Replaced the hard disk drives with compact flash card readers on my CNCs.

This might be of interest if you have a PC-based CNC control as I do. Omniturn guys might be able to do something like this too I think
Yep, no more worries about the C: hard drive failing in my CNC lathes. They have been inside spinning for about 10 years now, and I figured it was just a matter of time before one crashed.
I used IDE CF card readers, they cost about $33/ea plus the CF card's cost, I went with Sandisk industrial 512MB cards for $16/each, the old HDs were only 256MB drives. These CF readers mounted right into the spare slots of my 3.5" floppy drive bays so I can swap CF cards in and out anytime I want (though they are not hot-swappable). I'm now running the two lathes right from 512MB CF cards loaded with DOS 6.2 and the control's lathe software. Just left the old hard drives in place for posterity, but disconnected them.
Bought an extra CF reader and set it up in one of my old Compaq PCs as a test bed system and for loading/backing-up the lathe cards. BTW, How do I set up the Compaq for dual boot? i'd like to boot either into Win XP or a more basic configuration with DOS 6.2.? Anyone know? Just partition my HD?
As these lathes run under DOS 6.2., I setup the menu feature in CONFIG.SYS & AUTOEXEC.BAT (good god what a blast from the past that was) to be able to boot into a DOS shell instead of the standard lathe software. Thus i basically have two 3,000 Lb. DOS PC's on the shop floor and so I now have an interest is some software to fill up all my lovely new C: drive room. Anyone got any suggestions for a source for some useful DOS utilities? <ping J.Sheldroup?>
I downloaded PCFILE, for a character-based database that runs under DOS. It used to cost a bunch of real money to buy that program. Free now, but of course unsupported, I'd like to get something in a DOS spreadsheet if one is still around. Lotus 123? Visicalc? Communications software might be handy as well, as I've got untapped serial ports on both machines and I could connect the two with a null model cable I suppose. Could even set up my old 3-Com 9600 baud dial- up modem. Would need some reason to call the lathes from home for that. Might be able to get some status info out of it though. There are history files in the lathe SW directories
Whilst I had the hood off the machines i also changed out to brand new Sony floppy drives and got rid of the old 14" color CRT's,nicely replaced them with new 15" color LCD screens. Also put in 2 new PC/AT 230 watt power supplies. Other than the memory chips, I think that is about all the wear-outable stuff in the machines PC-based control that i can upgrade now to head off future trouble.
Major improvement in reliability I think. Only problem I ran into was one of the 486 motherboards has a soldered-on CMOS backup battery, long past it's expiration date. I was NOT going to go messing about with soldering in a new one just to maintain my CMOS parameters, i can drop into CMOS setup on boot to detect the IDE/Floppy drives without too much hassle.
I NEVER turn these things off BTW (unless the power goes kaput of course). That's why they have lasted as long as they have in my opinion.
So if your interested in anything like this and want some help/ideas doing the same just let me know. It was pretty easy and i think i've added some new life to some good old iron by doing this upgrade to CF card readers instead of hard disks.
G'luck, -- Paul S. PDA Panache Corp.
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Been running my Omniturn from a Kodak CF card for 2 years now. Didn't seen the floppy bay CF adapters, mine uses an internal IDE adapter card, but I'm going to add the floppy adapter soon and set it up to read programs off that drive, using the Kodak card for the OS and Omni software.
Sure is slick!
Jon
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Hi Jon,
Great to hear there are other fools like me out there Jon, thanks for the report.
The CF readers I found were on CDW and from Adaptec. I can look up the link if you want.
I was at EASTEC last week and was very impressed with Omniturn's innovative approach to automation. They had dozens of ways to automate part loading in those lathes, some really clever solutions. Quoted $37K for the base Omniturn GT lathe. It's well worth keeping yours up & running and in good shape.
My lathes are AW100's. Originally made in Grant's Pass OR. The company is gone now, so I have to try to keep them running myself. I have a small pool of spare parts on hand and some sources for standard parts like motors (Baldor DC-brush servos) and such. If the main control board goes though I'll be screwed. Those can't be gotten anymore. Worse comes to worse I can strip one machine to keep the other running.
I remember when I bought the first lathe back in '97 there were some questions about if a PC-based control would survive long in a shop environment. Or even work at all for a real production CNC application. That lathe is 10 years old now, and it made about a half million good parts for me, so I suppose that question has an answer now :-). It's really nice to be able to use off-the-shelf PC parts to keep the control running too. Big savings over proprietary control designs. My new VGA 15" color LCD monitors were only $169/each ;-).
Good luck with your Omni, and if I can ever be any assistance at all just drop a line.
PaulS PDA Panache Corp.
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