CNC milling machine - failed hard drive

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Apr 7, 2019
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VA
I'm actually quite surprised that it has lasted as long that it has but the bad thing is we've been talking about backing it up and creating an image of it but very little down time and also didn't want me to mess with it, old school thought is if it's up and running let it be.... yeah well now it's came back to bite us in the rear. I have been in contact with the company who makes the control software and they do have their own web forum but sometimes moves fairly slow and takes a few days before anyone responds. I do have good news, he said they can create a disk for me ready to put in the machine once I get it up and working again they can just send it, we haven't talked about money yet but when you call them on the phone you have to give them your card information before they will even speak with you.

Basically we have 2 options, I can replace the drive with a ide to cf card reader which is what they used in later years, now they actually make ide ssd drives but are a bit costly. The 2nd option is to upgrade the PC with a newer unit that can run their newer software and runs off Linux, I like this one the best as we have newer machines and the compatibility is only one way meaning I can take from the old and copy them into the newer machines but I cannot go backwards, every new release they tweak and make updates that the older one simply gets confused and won't run, I haven't tried just programs with line moves but if it's using cutter comp that's what really gets it., basically all cutter comp is if you're standing behind the cutter which side of the part is the tool on, it's either offset to the left or to the right so it knows to move 1/2 the cutter over.

Awhile back I posted and had an issue with one of the other machines and I ended up replacing the PSU and the motherboard. The ones they used were not very good, I know that we've sent the unit back for repair once and I've at least replaced it twice since, the last two times I remember it being due to failed capacitors so I am refusing to keep using those boards but have found a solution, a newer AM2 K8M800 board, I can't speak for the longevity of this one but it's a huge upgrade and a lot newer, went from socket 754 all the way up to this, our other machine I believe is 939 but luckily I haven't had to work on that one near as much. I thought I could get another AM2 board but the controller card is 16 bit isa as it's a 486 computer, I asked them if replacing the controller card with a newer pci version would work with the rest of the machine but he didn't answer that question and came back and recommended another board that actually had a 16 bit slot and can run their newer software so I'm guessing the newer card will not work with the control, servo motors, etc of this machine.... I'm sure that other boards will work but they are only recommending the ones they have experience with.

I've been having trouble locating it over here but did find a Soyo board with the same chipset and searching around I found a website of a company that provides repair work on these machines and actually had descriptions and pictures of boards that were used in them, they showed both the MSI and Soyo boards, evidently they started using the Soyo's at the end when the MSI reached end of production. I found another page on Centroid's website that lists known problems, basically TSB's, the Soyo needs an adapter that will allow it to power on when the machine receives power, the bios option to restore power with AC is restored basically does not work or either sometimes does. I do know of a workaround for that, one of the machines they spliced the two wires together on the PSU so it stays powered on all the time, you cannot rely on the bios all the time especially when the battery fails you have to replace it and then go back into the bios and reconfigure it again, by default they lock them down with a password but is easily reset, and you have to keep fiddling around just to get it to boot which is trial and error figuring out what they had done.

I ended up ordering the MSI board from overseas... there is nothing over here except that one Soyo board, evidently in their time they actually made decent boards but are now defunct which is why I went with the MSI, I found Biostar had an option but there again no luck and didn't want to go down that rabbit hole again, I've already wasted enough time on this as it is. I'm hoping they will ship it soon, it might've been a canned response but they wanted me to show pictures of the board so I sent the one from that website.

I don't know if the board comes with a cpu or not, they showed pictures with and without it, even if it does they don't say what it is so I found another website with a PIII 1.4ghz socket 370 that should work and was 1/2 the cost of others on eBay. I don't know what's happened, pre- you could find this stuff about everywhere but I don't know where the supply has gone and prices are now through the roof, the memory was easy enough to find, I ordered 2x Crucial 512mb pc133 168 pin sticks, unbuffered, non-ecc and everything I found shows this type of memory and supports 1gb ram. The host operating system is Cnclinux and the specs show 1.2ghz cpu but you may be able to get by with less but the machine may have trouble keeping up with the motors, I guess being able to process the data accordingly keeping up with it.
 
