MSI Tec and engineers from woodworking-machine maker Unique Machine and Tools have developed a web-based control panel to manage the motion- control system for Unique’s 3450 mortise-and-tenon CNC woodworking machine.
The system lets Unique troubleshoot and monitor the machine from anywhere in the world using an interface that has no run-time licenses and uses a free development studio.
Stand-alone CNC machines rely on operators nearby to start and stop processes, catch any warning signs like elevated temperature, and alert maintenance personnel and management if the machine goes down. Changes to the machines’ processes must be made from a terminal near the machine while production is temporarily halted.
Any problems with the CNC machine’s operations that cannot be handled by on-site maintenance must wait until trained personnel can come in to troubleshoot, compounding production delays. And customers must rely on word-of-mouth contact with busy production managers to get information on orders.
The Web-based control panel MSI Tec developed uses Microsoft’s Asp.net hardware drivers to query and control the Yaskawa motion controller, Yaskawa variablefrequency drives, and Wago input/output stream. Data from these inputs is displayed via Windows XP’s Internet Information Service on a Web page accessible by log-in from any computer or Internet-ready device like a cell phone. A server-side Ajax application updates data two to four times per second without the flicker of a fullscreen refresh.
Similar techniques can be used to control Omron PLCs or Animatics servosystems. The machine communicates, via a Modbus remote terminal unit connection, ASCII commands, FINS network protocol, or other means, to start, stop, and reset faults.
Users can send production recipes as well as commands to start and stop particular sequences directly to the machine’s motion controllers from the Web page. They can also monitor temperature sensors, amperage use, process stage, and system errors.
Machine builders can limit which commands are available from the Web site. For instance, they can disable the command to start a process remotely for safety reasons. To implement the Web capability, MSI installed a software image of Windows XP Embedded on the 3450’s industrial touchscreen PC.
The Embedded image is a bare-bones operating system trimmed to under 250 Mbytes. Cutting the system down to size saves money, eliminates some Windows features that would slow operations, and permits removal of distracting components like games. The Embedded system also enables the use of IIS, the machine’s local intranet hosting system.
MSI Tec supplied the entire motion-control system for the 3450, from computer to VFDs to ball screws. During prove-out testing, MSI worked with Unique to refine and test the Web-based control panel with the goal of creating a friendly, reliable, and flexible platform.
MSI Tec Inc.
Unique Machine and Tools