Company’s invest in high tech CNC equipment, specialized tooling, fixtures, and CAD/CAM software with the intent to gain the maximum return on investment. Manufacturing engineers optimize production processes to attain the maximize cycles per hour. However, traditional manual methods are employed for CNC data transfers. They can consume extensive & valuable labor time and little attention is directed to address and correct this process. In most companies these shop duties are considered as “another cost of doing business”. Well, technology has changed.
eLAN was initially introduced in 1990 to optimize and automate data transfers while enhancing data security. It substantially lowers the hidden labor cost associated with CNC code transfer. It enables CNC programs to be requested, queued, stored, and downloaded by an operator without leaving the CNC console. In most cases file transfers occur in under sixty seconds.
Its design features include operational simplicity, minimal components, high reliability, and minimal maintenance. The existing CNC is utilized as a terminal eliminating the need to expose a computer to the harsh shop environment. Network security protocol is employed to inhibit unauthorized access to the company network.
The acronym “DNC” has two separate meanings which can cause confusion.
The common terms used for CNC communications is Direct Numerical Control and Distributed Numerical Control. Here are interpretations to help clarify the terminology:
- “Direct Numerical Control” is used when program code is transmitted to the CNC one block at a time. It is sometimes referred to as “drip feeding or spoon feeding”. DNC communication follows rigid specifications that require the transmitting device to stop its flow of data within ten characters of receipt of an Xoff signal (stop data transmission signal) that is sent by the receiver. This Data Flow Control is otherwise known as Handshaking. It can use either hardware Clear to Send / Request to Send (CTS/RTS) frame relay type (referred to as HARDWARE HANDSHAKE or software handshake (XON / XOFF) type. In either case, if data fails to stop within the ten character specification, the CNC will generate a Buffer Overflow alarm on the CNC. Note that the use of wireless communications is NOT recommended for drip feeding operations.
- “Distributed Numerical Control” is used when programs are downloaded in their entirety directly into the CNC memory. Either wired or wireless can be used for Distributed DNC systems.
There are two types of hardware available in the eLAN product line. Each is specified according to the user application.
The eHUB is a hybrid Ethernet / RS232 direct wired device. It has eight serial ports and one Ethernet port. It can be connected to a network via an Ethernet switch or to a standalone computer via a crossover cable. It is identified on the network using a static IP address.
During the installation process the eHUB is positioned within the proximity of a CNC cluster to allow the shortest wiring distance to the equipment. CAT5 cable is used and routed to enable both a network connection and RS232 connection. Each of the eight onboard RS232 communications ports connect to a CNC in a “star” configuration.
Three options are available to accommodate drip feeding programs to the CNC;
A) The eHUB wired configuration
B) A standalone PC with the WinECOM software installed
C) The xlTRANSFER device.
Please note that the xlTRANSFER device does not allow for “mid program re-position starts”. In the event of a problem while in the middle of a cycle the program must be restarted from the beginning or re-edited, reloaded, then restarted.
The xlCONNECT is a wireless device that consists of a network transmitter and an RS232 connection to the CNC. It is used for Distributed DNC applications but should not be used for DIRECT DNC as it does not meet the direct DNC specification. It can be purchased with either an RS232 interface or USB interface (based on the port type available on the CNC).
Most legacy CNC controls (produced before 2005) are typically configured with an RS232 port. Later models will have both RS232 and USB, or in some instances a USB port only. The USB interface transfers data at much higher rates than an RS232 interface (500KB or more per second). This should be a key consideration if large files are in use.
A wireless connection is established between the Wireless Access Point (generally mounted on the ceiling) and the xlCONNECT unit at the CNC machine. An Access Point services multiple wireless devices simultaneously. If signal strength is found to be inadequate due to distance or interference then additional A/P’s can be installed to boost signal strength and insure connectivity.
Each Access Point and xlCONNECT have STATIC IP addresses that are preprogrammed that identify them on the network. The xlCONNECT address is set in the configuration area of the eLAN software to identify the equipment connected. The IP address employed must be on the same Domain as the network. The address must be “reserved” from the IP address pool or connections may fail.
The IT department must supply a list of IP addresses, Subnet, SSID, Security Type used, and Security code or passphrase to allow the xlCONNECT to connect to the network.
Each xlCONNECT device requires a 120vac outlet within four feet of the transmitter to power it. Internal power supplies can be supplied and installed, as an option, when power outlets are not available at the CNC location.
WHY USE WIRELESS TOPOLOGY?
If programs do not exceed the memory capacity of the CNC control wireless is the better all-around choice.
Use of wireless technology eliminates costly issues associated with wired systems.
A wired system can be expensive to install and maintain.
- Cables must to be routed to each equipment location in the shop.
Whenever equipment is moved in the shop these cables must to be re-routed.
