Wireless RS232 for Sending/Receiving Programs
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Poll: Would you be interested in a DIY Wireless USB/RS232 kit?

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  1. #1
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    Default Wireless RS232 for Sending/Receiving Programs

    Hello all,

    We have a couple machines that use usb cables (serial to usb) to upload programs. After one too many times of tripping on the cord (taking the laptop with it ) I started looking into solutions: New machines with wifi = too expensive. Extension over CAT5 = just more cable. Flash Drives = Machines were too old to pull from flash drives. Turn-key "wireless usb" devices = $300+. I decided to take the DIY route.

    I've been successful at retro-fitting for a couple of early 90s to mid 2000s machines. The basic idea is to use a micro controller to act as a wireless usb server over a wifi network. Plug your machine into the micro controller, connect PC over wifi, and your PC sees the machine as a COM port just as if it was plugged in directly.

    I wanted to put a thread up here to see if this would be useful to anyone else. If so I may pursue developing a kit with everything needed to DIY for around the $100 mark.

    Let me know what y'all think.

  2. #2
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    We did this a few years ago, and we then did away with it not too long after (6 months?).

    Now, it probably was not the same as your setup, the way you write about it sounds possibly more promising, if you can get multiple machines to work together with 1 pc.

    The stuff we had was USB -> bluetooth - bluetooth -> rs232, and it worked. But it was a pain to configure. We have 10 mills, and we had 1 computer at the time to send and receive. In the olden days (years before), everything was hardwired into a multi rs232 switch, and you could choose which pc to send to. But we moved the machines into a different building and we wanted to avoid running new long wires.

    You could only pair the main bluetooth usb device with 1 machine on the floor, and you had to manually send via DNC a command to tell it which device to pair with. It usually worked, but was annoying when it sometimes would not.

    But we flat out stopped using it when it dropped some lines of code in an expensive titanium part. We were not drip feeding, it dropped maybe 20 lines of code when sending the program to machine memory. After that, we just put a laptop at each machine that could send and receive code. It is relatively inexpensive to do that (30$ for a mount and about 100$ for a cheap laptop)

    Sorry to bring down the thread; I am sure technology is a bit better, there are better solutions out there than the cheap bluetooth devices we used, and this sure has its uses out there. But one bad experience is enough for me to shy away from it.

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    Thank you for the reply.
    I'm still in the development stage so I appreciate the advice on what to look out for. I haven't seen any code dropped yet, I'll keep testing.

    ...if you can get multiple machines to work together with 1 pc.
    Another micro-controller is on its way to the shop now so I can test this out. I'm confident at this point that you should be able to connect multiple machines to one PC (and multiple PCs to said machines).

    It's funny how a bad crash will stick with you forever. I'm sure your mind is made up but thank you for adding to the discussion

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    I had a guy come in and he configured our four mills for wireless transfer and it worked out great. I can remember one or two occasions that it dropped a few lines of code but that was caught during dry run. We had a program at our PC and had to select the port for the machine we wanted to send to. Those four machines are gone now and we load using a thumb drive through the USB port.

    Good luck

    Make Chips Boys !

    Ron
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails img_0209.jpg  

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    wifi needs some serious error checking at both ends, plus you need to know what sort of latency the machine controller requires (can be fixed with buffering in the receiver at the machine end), and drip feeding is another one where you want some serious reliability to consider wifi as a serious option

    personal opinion, if you want to put in the effort, forget the wifi, make an ultra reliable usb flash stick to rs232 adapter, "diy" wifi solution for production environment is just an invitation for accidents, the older and bigger and more powerful the machines, the bigger possible EMF issues wifi connections might experience

    and as they say - wire trips you once, shame on the wire, it trips you the second time, well, guess who's to blame

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    Being an old grump I'm not sold on wireless. Mildly subject to interference, poor security. The security issue is going to be fixed soon with new version of the security protocol. I'm a great believer in wired connections. I have CAT5 from my desktop to my machines. Conduit underground and then overhead in the shop. Takes care of the tripping problem. Not that it really needs the security of ssh because it is inside my cable modem. ssh = secure shell. Cable length is limited to approx 100 m but I think that is the same distance spec as 802.11g (wireless). just my tuppence.