There are modern boards with ISA slots, a modern fast CPU, DDR3 RAM and SATA drives. It seems that one of those could run your existing ISA machine card with either OS depending on your need to use legacy software. Don't buy an antique motherboard.
 
There are modern boards with ISA slots, a modern fast CPU, DDR3 RAM and SATA drives. It seems that one of those could run your existing ISA machine card with either OS depending on your need to use legacy software. Don't buy an antique motherboard.
It needs to be micro-atx, I have found other boards but they were all ATX and are way too cost prohibitive, several hundered dollars worth just for the board. I didn't know when they stopped including isa slots but read Gateway had one in the early 2000's. I haven't taken pictures of the PC but space is limited inside the cabinet in which the whole tower fits inside. I need to take measurements so I know what to look for when ordering a new case but the current one is a mid-tower and most ATX style cases are huge. Here is a picture of the actual machine, the blue box is the cabinet and there's a lot other stuff inside mostly electrical. I believe this machine is from circa 1996 so it's rather old. From looking at the picture I'd say the computer sits in the upper 1/3 of the cabinet. Luckily we now have 3 other cnc milling machines but this one is definitely a loss. Also I have been finding other boards but most won't support the faster cpu's or the amount of memory that is needed. I've dealt with socket 370 in the past and there was what I would call a revision change, the earlier stuff isn't compatible with the latter.
 
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There are also machines/slots that will automatically provide an image during use. It's a two drive system, one primary and one backup. Adapt this idea to a couple M.2 sticks and you have a winner. Linux has been extremely stable for me, but most businesses still use MS.
 
I've been working with someone on their forum and he has been very helpful, said that he would create a disk for me with the CNC Linux that would work for $495, he is currently doing a retrofit and wouldn't be able to do it until into Nov. I ended up sourcing off eBay the board he recommended and is one that Centroid has used in the past and I finally built the system. I was able to finally get in touch with Centroid after several calls and emails of no response but did talk to a nice lady and created an RMA for me and to ship the failed drive out so it's now in their hands but I still don't know what they are really going to do, she wanted the drive so they could try getting the configuration files and the programs from it and we'll go from there.

I've brought the PC home to test it more since building and I've been trying to install various versions of Ubuntu, Puppy Linux, etc... just to be able to test and make sure everything works but nothing I've thrown at it even works, I was able to get into a live version of Ubuntu only once. I found it had an onboard USB header but was 2x rows of 5 pins, it's the older 1.1 type and has an extra ground that isn't used today. I was able to get a cable from Amazon and repin it, I really wanted to test that out too, there is an option in the bios to boot from USB but none of the drives I've tried will even boot, I found software called Plop Boot Manager that allows you to boot from CD then select USB boot that it does work but only on the front port, however using the rear won't boot, at least this way I can stop wasting CDs and just keep using the flash drive but at least now I know the front panel does in fact work.

I found another disc I had used before obvious for troubleshooting another PC, it was a Ubuntu CD but had memtest x86 so I've been running that since yesterday and it showed errors out the wazoo so I finally powered it off and removed one stick of memory and testing again. That's the problem with getting used parts, right now I'm hoping that only one chip is bad and not the board, I can replace the one that failed later.

Evidently the company just had some turnover and has a new group of people in their support dept. I even offered to ship them the PC that I built so they could do it themselves but she said that I'd have better luck getting a disk from them and the computer would just sit on the shelf that they wouldn't really know what to do with it.
 