- The wire acts as antennae which during thunderstorms can attract substantial transient static charges from the air. These static charges seek the shortest path to ground which is typically thru the RS232 port of the CNC. The result is severe damage to the CNC port rendering it inoperable equating to costly equipment downtime and an expensive repair.
- DNC cable degrades over time when exposed to the oily air environment of a factory. The outer insulation becomes brittle and breaks easily. Repair costs can be expensive in terms of labor and downtime to replace the cables.
- Wireless communications allow CNC equipment to be moved about the shop.
- Wireless is not susceptible to transient voltages caused by antennae effect thus CNC ports are protected from transient voltage.
The eLAN software is a dedicated communication software that is loaded on either a standalone or network workstation. It cannot be loaded on a file server as it does not run as a SERVICE.
It provides the intelligence that enables the communications, conversion, distribution, and storage of CNC programs to the CNC controls attached.
READ, WRITE, and MODIFY Access Rights are required for the directory that houses the eLAN and DNC files on the network server drive.
Up to 128 CNC machines per license can be connected to the system.
When a CNC program is required at the CNC there are two retrieval methods available:
1. A “Remote Request” program that is stored in CNC memory is made active. The second line “comment” within the program is modified by the operator to reflect the “computer filename” of the desired program. An example of the program is as follows:
2. The program is transmitted from the CNC utilizing the same output procedure used to store a program.
3. When the program is received eLAN will interpret it and queue the requested file.
4. The queued file will begin downloading either when the operator presses input at the CNC or after a preset time set within the eLAN configuration.
1. The required program is “manually queued” by an engineer either in the office at the eLAN computer or using the WinECOM software loaded on a remote workstation. No remote program request is required.
2. The queued file will begin downloading either when the operator presses input at the CNC or can be set to load after a preset time configured within the eLAN configuration.
Storing a program to the computer is performed by outputting it from the CNC. The computer file storage name used to store the file in the DNC computer is designated in configuration of eLAN. Note that eLAN can be configured to print any programs that have been modified by the shop immediately upon their upload to the DNC server. This will alert engineering to review the changes that have occurred.
BENEFITS OF OWNERSHIP
- The return on investment begins with e-LAN’s first use and is continuous thereafter.
- A noticeable labor savings if apparent because the costs associated with manual transfers have been eliminated.
- CNC program files are securely stored and backed up regularly on a network server.
- The engineering department maintains control over the data.
- Code modifications are easily identified and review-able by engineering to determine validity.
- User Friendly Interface
- Design for Industrial Use & Reliability
- Windows & Network Compatible
- Network Secure
- Remote Queuing of CNC programs from the CNC
- Compatible with Vintage NC / CNC equipment
- Selectable Baud Rates to 153K
- Selectable Data Flow Control (Hardware / Software)
- Multiple Code Formats – ISO, Binary, and MAZATROL
- USB Support for CNC equipment using xlCONNECT
- Enables Transfer, Management & Manipulation of CNC Code
- Supports Manual Queuing of Scheduled Jobs
- Supports Multi-Directory Search
- Supports Offset Queuing / Transfer
- Allows Simultaneous Communications from all connected equipment
- Documented Step by Step Communication Procedures
- No Maintenance Fees / Software Updates are Free
- Software Updates downloadable from our website
- On-Line Help Manual
- One Year Warranty
- Upgradable to Machine Monitoring
- Software is extensively tested and continuously updated
- Components are warranted for one year from date of installation excluding shipping
- Service available via phone, email, remote connection
- On-site Service is available to troubleshoot issues
CONSIDER MONITORING YOUR CNC EQUIPMENT
Timing is the key to everything.
eLAN can provide continuous automated monitoring as an option. It replaces stop watch spot checks used in the past.
It eliminates the tedious, labor intensive, and time consuming task of time studying CNC operations.
Monitoring enables the ability to collect real time statistics and the building of operational histories on every job run.
Event data is collected from every shift of every day which reveals the real efficiency and profitability of your manufacturing operation.
- Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) is a reality.
- Job quotes are easily verified and corrected.
- Business decisions are based on real time, factual data.
- Equipment justifications are based on accurate data rather than guesswork.
- Production balancing is more precise because bottlenecks are quickly identified and corrected.
- Equipment Performance & Warranty Issues are quickly and easily verified and resolved.
Monitoring technology is a simple and occurs behind the scenes. It is reliable and complete requiring no intervention by the engineering staff (other than to analyze the collected data). A statistical data is collected to verify the time duration of such things as;
- Load / Unload
Tracking of this data makes operator performance reviews more accurate.
The current version of eLAN is available for download by clicking the hyperlink below:
Users are encouraged to check and update their software to stay current with changes.
Please follow the steps below to install your free update:
- Backup the existing software directory prior to performing an update.
- Click to download this file to the DNC Server Desktop eLAN Update (05-19-2017)
- Click on the file icon to UNZIP the file.
- Click on the icon to update the eLAN.