Sunday, February 21, 2010

CNC Machine Simulator

The two Osborne 1 computers we were using in engineering were getting a bit worn, so Bob sprung for some Kaypro computers. I don't think they appeared all at once but soon enough we had two Kaypro II machines and one Kaypro 10. The Kaypro II's were similar to the Osbornes but with bigger screens. Now we had 80 columns of bright green text. The Kaypro 10 also had a built in 10MB hard drive.

One really important difference with these new machines is that they had block graphics characters, and you could plot lines and points. This wasn't high resolution but it was good enough to inspire me to write a simple interpreter for the CNC programming language. Remember how I tried to write a programmable calculator program for my VIC-20 but never finished it? This interpreter was the realization of ideas that I'd been kicking around for a while. I wrote this as an extension of the machining text editor in MBASIC.

Now we could run a rough simulation of how a routing or drilling program would work and see the result on the screen. There was no fine detail, but it was easy to see if we accidentally drilled outside the board, or if a panel would be ruined by an accidentally placed cut. This certainly saved time and money because we were able now to make fewer first pieces so the single head Excellon machine and it's operator were more efficient.

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