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toddwall4

CNC Machine Networking

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I'm looking to the LTT community to help me solve a problem we have at the CNC machine shop where I work. Our current workflow for getting programs to the machines involves writing the programs at a PC saving the program to a USB drive then taking the USB to the machine plugging it in then loading the program from the USB. We are looking for a wireless solution. The machines themselves can only simply load programs from a USB storage device. Something that can connect to the wireless network at our shop would be preferable that way any PC connected to the network would be able to write to the drive connected to the machine. However if there is a short range wifi solution or perhaps Bluetooth that anyone knows of that would also work as a proof of concept. And of course the cheaper the better. If we can prove the idea works first then it's possible to upgrade to more elegant solutions in the future. Let me know what you got. 

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i use to work in manufacturing. All of our machines ran on win xp or DOS and were highly customizable. It sounds wrong that your machine only has a USB interface. What is the operating system on it?


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18 minutes ago, toddwall4 said:

They're HAAS CNC's with they're proprietary software and are extremely locked down. Every option costs extra

It might be possible to use a android phone with local cloud software (tonido, nextcloud) to sync files to the device and have it store it on the SD card which is then visible to the machine


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55 minutes ago, toddwall4 said:

-SNIP-

You would be better off having a dedicated computer for the CNC and just have it network accessible, just make sure that system is protected with a UPS so if there is a power outage it doesn't corrupt the data on that machine. That would also ensure that you don't run out of memory on your CNC for toolpaths since it can directly forward code to the machine as needed. 

Edited by W-L
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6 minutes ago, toddwall4 said:

Im not familiar with android, would any software be needed on the pc's or would windows handle it?

you will need something to transfer files to the device. thats why i mention local cloud (tonido, or nextcloud). I cannot guarantee this would work it would depend on how your CNC software handles USB drives. It shouldn't be hard to find someone with a smartphone that can test it. These local cloud solutions also have iOS apps. I just mentioned android coz I can get one as low as NZD$34


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Posted · Original PosterOP

Yea I'm not sure how the machine would handle a phone being plugged in. I will try and test it tomorrow when I go in and see how it works.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
24 minutes ago, W-L said:

You would be better off having a dedicated computer for the CNC and just have it network accessible, just make sure that system is protected with a UPS so if there is a power outage it doesn't corrupt the data on that machine. That would also ensure that you don't run out of memory on your CNC for toolpaths since it can directly forward code to the machine as needed. 

We would have a USB cable running to each machine from the dedicated computer. We would preferably like a small wireless USB hub on each machine that we would communicate with individually and just download the program we need to the specific machine. Navigating through several folders and files on the machines becomes a pain. 

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1 minute ago, toddwall4 said:

We would have a USB cable running to each machine from the dedicated computer. We would preferably like a small wireless USB hub on each machine that we would communicate with individually and just download the program we need to the specific machine. Navigating through several folders and files on the machines becomes a pain. 

You can get a networking module for the HAAS machines that would make things a lot simpler having it all network connected to one system. That would allow you to simply key in a search for the program and have it accessible for all of them. Depending on the machine you can have it so that it directly downloads the programs onto the CNC or have it just forward code as needed from the computer. 

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HAAS machines use a priority CNC console type command prompt, I don't know how you would network the machines. Even if you did, there would be little gain as you still need a human to manually check code and load parts. I attempted the same thing while I was in a Computer Integrated Manufacturing class and an issue I ran into is getting a workstation using an OS like Windows to communicate to another computer that is using a different OS like HAAS' proprietary CNC OS (really a BIOS). This is why flash drives and universal files like a .dxf are the standard, also once a part is deemed ready to produce, the flash drive is not needed and you can recall the program from the machine's memory.

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5 minutes ago, toddwall4 said:

We would have a USB cable running to each machine from the dedicated computer. We would preferably like a small wireless USB hub on each machine that we would communicate with individually and just download the program we need to the specific machine. Navigating through several folders and files on the machines becomes a pain. 

So then use a program called virtualhere. You would put the server software on a raspberry pi, then plug the cnc into the rpi. Connect it to then network, and use the client on each pc. The client basically replicates usb packets and sends them over a network. You can use as many computers as you want for the client. The only restriction being that only 1 client can mount the device at once, so once someone is done printing, they would need to unmount the cnc in order for other people to be able to use it.


