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OT -Trying to connect a pair of Okuma MC-4VAE to a network through a Moxa box

Subsonic

Plastic
Joined
Sep 12, 2023
Background: I work with a friend making the world's best woodheaters, and we've recently expanded out of an 1800-sqft pole-barn into a ~30K sqft facility, and we got a deal on a pair of Okuma MC-4VAE vertical mills with tool changers to help accelerate production and expand into making more parts. These machines were purchased from another machine shop in St. Louis where they were active production, and I saw them operational first-hand.

Problem: I can't get these machines from 1996 to be seen on the network, nor can I seem to get any settings on the Moxa NPort 5450I-T to seem to save. Spoke to a nice 70 y/o at Hartig machine in StL (the Okuma dealer) who gave me some info on how to get them to talk to a computer, but I still haven't been able to get anything other than an "error empty file" which actually makes sense because I haven't tried to send them anything.

Me: I'm a competent computer guy that's done some manual machining on wood and metal with a Bridgeport Series 2 and a couple of pro & consumer lathes, and I've done some troubleshooting on modern consumer-grade and homebrew 3D-printers at a Hackerspace I was the facilities guy for. I suck at CAD but have been playing around with GCode off and on since about '96. And I was on a submarine in the Navy so I'm used to solving problems alone and with whatever the hell happens to be on-hand.

Macines: Okuma MC-4VAE (x2) made & originally installed 1991 & 1992 trying to talk to a Windows 10 (Fusion360, Cimco Edit Pro) box through ~600 of ethernet cable and a Moxa 5450I-T across a gigabit ethernet network.

I'm kind of stuck here and looking for some advice on how I can possibly get these two machines that never envisioned talking to each other to play together nice enough that they can still be used.
 
I believe those are OSP5020 controls.
You will need the Okuma DNC option to do that. Okuma is a great machine/control, but, very proprietary. You can't just toss an RS232 on it and talk back and forth.
I believe those machines still have tape readers on them.
You "could" purchase the USB option that replaces the tape readers.
 
Still great machines If they are In decent shape. I'm not familiar with a Moxa Nport and seeing It on the Network. But you should be able to at least set up RS-232 to send and receive programs to those machines.
 
I believe those are OSP5020 controls.
You will need the Okuma DNC option to do that. Okuma is a great machine/control, but, very proprietary. You can't just toss an RS232 on it and talk back and forth.
I believe those machines still have tape readers on them.
You "could" purchase the USB option that replaces the tape readers.
Yes, both machines are using the OSP5020 (M, I believe).

We didn't just toss up a storebought RS-232, I made the cables from the instructions/pinouts I got from the fine senior machinist/installer at Hartwig.

Yes, they still have tape readers; they also have the 3.5" floppy upgrades as well.

I've never heard about a USB upgrade - but with the USB cable-length limits we'd still be about 300-400 feet short from taking instructions from the machine that's giving them.
 
Still great machines If they are In decent shape. I'm not familiar with a Moxa Nport and seeing It on the Network. But you should be able to at least set up RS-232 to send and receive programs to those machines.
That's the hope, and they seem to be better than most of the other stuff that we're using - all of it is manual Bridgeport vertical mills, a pair of 8' LeBlonde Regals, and a couple of automatic bandsaws with about 20' of rollers behind them, and a drill-press that was originally cast in 1907. We've also got a 4' x 10' CNC plasma cutter, a "new" Amada Astro-1000 88-ton press-brake (needs the software reloaded), and a "new" EDM machine of some sort along with a small assortment of other 'antique' machines like cylindrical grinders and a press of some sort for cutting gaskets.

I don't really care so much about being able to ping the Moxa NPort or whatever, I just need it to be able to send GCode via RS-232 from a computer about 500 feet away. Or from anything, really. I'm about at a point where I'd be okay with just buying or building a machine to do that tiny little job, and the "engineer" I talked with trying to blueprint this all in my head said that the Moxa box was the way to go.
The CAD/CAM machine is up front, and there's a NAS computer about 1/4 of the way to the back of the shop, and the router is about halfway between all the bolted to a wall.

The general idea being that the CAD/CAM box can make the changes and designs, and that they can be backed up to the NAS, and the Okumas can pull the code they need from another machine if they need to, or that operators can make tweaks to the GCode and save it if necessary.

I'm also beginning to wonder if we might've gotten a bad NPort (b/c chinesium) and I can't save anything to it if the machine controllers (OSP5020) aren't powered on.
 
That's the hope, and they seem to be better than most of the other stuff that we're using - all of it is manual Bridgeport vertical mills, a pair of 8' LeBlonde Regals, and a couple of automatic bandsaws with about 20' of rollers behind them, and a drill-press that was originally cast in 1907. We've also got a 4' x 10' CNC plasma cutter, a "new" Amada Astro-1000 88-ton press-brake (needs the software reloaded), and a "new" EDM machine of some sort along with a small assortment of other 'antique' machines like cylindrical grinders and a press of some sort for cutting gaskets.