Running memtest86 fails when both sticks are installed but passes when there is only one installed in either slot. I ordered another set of memory off eBay but right now chances are slim that it's the memory and looking more like that it's the memory controller itself. When using one stick the system operates normally, I've been able to install different flavors of Ubuntu with ease albeit rather slowly due to the USB 1.1 interface and I think that the CD drive would almost have to be faster overall but limited to using a 700mb disc, however the main advantage of the flash drive is that it doesn't speed up or slow down like the cd-rom drive and the transfer speed stays pretty much the same. From the research that I've done if they give me the older software that I've asked for it should run on 512mb, 1gb is obviously a lot better, it runs the Centroid software but it's not like an actual GUI such as Windows, Gnome, KDE, Unity, etc...

So I'm looking at running it with 512mb and then ordering another board later to keep as a spare just in case. I've kinda seen this before but the actual memory stick or the slot was bad, I haven't seen it where both test good by themselves but then fail when together, when the other memory gets here I can test it again.
 
Running memtest86 fails when both sticks are installed but passes when there is only one installed in either slot. I ordered another set of memory off eBay but right now chances are slim that it's the memory and looking more like that it's the memory controller itself. When using one stick the system operates normally, I've been able to install different flavors of Ubuntu with ease albeit rather slowly due to the USB 1.1 interface and I think that the CD drive would almost have to be faster overall but limited to using a 700mb disc, however the main advantage of the flash drive is that it doesn't speed up or slow down like the cd-rom drive and the transfer speed stays pretty much the same. From the research that I've done if they give me the older software that I've asked for it should run on 512mb, 1gb is obviously a lot better, it runs the Centroid software but it's not like an actual GUI such as Windows, Gnome, KDE, Unity, etc...

So I'm looking at running it with 512mb and then ordering another board later to keep as a spare just in case. I've kinda seen this before but the actual memory stick or the slot was bad, I haven't seen it where both test good by themselves but then fail when together, when the other memory gets here I can test it again.
Stupid question: Are the sticks matched?
 
Stupid question: Are the sticks matched?
Not stupid but yes they both have Crucial labels and same part numbers, it's non-ecc and I downloaded the manual for the board and doesn't say anything about it needing to be ecc type memory and just says single or double sided unbuffered 168 pin 3.3v, 64mb to 512mb and up to 1gb max in size, pc100 or pc133.
 
Not stupid but yes they both have Crucial labels and same part numbers, it's non-ecc and I downloaded the manual for the board and doesn't say anything about it needing to be ecc type memory and just says single or double sided unbuffered 168 pin 3.3v, 64mb to 512mb and up to 1gb max in size, pc100 or pc133.
OK, just making sure, sometimes these older boards didn't like unmatched sticks, that's why I asked :)
 
Modify the case situation to make a motherboard that can be bought new fit. The physical form factor is less important than not using antique parts.
 
Thought I would update this thread, I have other memory but haven't had a chance to test it again. I've sent the drive to Centroid to see if they could get the programs/files and they were able to retrieve some programs but evidently not the configuration files that were needed. The other person I've chatted with says he has some of the configurations from machines that are from that era and wanted the serial number from the control and can make the disk that's needed, also said that everything else could be done via email.

Centroid did say they could make me the disk that's needed but with no configuration files or guarantees that it will work so I'm thinking of cutting them short and pay them for what they've done thus far but then work with this other guy to get it up and working again.

I don't think I would need it as the other machines don't have it but I did order a dvd drive that I'm going to install, I figured it was cheap insurance if I ever needed to boot a live cd for troubleshooting, the board itself I can't make it boot from usb, it shows it in the bios but it's just not an option when you try to select it. I found a program that boots off the cd that will load the usb drivers so you can boot from it, not the best solution but does work, honestly I'd probably just burn some discs that I could keep in my toolbox to use if needed because the usb 1.1 is beyond slower than slow and it's even slower than that.

Just messing around with it in Linux I was able to use a Linksys usb 100mb ethernet adapter just to connect to the internet.
 
