor wire.
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Tables/wirega.html
That's more wire than you describe. You've measured the 200 millivolts, how about the 450 milliamps ?
A DC motor can draw a LOT more than rated current during load peaks.
A regulator will let voltage dip when current gets high.

Do you know how to use your multi-meter for measuring current ?
Can you measure motor current with pump pumping just air , no tubes connected,
and again with pump pumping whatever it is you use it for?

That'll eliminate one more unknown.

NascentOxygen said:
If your measuring instrument has been a multimeter then its readings are meaningless when we are discussing transient conditions; it requires an oscilloscope.

You may have a discarded piece of electronic equipment that contains a large electrolytic capacitor you could salvage?

I found some old caps, a 4.7uF electrolytic, and a 223k poly cap, they made 0 change. I'll try to pick some bigger ones up after work on monday. Any thought on it just being motor back EMF? Considering each additional motor adds such a consistent drop...
I've tried 2 different regulated power packs, and I have even used a 15V pack with a 12V regulator, all producing the exact same output.

Dionysus2 said:
Any thought on it just being motor back EMF?

What is your understanding of back EMF in a motor?

jim hardy said:
Power pack is not very well regulated then, is it ?

200 millivolts drop for 450 milliamp current increase is 0.44 ohms, about 22 feet of #20 two conductor wire.
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Tables/wirega.html
That's more wire than you describe.You've measured the 200 millivolts, how about the 450 milliamps ?
A DC motor can draw a LOT more than rated current during load peaks.
A regulator will let voltage dip when current gets high.

Do you know how to use your multi-meter for measuring current ?
Can you measure motor current with pump pumping just air , no tubes connected,
and again with pump pumping whatever it is you use it for?

That'll eliminate one more unknown.

When I just have a basic resistor only circuit, the voltage stays steady at 12V, regardless of resistance.
I removed the peristaltic head off the motor. This made the voltage drop less, but it is still there, additional with each motor.

I've measured the current by putting the multimeter into mA mode, moving the probe to the mA hole, and adding it in series to a pump.
Just measured again. With peristaltic head on, 450mA. Without peristaltic head, 90mA. Both produced a 0.2V drop.

jim hardy said:

What is your understanding of back EMF in a motor?

Honestly pretty minimal. My understanding is that the back EMF increases as the speed of the motor increases. Once the motor reaches a steady speed the back EMF should be constant. The back EMF acts like a voltage supply in opposition to the voltage supplying the motor. So my guess here is that these DC motors produce 0.2V of back EMF at top speed, and thus reduce the measured voltage across the supply by that amount. Each subsequent motor added goes through a transient state, then reaches a steady state of top speed, where it also produces a back EMF of 0.2V, further dropping the measured voltage of the supply.
Would my understanding be correct or am I talking nonsense?

Dionysus2 said:
Any thought on it just being motor back EMF? Considering each additional motor adds such a consistent drop...
I've tried 2 different regulated power packs, and I have even used a 15V pack with a 12V regulator, all producing the exact same output.
Nothing to do with back emf.

About the unexpected voltage drops you are noting—are you seeing these at the motor terminals or at the power pack terminals?

NascentOxygen said:
Nothing to do with back emf.

About the unexpected voltage drops you are noting—are you seeing these at the motor terminals or at the power pack terminals?

At the power pack terminals, though everything is connected in parallel so it should be the same?

It's just not a very good 5A regulated supply, then.

Dionysus2 said:
Without peristaltic head, 90mA. Both produced a 0.2V drop.
Well there's a clue.

Many regulated power supplies require some minimum load current , below which their voltage will rise somewhat.

This note on your supply's datasheet at https://www.jaycar.com.au/12vdc-5a-dc-output-regulated-power-supply/p/GH1379
MPORTANT!
This power supply is not intended for powering sensitive electronics such as surveilance cameras. For powering sensitive electronics, please use our MP-3242.
suggests to me it is not a precision supply.

You might try giving it a small load, like a small 12 volt bulb

or try another supply
this one is about fifteen bucks on Ebay, specs say 0.5% load regulation which would be +/- 60 millivolts .
http://datasheet.octopart.com/RS-50-12-Mean-Well-datasheet-10901130.pdf
http://www.ebay.com/itm/RS-50-12-Me...132323?hash=item1c759a52e3:g:q3cAAOSw5cNYL7BO

if this is a for a medical application play it safe and use one of the medical rated supplies.

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NascentOxygen
Dionysus2 said:
Honestly pretty minimal. My understanding is that the back EMF increases as the speed of the motor increases. Once the motor reaches a steady speed the back EMF should be constant. The back EMF acts like a voltage supply in opposition to the voltage supplying the motor.
okay so far.

Back EMF opposes the supply. That's from magnetic interaction and it's how the motor makes electrical energy into mechanical work,
(back EMF) X (armature amps) is the power being converted from electrical Watts to mechanical Newton-meters/sec

The voltage left over to push armature current through brushes and armature wires''s resistance is (Supply - Back EMF).. It gets wasted as heat.
I'd expect more like 10 volts of back-EMF and 2 vols across brushes and armature wire resistance.
Draw yourself a picture - two voltage sources , brushes and armature resistance all in series.
At stall there's no Back EMF so current goes sky high, and drops off as Back EMF comes up with speed.

