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IndustryArena Forum > MetalWorking Machines > Fadal > Older computers on all of these older Fadal Mills
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  1. #1

    Older computers on all of these older Fadal Mills

    HI I'm brand new here to the forum.
    I am a seasoned computer network server and systems IT guy self employed.
    I have a small number of clients here in Michigan that are using these old mills in full time production.
    I'm not sure if the reasoning behind this is that they are just great machines (for the money) or if it's cost or reliability or if they are considered still supported and serviceable.

    Please keep in mind I am not a CNC or shop guy so a lot of this is new to me even though I have been supporting these companies for well over 15 years now.

    I'm in the process of trying to make a better effort to be on top of this old stuff as it's not going to run forever.
    One common theme to all of these older machines is that they are running older 20 + year old computers running windows 95 an windows 98.
    They are getting really hard to support and get parts for.
    I'm curious if this is common or if many of you may have moved or adapted these to work with much newer computer systems?

    I'm pretty comfortable supporting the old stuff DOS Windows 3.11 Windows 95 and Windows 98.

    But finding older single board ISA Pentium100s 486s and ISA RS422 can really be a pain.

    Looking for pointers and ideas on what you may have done or are doing to keep these older computers running on these reliably.
    But possible with newer up to date hardware.

    As I dig into this further I'll likely become more and more familiar with the machines themselves and the software they are using to run them.

    I've had the first motherboard fail in the 15 years I have been working with these and never really had to dig in deeply as to how these work and what software they work with and what it will run on.
    My clients have always had "mill companies" deal with this but now they are asking me to get involved more.

  2. #2
    Community Moderator Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Re: Older computers on all of these older Fadal Mills

    I think part of it is ''If it ain't broke don't fix it''. I've made a career of upgrading old computer systems and software for the wood products industry. Very few customers are proactive enough to upgrade a system until the old one is so broken that it just can't be fixed and no parts available. The particular machines that I was targeting were usually mission critical and the loss of use would take down the whole operation in a short time. Then it comes down to $$$$, do you do a $20K system upgrade or buy a new $150K machine. Sometimes it makes sense to buy the new machine. Normally the mechanics of the machines were fine, just a broken computer. I'm pretty much out of that business now because I have upgraded all of the machines that were out there that were not replaced with new and the old ones scrapped.

    I see the same thing happening in the metalworking industry. The old machines are working fine the way they are, putting out parts every day. One of the differences is that losing one machine normally does not shut the entire operation down. About the same numbers apply to the older Fadals (and a number of other brands), but the other part of the equation is the mechanics of the machines, much more critical than the wood working machines. So maybe the thinking is; run it until it quits then scrap it and buy a new Haas.

    I'm currently in the process of developing a software / hardware package to retrofit CNC machines that runs on Win7/10, but it's not quite ready to unleash on the world just yet. There are a few machines that are running my beta release. Trying to keep up with Microsoft's changes is a bit of a challenge also.

    Bottom line is that there are a few retrofit options available, but in many cases targeted at the hobby market, and very few techs that will install or are even able to install retrofit packages.
    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA

  3. #3

    Re: Older computers on all of these older Fadal Mills

    Good insight and thanks!!!
    I keep wondering if there is any opportunity in traveling the country and updating some of these old computers or at least being able to replace/fix them.
    Fly out to a place and get a system back up & running with updates in a day or two.

  4. #4
    Community Moderator Jim Dawson's Avatar
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    Re: Older computers on all of these older Fadal Mills

    I think the opportunity is there, subject to the points I laid out above. If I weren't 69 years old I would get more excited about doing it. I spent about 20 years living on airplanes and traveling the world installing upgrades and servicing machines. My highest travel year was 54 round trips. Pretty much burnt out on travel now.

    There is also the problem of having intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the various machines. In my shop I can rip out a control system and spend the time to figure out how to interface the new system with the existing hardware, this also requires some custom programming for compatibility. Without experience with the various machines it would require a major effort at each location. Not sure if it's practical for an industrial operation. Without a lot more development it's not going to be a plug & play system.

    Having said that, all machines are the same in some regards, but individually different enough that it would be a challenge. The tech going out to do the install better be a machinist, a millwright, programmer, and a controls engineer. That's a hard combination to find.
    Jim Dawson
    Sandy, Oregon, USA

  5. #5
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    Re: Older computers on all of these older Fadal Mills

    Are you looking for advice on the main control or just that side-PC they used in the 32MP systems because, most of the places I've dealt with have let the on-board PC die and just buy a stand alone desktop to punch programs to the machine control through a USB to serial converter (or an Ethernet to serial hub if they have several machines) . If you are looking for advice on keeping the main control running, I've heard some good things about the Calmotion control upgrade https://www.fadalcnc.com/527f-cnc-control

  6. #6
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    Re: Older computers on all of these older Fadal Mills

    I have a 1986 Fadal with the Calmotion 527F control (well maintained machine) and the new control really brought it to life. Took about 20 minutes to upgrade. Also have the 527F on a few Newer Fadals. Can just drag and drop programs in the network to the Fadal.

  7. #7

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    Re: Older computers on all of these older Fadal Mills

    Quote Originally Posted by oldjudge View Post
    Are you looking for advice on the main control or just that side-PC they used in the 32MP systems because, most of the places I've dealt with have let the on-board PC die and just buy a stand alone desktop to punch programs to the machine control through a USB to serial converter (or an Ethernet to serial hub if they have several machines) . If you are looking for advice on keeping the main control running, I've heard some good things about the Calmotion control upgrade https://www.fadalcnc.com/527f-cnc-control
    First off - I an no CNC expert and just trying to help someone out. -- I also know that this is an old post.

    Have a friend looking to use a FADAL VMC 15 that he has had sitting for few years because he has no idea how to use the old controller interface. (he used it twice with someone else doing the programming) What you described above is exactly what I described to him as a possibility to get he machine up and running and slightly easier to use. Do you have the USB-to-Serial part number and is there software that you recommend that would interface with the machine? Just trying to get him up and running. In my mind one should be able to design in CAD and send to the machine for milling.....

    Any information that you can share is greatly appreciated.

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