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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2024
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    10

    Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    I am trying to get an old CNC machine up and working again but the software which runs on DOS is not loading from the floppy drive. It is German and named PCNC. I think I have to start from scratch with new software but I don't want to throw any money around until I know I can get it working, any suggestions?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
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    134

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    There is a good chance with a machine of that vintage that the PC to machine connection is a 25 pin parallel port. Modern computers no longer have parallel ports built in, and modern 64 bit operating systems do not allow software to control [add-on] parallel ports suitably for those kinds of CNC machines.

    While there are some work-arounds available, none of them are available without throwing money at it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    1230

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    A picture of the machine and controller would help but a new member may not have sufficient posts to have earned picture posting privileges.We may be wrong in assuming that the machine needs to be connected to a computer if it has a floppy drive.The programs may have been loaded directly from the floppy disk to the controller.The obvious question is does the OP have any experience of sending programs to a CNC controller?A further question is whether any manuals were obtained with the machine?It may be a challenge finding and formatting floppy disks as DOS was a 16 bit format and was case sensitive.It also had a limitation of 8 character file length names.

    An older machine could possibly be run on LinuxCNC via a 25 pin plug and the software is free.Not only that,but it can be run from a CD or USB memory stick as a live installation and if you have the manuals for the machine,to help with the calibration,it can be very successful.Having brought the machine to life,it will be necessary to create the program files and I hope the OP isn't going to have to type lines of code manually,but it may be difficult to find a CAM program with a compatible post processor.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2024
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    10

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    It is a 25 pin parallel port connection. What are the work-arounds available without throwing too much money at it?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2024
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    10

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Yeah, I don't seem to have picture posting privileges. The floppy drive is on the old PC that came with it but I think the drive is not working any more. I have experience creating lines of code (semi manual using Excel) and sending them. No manuals unfortunately.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1230

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    As I posted,you can run it from LinuxCNC at zero cost to yourself.It may not be the simplest task you have ever undertaken as you will need to assign functions to enough of the 25 pins to allow the machine to work and if you don't give them the same functions as the original configuration it will not work as the makers intended.This will still be the case if you shy away from Linux and go for the very old and superseded Mach 3 that is so widely spoken about,or any control system other than the original.If you have manuals with details of the connections it might not be a huge job but you need to know pin assignments and the number of steps per unit of travel on each axis.The homing routine moves things on another few steps in the direction of difficulty,whatever control system you wind up with.The good news is that it can all be done,the bad news is that it might not be easy.Then having conquered the technology,you will have a better understanding of your machine than most people.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2024
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    10

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Thanks for the response. Not having the manual leaves me with a lot of permutations for the pin assignment. I'm wondering if this can be done by trial and error without ending up in a cloud of smoke? The number of steps on the other hand sounds reasonably easy by simple measurement. I suppose another possibility is to buy another controller but that would be pricey.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    5742

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    If the old computer still works, you should be able to run it with Mach3, which has a parallel port driver. If you're getting rid of the old controller, I'd suggest getting a Geckorive G-540; the 25-pin cable will go straight into it from the computer.
    Andrew Werby
    Website

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1230

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Quote Originally Posted by Spope View Post
    Thanks for the response. Not having the manual leaves me with a lot of permutations for the pin assignment. I'm wondering if this can be done by trial and error without ending up in a cloud of smoke? The number of steps on the other hand sounds reasonably easy by simple measurement. I suppose another possibility is to buy another controller but that would be pricey.
    If you want to buy another controller,that's your choice but you will still have to trace all the cables and assign pin numbers then deal with calibration.By using LinuxCNC you don't need a new controller as the computer takes over that function and it doesn't have to be a particularly modern or fast computer as the demands aren't that much greater than even a Pentium2 could handle.It does mean adapting to the world of Linux and that seems to terrify some people,which is why it may be a good idea to download a live distro and test it while running from a memory stick-it won't damage or change any computer you try it on.You just need to select a boot sequence that selects the memory stick as the first choice of boot device while testing it.All it takes is a box with a parallel port and they can be bought for very little these days.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    1806

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Being it is a DOS machine, I would imagine there is a config or ini file that would contain all the pinout information. For instance, I still run Turbocnc and all the necessary information is located int he file "Turbocnc.ini". Maybe this will help you.
    Art
    AKA Country Bubba (Older Than Dirt)

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    1573

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    ...try replacing the FDD in the PC and see if, you can get it running.

