- Councillor Hamann: Have you ever been to the engineering level? I love to walk there at night, it’s quite amazing. Would you like to see it?
- Neo: Sure.
- Councillor Hamann: Almost no one comes down here, unless, of course, there’s a problem. That’s how it is with people – nobody cares how it works as long as it works. I like it down here. I like to be reminded this city survives because of these machines. … Of course… that’s it. You hit it! That’s control, isn’t it? If we wanted, we could smash them to bits. Although if we did, we’d have to consider what would happen to our lights, our heat, our air. … There is so much in this world that I do not understand. See that machine? It has something to do with recycling our water supply. I have absolutely no idea how it works.
Beering after work yesterday, someone mentioned the guts of an oldie-but-goodie Ozo router (company no longer exists) sitting in the lab, and how nice it would be to get this up and running again. (For our propellerheads out there, I’m not talking about e.g. a Linksys box for computery things. This type of router is a big industrial CNC machine consisting of a high-RPM drill spindle and Z stepper, and a big motorized table that can move in the X and Y directions. Feed it a block of plastic/wood/metal and a design file, and it turns out a complex machined part.)
Anyway, pretty much every project I’m currently involved with at work is stalled for one reason or another, including vendor douches who won’t return my calls*, fights with everyone’s favorite circuit board house (PCB Nazi Express–to be documented soon), TPOCs who only check their voicemail every six months, etc.–and let’s be honest, the idea of having a huge part-making machine at my disposal is really nifty–so today I got curious and started researching. Venturing into the dark and cobweb-infested corners of our storage area, I find we have THREE of these defunct machines, all missing the same critical component** (and then some). Turns out the production lab, who has two such routers (both working), have been slowly scavenging parts from these to keep theirs running. That works great, say, the first three times you need to replace a funky driver board (or six limit switches, whichever comes first).
It did kind of surprise me a little that the one pair of machines necessary to manufacture the only product the company sells in quantity (i.e. what brings in the $)…have no hot spares. Okay, forget a hot spare (these are large machines, after all), but not even the necessary parts to fix one if it goes. As CC explained, if one of these breaks down we’re kinda fucked.
(Expect a detailed HOWTO if I ever get around to hacking one of these things back to workingness. Plan so far is to gut most of the onboard electronics and command the steppers directly from a standard parallel port using EMC2.)
* “You’re from a 20-person SBIR company that hasn’t had a commercially produced electronic product in over a decade, and you want to buy ONE lousy part? Yeah, I’ll get right on that.”
** The missing piece is a funky old discontinued ISA card for old IBM XTs between about 8MHz to an upper limit of about 33MHz. This card actually has a jumper wire to tie into the PC SPEAKER pin on the motherboard; the DOS program that runs the router does some interrupt twiddling and uses the speaker frequency to control the spindle speed. I swear I heard “…in the ghett-o!…” upon discovering this. (More) sadly, since it looks exactly like an old ISA printer port card, they and the dusty old 286es housing them have been doubtless thrown away years ago in some routine lab / storage room cleaning.