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  1. #1
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    Plasmacam PC requirements

    I am considering a Plasmacam purchase. I'm a hobbiest.

    I got the DVD and brochure from them, and see that the PC requirements are, essentially, out dated. Windows systems that are years out of date and unobtainable new, as well as a parallel port that most PC's no longer come with.

    I can cobble something together, but my concern is what this says about the company. Are they not dedicated to keeping up to date? What happens 10 years from now when it's impossible to meet those requirements? Are they a company on the way out?

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
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    Re: Plasmacam PC requirements

    While you make a very good point, about keeping up with technology, what I would gather from that information is two things: Either they haven't updated their literature or that the software has minimal CPU/memory requirements (or both). A parallel to USB converter is easy to obtain. A better question would be to ask them if it runs on Windows 10, 8.1 or 7.
    While I understand that this is likely to be a hobby machine, most industrial plasma systems don't live beyond 15 years (MAX) without some major form of upgrade.

  3. #3
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    Re: Plasmacam PC requirements

    a lot of PC boards have an LPT1 port - it's a 26 pin dual row pin header on the motherboard - you just have to locate the pins - get a parallel port bracket - and possibly enter BIOS setup to enable/configure the port - usually you'd press DEL or F2 when booting up to enter BIOS setup - if you see LPT options in BIOS setup then there's a good chance the motherboard will have an LPT port

    Attachment 344690 Attachment 344692 Attachment 344694
    www.signtorch.com

  4. #4
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    Re: Plasmacam PC requirements

    I have spoken with them. You cannot use a USB/Parallel port converter. You have to use a parallel port. Sure, you can add a board to your pc, and perhaps that may still be an option 10 years from now, but the operating system will no longer be supported and their current literature says it is only supported to Windows 7. When I called them, they told me that this was the reason that I should buy a "special" computer from them, as they know it is difficult to buy a PC with these requirements now.

    It is inexcusable that they do not update to a technology (USB) that has been around for years now and is the industry standard, as well as ensure that their software is comparable with the latest Windows release.

    I understand this is a low end system pricewise - but they know they are selling to a population who can't spend 50-100K on a more professional system - and thus intend to use their machine for as long as possible.

  5. #5
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    Re: Plasmacam PC requirements

    There is actually a very solid method behind the madness on this one.

    It is always important to remember that there are usually good reasons for why things are the way there are. And in this case it really has nothing to do with using something that may be perceived as out dated, old or obsolete just because this interface may no longer not used on a consumer level printer from Walmart that costs $29.99 anymore. Using a parallel interface as opposed to something else, probably has more to do with reliability and its ability to function better in shop environments more than “keeping up with technology (and its relation to cost of course).

    I can guarantee to you with 100% certainty that it’s basically a colossal waste of time and brainpower to even worry about something as simple as this even for a minute.

    If needed you can also alleviate all of your concerns by just calling plasmacam directly.. If you do you’ll find that you have some very convenient and inexpensive options for to work with. Plasmacam even offers a brand new PC with Windows 10 that has everything that you need for connecting to the machine. If you want to use your own PC, then there is an outfit that plasmacam recommends exactey where to buy a parallel port card from that is not only optimal for use with the system, but also can be installed very easily and quickly in the back of virtually any desktop computer system.

    There is absolutely NOTHING to worry about on this one fellas!


    As long encoders, servo motors, ultra sound machines, and plasma cams exist as well as other types of equipment (that Wal-Mart and target may not sell) that heavily rely on this interface method, they will making parallel interfaces and solutions for them with no end in sight.


    Also, keep in mind that there are several reasons why parallel ports are preferred in this application over others.

    First, the plasmacam uses servomotors on their x- and y-axis with encoder feedback system for accurate positioning & contouring.

    These motors drives require bi-directional communications simultaneously. This is why higher end pieces of robotic equipment are usually never controlled with something as crappy as a USB cable.

    MOST USB interfaces found on consumer electronics will not communicate bi-directionally like a parallel port will.

    The ability for the computer to be able to simultaneous communicate with the plasmacam machine via the parallel interface is a big reason why plasmacam systems are much more efficient cutting machines VS a lot of the other junk on the market that uses much less capable stepper motor system.

    This type of bidirectional communication basically enables something called a “closed loop feedback system” allows the Plasmacam Cuttign System to effectively communicates to the PC and for example if the cutting head contacts an obstacle that causes the table to bind or a the motor to slip, or any other disaster, the machine will stop automatically and safely.

    Actually, you may not realize it but this “old” type of interface is actually a huge reason why plasmacam’s are so user friendly and automated compared to many other USB junk machines that are very disaster prone.

    Truthfully, the parallel port is usually given a bad rap primarily by the ignorant and others who have absolutely no clue. I have consistently found that most that complain about the use of the parallel port on the plascamcam, actually think that something like a USB used to charge a cell phone is would some how be an upgrade to a machine like the plasmacam.

    This where you ask that person what the letters in USB stands for? And secondly have them explain why they think that a USB would be better an upgrade to the plasmacam. AND the truth is that?….They have no absolutely no idea.

    Another reason why many of the common interface methods and technologies (such as Firewire, Ethernet, and USB) would not be desirable this machines is that they actually communicate and operate on substantially higher frequency signals and are way typically much more susceptible (vs. a parallel interface) to EMI (electromagnetic interference). In other words, something like a USB would be highly unreliable because in most shops other equipment exists that would create noise interference. A USB would be a total down grade, not an upgrade for a system like this!