  12. #12
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    Apr 2024
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    10

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Quote Originally Posted by awerby View Post
    If the old computer still works, you should be able to run it with Mach3, which has a parallel port driver. If you're getting rid of the old controller, I'd suggest getting a Geckorive G-540; the 25-pin cable will go straight into it from the computer.
    I'm trying to get it to work. First off was getting the keyboard repaired as some keys were stuck down. Having fixed that I am now getting an "I/O conflict 378" which I don't understand. I've tried with the controller disconnected and plugged into the parallel port both turned on and off which made no difference.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2024
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    10

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Quote Originally Posted by machinehop5 View Post
    ...try replacing the FDD in the PC and see if, you can get it running.
    First I have to get the PC working! Not sure where to get a working FDD any more and I'm not so hopeful that the data on the floppy disk is still readable even if it can actually spin round ok. I think the program should still be on the harddrive though so I might not need the FDD.

  14. #14
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    Apr 2024
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    10

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba View Post
    Being it is a DOS machine, I would imagine there is a config or ini file that would contain all the pinout information. For instance, I still run Turbocnc and all the necessary information is located int he file "Turbocnc.ini". Maybe this will help you.
    Oh yes that's sounds like a good idea if I can get the PC up and running.

  15. #15
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    Apr 2024
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    10

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Quote Originally Posted by routalot View Post
    If you want to buy another controller,that's your choice but you will still have to trace all the cables and assign pin numbers then deal with calibration.By using LinuxCNC you don't need a new controller as the computer takes over that function and it doesn't have to be a particularly modern or fast computer as the demands aren't that much greater than even a Pentium2 could handle.It does mean adapting to the world of Linux and that seems to terrify some people,which is why it may be a good idea to download a live distro and test it while running from a memory stick-it won't damage or change any computer you try it on.You just need to select a boot sequence that selects the memory stick as the first choice of boot device while testing it.All it takes is a box with a parallel port and they can be bought for very little these days.
    I feel I'm getting out of my depth here! I was thinking a controller that uses something other than the parallel port so I can use a modern PC. I thought the controller provided the power to the motors, how can the computer handle that? What is a box with a USB and parallel port called? What is a "live distro"?

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2024
    Posts
    10

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Quote Originally Posted by awerby View Post
    If the old computer still works, you should be able to run it with Mach3, which has a parallel port driver. If you're getting rid of the old controller, I'd suggest getting a Geckorive G-540; the 25-pin cable will go straight into it from the computer.
    I'm working on getting the old PC up and running, so far stuck with I/O conflict 378.

  17. #17
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    Apr 2004
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    5742

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Andrew Werby
    Website

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
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    1573

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Quote Originally Posted by Spope View Post
    I'm working on getting the old PC up and running, so far stuck with I/O conflict 378.
    ... IF, the bios has been reset I bet you have to change one or more of interrupts to factory settings to fix the conflict...Want ever they were or should be.

    DJ

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1230

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    You are the best judge of your own limits,and it's wise to acknowledge them.It may be easiest to visualise the machine as a similar sort of peripheral to a printer in that the computer will be sending instructions to the separate "box" and the power to that "box" is fed via an internal distribution system to the steppers.That internal distribution system will be telling the control modules when to switch on and off to govern the motion.You can't put much power from a computer to anything on the other end of a cable with a 25 pin plug on either end,from memory it may well be 15 volts max.I wish you well with dealing with a DOS based system at this point in time,I've certainly forgotten almost all of the little I ever knew of it.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2024
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    10

    Re: Resurrecting old hobby CNC from the 90s

    Thanks for all the responses and sorry for the late reply. Truth is I found the replies quite daunting and so I redoubled my efforts to get the software running. After repeated attempts I finally managed to get the exe file off the floppy disk and on to the harddrive. Once that was accomplished and DOS commands jogged from memory I managed to get it all running, well almost all. There's also a rotating axis which can run on one of the one of the three axises and which I think I'll wait a bit with. The DOS program is all in German which doesn't help a lot also the screen flickers annoyingly on parallel sets of lines.

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