Dionysus2 said:
So my guess here is that these DC motors produce 0.2V of back EMF at top speed, and thus reduce the measured voltage across the supply by that amount. Each subsequent motor added goes through a transient state, then reaches a steady state of top speed, where it also produces a back EMF of 0.2V, further dropping the measured voltage of the supply.
Would my understanding be correct or am I talking nonsense?
Do the exercise of making that drawing and talk yourself through . When it clicks, try rewriting that paragraph. Explaining things often crystallizes them in our mind.
"Science is but language well arranged." a famous scientist of the 1700's.

jim hardy said:
Well there's a clue.

Many regulated power supplies require some minimum load current , below which their voltage will rise somewhat.

This note on your supply's datasheet at https://www.jaycar.com.au/12vdc-5a-dc-output-regulated-power-supply/p/GH1379

suggests to me it is not a precision supply.

You might try giving it a small load, like a small 12 volt bulb

or try another supply
this one is about fifteen bucks on Ebay, specs say 0.5% load regulation which would be +/- 60 millivolts .
http://datasheet.octopart.com/RS-50-12-Mean-Well-datasheet-10901130.pdf
http://www.ebay.com/itm/RS-50-12-Me...132323?hash=item1c759a52e3:g:q3cAAOSw5cNYL7BO

if this is a for a medical application plat it safe and use one of the medical rated supplies.

I had no idea there was precision and non-precision when it came to regulated, I thought it was either regulated or not...
I went back to jaycar and bought what the non-precision one recommended for precision use (this one) and...it works!
The data sheet says it won't drop below 11.4V at full load.
It gives 12.3V open circuit, and my motors do drop the voltage, but it never goes below 11.6V.
A single motor will run at 12V, more than one seems to have it between 11.8-11.6V.
Knowing this when I plug everything back up to the microcontroller I can program in 2 timings, one for if a single motor is running, one for if multiple motors are running (0.2V difference between 2-5+ pumps is negligible in this case.)

Thanks to everyone who helped me. PF is a pretty nice set of forums :)

jim hardy and Bystander
Dionysus2 said:
PF is a pretty nice set of forums :)
Go ahead and hit the "like" button for the useful information.

Dionysus2 said:
I had no idea there was precision and non-precision when it came to regulated,

their "spec sheet " is mighty sparse.

Here's a snip from a more typical one, for that Meanwell .
http://datasheet.octopart.com/RS-50-12-Mean-Well-datasheet-10901130.pdf

Load regulation is % voltage change for a 100% load change and tells you how precise is its regulation. Lower number = tighter regulation.

Have fun !

Aha ! Found it!
spec sheet for your new 3242
https://www.jaycar.com.au/medias/sys_master/images/h65/h9b/8855997841438/MP3242-dataSheetMain.pdf

looks like it's got 5% regulation which is ballpark of what you measured

jim hardy said:
Aha ! Found it!
spec sheet for your new 3242
https://www.jaycar.com.au/medias/sys_master/images/h65/h9b/8855997841438/MP3242-dataSheetMain.pdf

View attachment 111550

looks like it's got 5% regulation which is ballpark of what you measured

Been using it all day and it's going great! Thanks again.

jim hardy
I would still check the issues I raised in #4. Do both pumps deliver the same flow rate (to within 4%) even when the voltage to them is the same?

jim hardy
jim hardy said:
Aha ! Found it!
spec sheet for your new 3242
https://www.jaycar.com.au/medias/sys_master/images/h65/h9b/8855997841438/MP3242-dataSheetMain.pdf

View attachment 111550

looks like it's got 5% regulation which is ballpark of what you measured

Been using it all day and it's going great! Thanks again.
CWatters said:
I would still check the issues I raised in #4. Do both pumps deliver the same flow rate (to within 4%) even when the voltage to them is the same?
Yeah CWatters I will check that, back to work on monday so it won't be for a bit. Spare time project and all.

## 1. How do DC motors connected in parallel cause voltage drop?

When DC motors are connected in parallel, they each draw current from the same power supply. This creates a larger overall current draw, which can cause a voltage drop due to the resistance of the wires and connections. This means that the voltage supplied to each motor will be lower than the original voltage of the power supply.

## 2. Can connecting DC motors in parallel damage the motors or the power supply?

Yes, connecting DC motors in parallel can potentially damage both the motors and the power supply. If the motors are not identical, they may have different electrical characteristics and draw different amounts of current, causing one motor to work harder than the other. This can lead to overheating and damage to the motor. Additionally, if the power supply is not capable of providing enough current for all the motors, it may also overheat and potentially fail.

## 3. How can I prevent voltage drop when using DC motors in parallel?

One way to prevent voltage drop is to use a power supply with a higher voltage rating, as this will allow for a larger current draw without causing a significant drop in voltage. Another option is to use a separate power supply for each motor, which will ensure that each motor receives the necessary voltage without affecting the others.

## 4. Can I use a voltage regulator to prevent voltage drop in parallel DC motors?

Yes, a voltage regulator can be used to prevent voltage drop in parallel DC motors. This device will regulate the voltage being supplied to each motor, ensuring that it stays at a consistent level. However, it is important to choose a voltage regulator that can handle the total current draw of all the motors in parallel.

## 5. Are there any benefits to connecting DC motors in parallel?

Yes, there are some benefits to connecting DC motors in parallel. This can allow for a larger overall current draw, which may be necessary for certain applications. It can also provide redundancy, as if one motor fails, the others can continue to operate. Additionally, connecting motors in parallel can help distribute the workload, potentially increasing the lifespan of each motor.

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