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Deep dive on NC controls, data, protocols, data collection and software

SRT Mike

Feb 20, 2007
Boston MA
Hopefully some knowledgeable folks here can add information to this thread.

I have a Brother Speedio and and Okuma lathe. I also do work for a company with a bunch of Kitamura and Mazak machines (Mitsubishi) as well as Fanuc control machines. I am a former software developer/electronics guy turned CAM programmer/machinist/automation guy.

I am interested in doing data collection from various CNC machines. I know there are off-the-shelf solutions out there, but I am really interested in delving deeper into the actual NC controls and seeing what I can do by myself.

As an example, I know the Kitamuras with Arumatik Mi controls use a Windows embedded PC at the control which communicates to the actual NC unit. I believe someone at Kitamura told me they used "Easy connect" from Mitsubishi to build their Arumatik interface which was only available to machine tool builders, because it allows read and write access to anything in the NC unit. Does anyone know if that is indeed the case? Also, does anyone know the actual protocol that the NC unit uses to communicate to the Windows PC with? Is that ProfiBus?

I know Kitamura sells an MT Connect "adapter" but it doesn't offer the functionality I need, which means any off-the-shelf monitoring/data collection software won't be able to collect what I want - for example probing results. I can write a software application to run on the Windows PC but would need access to more data from the NC unit than MT Connect allows. I can reverse engineer the Arimatik DLL's and API but that would be hugely time consuming. Looking for other options?

Then there's Fanuc. I know about FOCAS which is the easy way to handle it, but IIRC Fanuc also uses ProfiBus so is that what's running on the back-end to communicate between the Windows PC at the actual control station and the NC unit? Actually on many Fanuc machines they are one and the same, I believe.

Then there's the Brother, which has a Linux/Unix O/S on the back end. Has anyone had any luck accessing real time data from that, or installing their own application in the control?

Pretty much the same with Okuma, which use Windows on their newer controls also.

Just looking for info/ideas/options from those who know stuff I don't :)
If you hook up an ethernet connection to your Brother Speedios, you can use your internet browser and access information through the machines IP address that you set up. Factory Wiz and MT Connect are some other options.
This sounds interesting and challenging. I suspect most of the protocols are serial so writing an isr to sniff ('Y' cable) is only an evenings project. Getting passwords may be another problem. If you can get the root passwd for Linux then everything opens up. For Windoze I have no clue. This should keep you occupied for many a winter evening. Have fun!
What data are you looking to collect? There is almost certainly an off the shelf solution for all of it.

I have heard many software devs announce that they are going to build their own interface for data collection, but have never seen anyone have actual success.

Once you start in depth digging, you may be quickly horrified and overwhelmed by how ugly the integration of the NC and operating system is.

If you intended to do this for one brand/controller, it might be feasible. However I doubt anybody has the fortitude to develop something for such a variety of platforms.

On a positive note, at least Okuma does have a suite of app building tools that they make available to the public.
Not sure if this is too late, but Mitsubishi Electric also offers an MTConnect Adapter for Kitamuras (I work for them). It's kept pretty up to date and with a good amount of information so if you're not happy with the current connection you have, contact me and I can share info on the Mitsubishi solution.