This machine is finally repaired. Centroid didn't give me anything from the old drive in the way of our programs but the guy I was dealing with had them make a disk for me of the newer software and he put a configuration on there from another 1996 Supermax YCM-40 for me that should work but I still had to change them around a bit for some reason. For starters it wasn't homing out in the right direction, meaning the table was moving the other direction. I'm guessing all cnc's are like this, when you first power it on when you home out the machine it moves the table to the limit switches so it can figure out where it's physically at and in the configuration it has set parameters so it knows how many inches it can go for each axis. He had the X axis set for 28.7" which is most likely correct for a perfect machine but we've actually shortened it up so we don't have the full travel of the table, we've had a problem underneath with a metal cover that's spring loaded, it's a lot like a slinky just not as flexible, it goes out with the table but as the table moves back in the cover it compresses again, it more/less just keeps the dirt from getting into the ballscrew, if the table extends too far out then it falls and is a huge pain to get it back into place so our fix is to not run the table that far out and it's never a problem.

The biggest advantages now is I can copy programs to/from the other machines, this one was Dos based and ran a much older version of their software so I could copy to the newer machines but not back to this old one, another benefit is I repinned the USB header so I have a working port on the front of the machine, I won't have to keep using my USB floppy disk from now on. I've been using the USB port quite a bit over the last 2 days and I can't believe it, so much easier to deal with, most times with the floppy the disk wouldn't even recognize it so I'd have to take it to a Win7 machine and reformat the disk and then it would work, I never figured that one out but it was a given that I'd have to end up doing it.

We haven't used the machine yet, I ordered a mini-din to 5 pin adapter, the keyboard on this thing is terrible and double hits a lot and is the old AT style, the new system has both ps/2 and usb ports so I've ordered a keyboard so we can just replace it with someting that's more standard, just need to find a way to mount it somewhere.
 
Wanted to give another update, the guy I've been dealing with has been super helpful. We still haven't used it, waiting for the keyboard to come from Amazon next week. Another tech replaced the VFD, our old one bit the dust and basically overheated itself and fried, the replacement is a used unit and was configured for a different machine. I'm receiving a module from him that's pnp that has buttons and an LCD so I'll be able to configure it, said he wouldn't charge us for it only have to pay shipping for it. I looked on eBay and found one, they want $50 so it's a steal, just something he had lying around.

The unit we have is older and has a connector with pins that takes a special device to connect and program it. The machine works but wonky with it not being configured properly, we have to program the tools 2.5x for them to run at speed and it takes a long time to get up to speed and slow down. He sent me a manual for the unit so hoping I can get it, basically all gibberish to me and might as well be a foreign language.

I was able to get him to make me an update for it that disables the brake at startup, it's not something we really use, it's air operated so when the tool stops running it applies the brake and is rather harsh, really you only gain a few seconds with it so we just let the tool stop on it's own, about the only time we ever use it is when we have a tool that tightens up from the bottom such as a slitting saw or a gear cutter, we can apply the brake to hold the spindle from turning.

We also figured out why the table was running backwards, the configuration he gave me was from a machine that has the X axis motor on the other side of the machine, ours has a ball screw and they mounted them on the other side, wasn't that big of a deal and he did tell me there might be some changes, really just wasted time troubleshooting is all.
 
I'm still working with the guy, we did finally resolve the brake issue. This machine has a brake that when you turn on the machine it's always enabled and is air operated but is a bit harsh so we always turn it off. I asked him if he could create an update for me that disables it on startup which he was able to do but ended not having everything correct because the brake was automatically enabling itself when running the spindle on manual mode so it was actually worse than before. He got back to me but I needed to copy a file over which was easy enough but also had to run a command from the terminal but I didn't know how to access it.... so anyways he got back to me again and it's Alt-F6 that will open the terminal but also sent me another update that was fixed, evidently there was something incorrect in the other one as it wasn't funtioning properly but it's been resolved now.
 
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