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Posted · Original PosterOP
8 minutes ago, Qwweb said:

HAAS machines use a priority CNC console type command prompt, I don't know how you would network the machines. Even if you did, there would be little gain as you still need a human to manually check code and load parts. I attempted the same thing while I was in a Computer Integrated Manufacturing class and an issue I ran into is getting a workstation using an OS like Windows to communicate to another computer that is using a different OS like HAAS' proprietary CNC OS (really a BIOS). This is why flash drives and universal files like a .dxf are the standard, also once a part is deemed ready to produce, the flash drive is not needed and you can recall the program from the machine's memory.

Right, if you could network the machines, which I'm sure is possible, HAAS will

make it an expensive option. My thinking is that it would be cheaper easier and more expandable to network the interface. 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
7 minutes ago, tt2468 said:

So then use a program called virtualhere. You would put the server software on a raspberry pi, then plug the cnc into the rpi. Connect it to then network, and use the client on each pc. The client basically replicates usb packets and sends them over a network. You can use as many computers as you want for the client. The only restriction being that only 1 client can mount the device at once, so once someone is done printing, they would need to unmount the cnc in order for other people to be able to use it.

When the android phone was mentioned the raspberry pi was immediately where my mind went to next as a permanent solution 

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1 minute ago, toddwall4 said:

Right, if you could network the machines, which I'm sure is possible, HAAS will

make it an expensive option. My thinking is that it would be cheaper easier and more expandable to network the interface. 

the issue with that comes with inter-OS communication as Windows and (whatever HAAS's proprietary BIOS is named) do not use the same code, so "saving" to the HAAS would not really work. I used to work at a place that solved your problem by using a PC as the CNC and used some janky, free CNC software but I would take a HAAS and have to use USB drives over that any day. 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
32 minutes ago, Qwweb said:

the issue with that comes with inter-OS communication as Windows and (whatever HAAS's proprietary BIOS is named) do not use the same code, so "saving" to the HAAS would not really work. I used to work at a place that solved your problem by using a PC as the CNC and used some janky, free CNC software but I would take a HAAS and have to use USB drives over that any day. 

Yea we'll stick to using the USB the traditional way over that. I was hoping there was a USB product the size of a flash drive that could connect to the wireless network that windows could recognize as media device that you could just drag and drop files to in my computer and then the HAAS would just read it as a USB drive. I've had no such luck at finding something like this

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Posted · Original PosterOP

https://www.cnet.com/how-to/raspberry-pi-as-cheap-nas-solution/

 

So I came across this article and I got to wondering, if we were to use the rpi to create a NAS out of a flash drive (CNC programs are small in size) that would allow us to write to the flash drive wirelessly. Would it then be possible to use a simple USB splitter going into the HAAS controller to allow the machine to read from the flash drive? 

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USB hubs allow one computer to have many devices, not one device connected to many computers. If the company makes a networking module then that's likely your only option

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There are ways of making a computer emulate a USB stick, if USB is truly the only input option available.  The CNC machine may or may not be tolerant of the filesystem changing on the USB stick while its "inserted" and presented to the machine as a USB stick through a USB interface in a sort of "host mode" with a double-ended USB cable. 

 

As the posters above have stated, I'd look into the official/proprietary way of doing things, before trying to resort to something like this.  If there's an 'option' for better networking, for example, one might need to compare the cost of doing so, versus the gains in productivity and workflow achieved. 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
4 minutes ago, Mark77 said:

There are ways of making a computer emulate a USB stick, if USB is truly the only input option available.  The CNC machine may or may not be tolerant of the filesystem changing on the USB stick while its "inserted" and presented to the machine as a USB stick through a USB interface in a sort of "host mode" with a double-ended USB cable. 

 

As the posters above have stated, I'd look into the official/proprietary way of doing things, before trying to resort to something like this.  If there's an 'option' for better networking, for example, one might need to compare the cost of doing so, versus the gains in productivity and workflow achieved. 

Yea my concern with having the USB device plugged in constantly and then writing to it would be rather the controller at the machine would even recognize the new files without having to first unplugging it. 

 

On the machines we have currently USB is the only interface I'm aware of. Ethernet is an option that can be built into the machines but these machines were ordered without. Would have made life much easier if Ethernet was available then a simple wireless bridge would solve everything. 

 

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6 minutes ago, toddwall4 said:

On the machines we have currently USB is the only interface I'm aware of. Ethernet is an option that can be built into the machines but these machines were ordered without. Would have made life much easier if Ethernet was available then a simple wireless bridge would solve everything. 

 

Maybe consult with the manufacturer to see if the Ethernet capability could be added/retrofitted?   On expensive enough equipment, that might be an option.

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