    Lastly, people also need to be very aware that not all parallel ports and cables are the same. Virtually all USB-parallel interfaces a are a complete disaster and will not work (Because you are virtually bottlenecking the communication at the USB interface and they also tend to lack the required voltages that are required communicate effectively with the plasmacam.
    Better parallel port adapter ports usually operate at higher I recommend the dual voltage ports that runs at 5.5/3.3. For the parallel cable, it is essential that you get one that is IEEE 1284 complaint. IEEE 1284 is a standard that defines bi-directional parallel communications between computers and other peripheral devices. Anything else will not very work well.

    I also highly recommend that newer machines owners cut to the chase and just go to the horse’s mouth and ask some questions! Just simply pick up the phone and call plasmacam and they will tell you exactly what your options are and what the best thing to do for your situation would be.
    JAG

  6. #6
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    Re: Plasmacam PC requirements

    "This where you ask that person what the letters in USB stands for? And secondly have them explain why they think that a USB would be better an upgrade to the plasmacam. AND the truth is that?….They have no absolutely no idea. "
    Universal Serial Bus. The current standard is 3.1. Generation 2 with a throughput of 10Gb/s.Max power is 20 Volts @ 5 amps. Thunderbolt is at 40Gb/s.Bidirectional
    " Why would this be a better upgrade to Plasma cam?" Simply put, laptops. Smaller footprint, easily acquired.


    Some reference information for you:
    USB.org - SuperSpeed USB
    Everything You Want To Know About USB 3.1 And Type-C | Digital Trends
    https://www.cnet.com/how-to/usb-type...nect-them-all/

    "Another reason why many of the common interface methods and technologies (such as Firewire, Ethernet, and USB) would not be desirable this machines is that they actually communicate and operate on substantially higher frequency signals and are way typically much more susceptible (vs. a parallel interface) to EMI (electromagnetic interference). In other words, something like a USB would be highly unreliable because in most shops other equipment exists that would create noise interference. A USB would be a total down grade, not an upgrade for a system like this!"

    So Messer, ESAB, Koike and Hypertherm using Ethercat and ethernet interfaces are failures related to EMI? You may want to rethink that one.
    As for other shop equipment creating an EMI environment, the only one that comes to mind MIGHT be a TIG welder running right next to the plasma cutter.And that would create a problem for a parallel port interface as well.
    Parallel port technology has not been natively supported in Windows Operating systems since Windows XP. Yes, you can add a parallel port card in a desktop with third party drivers, not so easily accomplished in a laptop.

  7. #7
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    Re: Plasmacam PC requirements

    I know you know what a USB stands for!!

    I was actually referring to experiences I have had outside of the internet communities with those love to give their 2 cents about technology related issues, yet at the same time may have issues attempting to attach a pdf document to an email.

    But on another note: Hypetherm, messer koike aronson and other systems of that caliber utilize ethernet platform is a bit different than your home office Ethernet. Industrial Ethernet is a solution for many pc based CNC controls, but it does requires additional considerations that are not seen in your typical Ethernet configurations that are used in an home/office setting.

    Just think about it:

    Is not true that most pieces of industrial equipment are exposed extreme temperature ranges? Lots of movement? Vibrations? and other types of noises and movements given the nature of their environment? Are these, much more expensive systems, typically connected to a $250 DELL from Wal-Mart that utilize the same Ethernet config that I connect my wireless router at home with? (not typically)

    One of the really great things about the plasmacam machine is its simplicity, + effectiveness and ease of use. Something as simple yet as effective as this machine is very rare in the CNC world. A cheap run of the mill regular desktop PC with an inexpensive parallel port is something that you can connect to a plasmacam system to and it not only works, but it works better than a ton of other machines that are out there that are even more expensive.

    If it breaks it can be replaced for a few hundred dollars at most. This is never the case with these other machines that you mention. These machine are not only VERY EXPENSIVE for most of the population that could otherwise easily afford a plasmacam, but also cost a lot more to repair if absolutely anything goes wrong.

    On a Koike, messer ect…Do you think that they can run off of the same Dell Optiplex and Ethernet cable that can be found in your insurance office or in a average Joes basement?... if so, then why would you imagine that you are typically seeing tens of thousands of dollars for upgrades and repairs to the PC based control on these machines that are being comparing to the plasmacam?

    People still have plasmacam machines that can be seen in operation that were purchased back in 1998. Part of this is because many of the replacement parts that may be needed years down the road are not very expensive to replace compared to other pieces of equipment.

    The Koikes and the Messers cutting systems of the world are totally different animals than the plasmacam and they serve different purposes for vastly different budgets!

    For under $10K, most people with minimal skills and a shoestring budget can be in business from one day to the next with a plasmacam. .

    But A new koike- Arronson or Messer costing under $$$ five digits $$ new, that my wife could easily use without thinking twice?

    I personally have not seen one yet.

    If there were anything as effective, and as affordable and as easy to use as my plasmacam system, I and others would be using it.....Plain and simple.

  8. #8
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    Apr 2021
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    Re: Plasmacam PC requirements

    Quote Originally Posted by dannirr View Post
    I am considering a Plasmacam purchase. I'm a hobbiest.

    I got the DVD and brochure from them, and see that the PC requirements are, essentially, out dated. Windows systems that are years out of date and unobtainable new, as well as a parallel port that most PC's no longer come with WhatsApp Plus.

    I can cobble something together, but my concern is what this says about the company. Are they not dedicated to keeping up to date? What happens 10 years from now when it's impossible to meet those requirements? Are they a company on the way out?

    Any thoughts?
    We have an old DHC model at the shop. It's usually the plug on the controller or the cable itself not making good contact, try wiggling it around and hit initialize machine. Sometimes takes a few tries. Contact cleaner and dielectric grease helps too. I'm about to replace the connector on ours, or just direct solder the cable. I recently mounted the controller to the wall instead of the machine...vibrations have not been kind to that dinosaur of a printer cable connector over the past 16 years.

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