I don't really care so much about being able to ping the Moxa NPort or whatever, I just need it to be able to send GCode via RS-232 from a computer about 500 feet away. Or from anything, really. I'm about at a point where I'd be okay with just buying or building a machine to do that tiny little job, and the "engineer" I talked with trying to blueprint this all in my head said that the Moxa box was the way to go.
The CAD/CAM machine is up front, and there's a NAS computer about 1/4 of the way to the back of the shop, and the router is about halfway between all the bolted to a wall.

The general idea being that the CAD/CAM box can make the changes and designs, and that they can be backed up to the NAS, and the Okumas can pull the code they need from another machine if they need to, or that operators can make tweaks to the GCode and save it if necessary.

I'm also beginning to wonder if we might've gotten a bad NPort (b/c chinesium) and I can't save anything to it if the machine controllers (OSP5020) aren't powered on.
I think networking these older machines will be tough If not Impossible. You will likely only be able to shoot programs IN and OUT via RS-232 using some sort of third party software such as Predator.
 
I think networking these older machines will be tough If not Impossible. You will likely only be able to shoot programs IN and OUT via RS-232 using some sort of third party software such as Predator.
I'd still be happy with that.
But right now I can't even get clear communication going.

The Moxa box seems to be failing whenever the OSP5020 controller turns off, and all I seem to be seeing on the Okuma screens are "ERR: program file is empty" - which was happening even when I know I didn't have the bit-depths, parity, stop-bits or flow-controls set up.
 
Trying to run gigabit over 600ft of unspecified cable is going to be really iffy. You're limited to about 330 ft to stay in spec, you might get away with running it at 100MB, but even that is a bit iffy. If you need the distance, either run it as a wireless or a fiber connection (or put in a hub at 300 ft)
 
Trying to run gigabit over 600ft of unspecified cable is going to be really iffy. You're limited to about 330 ft to stay in spec, you might get away with running it at 100MB, but even that is a bit iffy. If you need the distance, either run it as a wireless or a fiber connection (or put in a hub at 300 ft)
We're using decent 6E copper, planning on isolating the machines to a different subnet entirely from the "office" net as well, with only the CAD/CAM machine and the NAS having access to that subnet for 'security' reasons, but I didn't feel that it was pertinent to the discussion.

We've also got the equipment to build a mesh wifi net across the shop which will be as wired as possible, with only the outer fringes having wifi-wifi access ports with copper connecting to any machines that may require network access. So far, I don't have any copper runs longer than about 160' (ballparked).

And to be perfectly honest, it's not like GCode is particularly 'heavy', and these machines were designed to read tape and a 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drives, the spec-sheet I got from Hartwig says they can't handle anything faster than 9600 baud - the only reason I'm even concerned about the ethernet network is because I don't want to slow down the office machines, and because I'm wondering/concerned if the gigabit speeds might be too fast for the Moxa to tolerate. But according to the lights on the router, it's still only running at 100Mb/s.
 
A safe bet to remove ethernet from your concerns at least.

You might need some kind of rs232 monitor between the CNCs and the Moxa to get a clear idea of what's going on. If you had a Linux person around, there's a monitor program you can run on a PC with 2 serial ports and see all of the traffic going back and forth. I imagine there's probably something similar for Windows. An RS232 breakout box might be useful, if you can find one.

For all of the supposed simplicity of RS232, it seems to be one of the most difficult things to get working correctly.
 
A safe bet to remove ethernet from your concerns at least.

You might need some kind of rs232 monitor between the CNCs and the Moxa to get a clear idea of what's going on. If you had a Linux person around, there's a monitor program you can run on a PC with 2 serial ports and see all of the traffic going back and forth. I imagine there's probably something similar for Windows. An RS232 breakout box might be useful, if you can find one.

For all of the supposed simplicity of RS232, it seems to be one of the most difficult things to get working correctly.
There are not enough words in the tongues of man to express my hatred for windows; I've been running linux exclusively on everything I can for more than a decade. If it were up to me, there would be no Windoze in the shop, but then we would also not have any real CAD or CAM software, either. And I'm more of a hardware-kind of guy, so I could easily build an RS-232 break-out box, but it's been years since I've had a decent O-Scope available. I'm quite certain that the hardware is correct, that the SNR on the lines is sufficient, and that everything is talking as it is supposed to--my question is more in-line with a "what language is this supposed to be speaking" sort of a question.

I've got two different copies of the proper pinouts for the proprietary Okuma RS-232 cables, and I've compared them to the DB9-DB25 cable I made, and I've been making my own ethernet cable since the late '90s, and I've worked on Fiber-optic-to-Token-Ring routers before, but this is up there with that kind of wonky. The NPort doesn't seem to be saving the network settings, and it barely saves the serial comms settings, but only when the OSP has power. Is this normal, or is it more likely that I need to try to warranty this Moxa box?
 