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    I've been avoiding drip-feed/DNC to avoid the issues you mentioned, that's a battle for another day.

    Completely agree that this probably won't be the best solution for larger shops. I'm in a small job shop now (3 machines) with two guys and it works great for us. Just depends on the situation I suppose. Thanks for the input!

    btw the wire would wrap around my shoe when I wasn't looking, definitely not my fault

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    Most of my machining knowledge comes from an old grump, you guys really know your stuff. What is your method for connecting to multiple machines? An Ethernet switch perhaps?

    I'll look into the security of the device and see if I can beef it up. Currently using ssh to communicate with the controller (with username & password).

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    I don't even like the wired RS232 to CAT5 adapters. I was using the older Nport adapters and nothing but problems for years. Gutted all that crap and went back to RS232 with an older military grade Xplore ix104 windows touchscreen tablet (that works in dirt, grime, coolant spray, and gloved if needed). This gave me a real serial port as well, so no usb adapters either now. Normal old cheap laptops would only last a few months before they'd be killed or dropped in a coolant tank. This one survives anything. It also gives me that whole wireless thing with none of the risk of dropped code (due to cloud based storage with client-side maintained copies). It was pricey at about $500 all-in with mounting dock on the wall in the shop, but best of all worlds for me. It's also convenient for many other tasks. Can pull files from the network for USB-stick machines, waterproof with decent enough camera for documenting job setup/run info and video, PDF manuals pulled up at machine during service/repair, etc etc. Literally best solution I've tried...and I've tried a lot. You start comparing something like this that handles most all shop tasks and all machines, to multiple per-machine solutions, it just makes the most sense imho.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor-WSE View Post
    Hello all,

    We have a couple machines that use usb cables (serial to usb) to upload programs. After one too many times of tripping on the cord (taking the laptop with it ) I started looking into solutions: New machines with wifi = too expensive. Extension over CAT5 = just more cable. Flash Drives = Machines were too old to pull from flash drives. Turn-key "wireless usb" devices = $300+. I decided to take the DIY route.

    I've been successful at retro-fitting for a couple of early 90s to mid 2000s machines. The basic idea is to use a micro controller to act as a wireless usb server over a wifi network. Plug your machine into the micro controller, connect PC over wifi, and your PC sees the machine as a COM port just as if it was plugged in directly.

    I wanted to put a thread up here to see if this would be useful to anyone else. If so I may pursue developing a kit with everything needed to DIY for around the $100 mark.

    Let me know what y'all think.
    I don't know why you'd bother. A $300 solution from Moxa, or the like, is not too bad, and they have real tech support, etc. I think you'd open a monster can of worms for yourself if you think the sale of the hardware is the end of the matter. What with getting an encrypted wireless network going in any of a dozen different configurations, let alone all the control codes for every make of machine out there, there is likely a lot of headaches. When you're done, you're going to need $300 too

  14. #11
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    Here at CEI we have about 34 machines all wired to our server. They are a mix of 1991 Matsuura Tigers to Haas VF2s, VF4s, VF6s, and a VF8. We also have a bunch of lathes, Fanuc Robocuts, Agie sinkers and everything in between. I'm in the process of running shielded CAT5 and using the Shop Floor Automation 1 port Wired Connect solution. The ones I haven't run yet still use long serial runs back to DNC hubs. The DNC hubs are then CAT5 back to the switches that feed normal terminals throughout the shop (30k sq ft over 2 buildings). Then the switches are fiber back to the server in another building. The ShopFloor Automation wire connect units are about 210$ each and i forget how much the software on the server was. Our problem now is we are at our limit for connections to the software (40). I have thought about the DIY approach and even purchased a knockoff MOXA unit from China, but haven't messed with it yet.


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