The moxas are pretty bulletproof, I'd be surprised if you have a bad one. I will say the one you have is total overkill, I generally just use a 5110 at each machine, so I'm not first hand familiar with your unit.

The moxa needs to be configured before you can use it, moxa have a couple of different software utilities for this, the one I am familiar with is the NPort Administrator Suite, it is windows only and I think it may be superceded, but it's still downloadable on moxas website.

When you launch it it will scan for any moxas it can find on the LAN, and they appear in a list where you can configure them.

If you haven't done this step, then you're going round in circles.
 
Yes, both machines are using the OSP5020 (M, I believe).

We didn't just toss up a storebought RS-232, I made the cables from the instructions/pinouts I got from the fine senior machinist/installer at Hartwig.

Yes, they still have tape readers; they also have the 3.5" floppy upgrades as well.

I've never heard about a USB upgrade - but with the USB cable-length limits we'd still be about 300-400 feet short from taking instructions from the machine that's giving them.
Yes, those would be OSP5020M.
That distance may also be an issue.
If Hartwig is involved, I'm sure there's a solution.
Those machines are great mills. VERY good machines that can make you good money.
 
Does it have the RS-232 plug? We used to have one of these mills and used a Calmotion box to transfer files in/out of the control. They were a little pricy up front but they are worth the simplicity. Post your code, load onto a flash drive, walk to machine.
 
The moxas are pretty bulletproof, I'd be surprised if you have a bad one. I will say the one you have is total overkill, I generally just use a 5110 at each machine, so I'm not first hand familiar with your unit.

The moxa needs to be configured before you can use it, moxa have a couple of different software utilities for this, the one I am familiar with is the NPort Administrator Suite, it is windows only and I think it may be superceded, but it's still downloadable on moxas website.

When you launch it it will scan for any moxas it can find on the LAN, and they appear in a list where you can configure them.

If you haven't done this step, then you're going round in circles.
Well Bullet-proof is what we were actually going for, and not simply because our guys in the shop are armed, but more because I wanted to get this done right the first time, and never ever have to really mess with it again. Our Master Machinist (Tool & Die) types with both index fingers, and CTRL+C/CTRL+V to copy/paste is about the extent of his "Power User" knowledge.

We went with the 5450I-T because at the moment we only have one LAN port/cable available in that area, and because we're still running power lines in the shop (almost two years after buying the building--we didn't trust anything that was left in it) and we didn't want to have to deal with the cost of running another $100-$200 worth of copper in power or data lines in order to drop an outlet to add a $100-$200 Layer2/3 network switch to expand the port availability when we could dump that $300 into the 5450I-T and still have some extensibility later on for adding another machine or two later down the line. Currently there is a Bridgeport EZ-Track with an RS-232 across the aisle that may be hooked up later, but that's for another day and another OT.

I've installed NPort Administrator (natively in a Win10 environment), but it's not really wanting to configure all of the settings on the NPort; some of this I think may be because it's attempting to talk across two different subnets (192.168.1.xxx admin PC & 192.168.127.254 Moxa default IP) and because the Moxa doesn't seem to like or want to use DHCP to receive an IP address. It also doesn't seem to want to store or use the NTP server to correct its time/date, but I'm also not sure how critical that is to simply being able to ping/print data to it. It's been more than 20 years since I've tried to do anything serious with serial/parallel/RS-232 connections beyond installing a printer to some old WinXP box with a driver disk in-hand.
 
Ohhkay...
So FWIW & ForFutureReference to anyone still trying to use some of these older machines; in order to begin the actual configuration of the NPort and have it be found on the network and accept the configurations I was trying to send it, I had to FIRST send it an ARP request broadcast through a windows terminal using the "-s" switch and then telling it the IP address I wanted it to use and calling out the MAC address of the Moxa box.

Maybe this is because my network security is somewhere up in the "tinfoil-hat" levels, or maybe it's just because the Moxa is a fairly dumb device that isn't sophisticated enough to be found like other network-attached devices, or maybe it's because there's too much chinesium inside of it, I don't honestly know... But I found this manual (https://www.elvac.eu/ipc/download/moxa/manual/NPort_5400_Series_Users_Manual_v6.pdf) from a euro-site that was a bit more in-depth than anything I was given or had available from the Moxa site that mentioned doing that on a thorough re-reading of the basics.

I can now use the Nport Administrator program like it looks like it should work as well as the web console to change things, and it also looks like the settings are being saved properly. Now just waiting on the CAD/CAM guy to spin up a short program to test how the GCode will actually transfer to the Okumas. And maybe later I will figure out about doing some of the other trickier things like using port-forwarding to select which Okuma a file can go to. If it's possible, I'd like to have things be as simple as selecting which "printer" something goes to from the MasterCAM, but we'll see.

For now, I'd just like to see some machines making some chips.
 








 
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