To help address your questions or diagnose a problem please review the user guides, FAQs, and application notes below to answer the most common issues and their solutions. After three decades of customer engagements, we have seen all types of issues and can typically fix them using our documents below however if you need help or have additional questions, simply complete a support request and we will get back with you shortly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Licensing & Support:
Q: What does your PC-DNC Editor software do?
A: PC-DNC Editor is a full-function G-code Editor for Windows. You can open text files and edit them with a wide variety of “made for CNC” functions, like part rotation, mirroring, Inch/metric conversion, re-sequencing, file compression, part scaling, spline-curve fitting, etc. PC-DNC Editor also lets you transmit or receive files through your computer’s RS-232 serial port. You can try it for free for 30 days. Just use this link to download it here.
Q: What does PC-DNC Plus software do?
A: PC-DNC Plus lets you connect many CNC machines to your computer (up to 255), using multi-port serial boxes or wireless serial devices. The software then “listens” to all those ports simultaneously, and responds to “remote” commands from the CNCs. CNC operators can then request files, monitor the machine’s cycles, send edited files back for storage, etc. All without touching the computer that PC-DNC Plus is running on. You can also manually control the system from the PC side by queuing files, editing files or receiving files without using remote commands from the CNC.
When the CNC operator wants to save a file on the DNC system, he just sends the file. PC-DNC Plus sees the program ID (O-number or any other text), and stores the file in the machine’s “receive” folder.
PC-DNC Plus is a Windows application, and it can be “minimized” to the Windows task bar while other programs are running on the same PC. A free 30-day demo of PC-DNC Plus is available to download here.
Q: What is a file “Queue”
A: A queue is just a list of file that are waiting to be transmitted in sequence. If there’s a file in a machine’s queue, all the CNC operator needs to do is press the READ or INPUT buttons on his CNC control and the file is downloaded to the CNC memory.
A “remote” command can be used to place one file on the top of the queue, or you can request a bunch of files to be placed in the queue in sequence. The one on the “Top” of the queue is transmitted first, then all the others move up in the queue list. When the queue is empty, PC-DNC Plus does not respond to the READ or INPUT buttons on the CNC. If you want to change the order of files in the queue, there are “queue editing” buttons on the PC-DNC Plus task bar.
Q: What is PC-DNC Pro?
A: PC-DNC Pro does most of the same things that PC-DNC Plus does, but it runs under Windows as a service. The user interface is a bit newer than PC-DNC Plus, but since PC-DNC Pro is a service, it needs the User Interface (UI) to really be a “Client” application. The Client can be run on any PC on your network, and can also be closed. The PC-DNC Pro service continues to operate invisibly on a server PC.
Q: How does a “remote command” work?
A: PC-DNC Plus can be configured to use many special “remote commands”. One of these commands lets the CNC operator “request” a file from the DNC system. For example, the operator can create a 1-block long file in the CNCs memory with a “request” string, followed by a file name. Let’s say the operator wants to download a program file called “A-306 op3.txt”. The operator would make a short “dummy” program in the CNCs memory (Say file O1234) like so:
O1234 (SEND-A-306 OP3.TXT);
The operator then transmits this short file to the DNC system, and the system responds to the pre-programmed command “SEND-“. The DNC system would then automatically queue up the file “A-306.OP3.TXT” and get it ready to send back to the CNC. The operator then presses the READ button on the CNC to download the file.
Q: What if the CNC operator sends a program to the system that already exists in the receive folder?
A: PC-DNC Plus and Pro have an “Auto file rename” function that adds revision numbers to the file names. The first received file might be “FILEXYZ.TXT”. The second file would be “FILEXYZ(REV.1).TXT” with the revision number incrementing each time. You can also set it up to just add a “.BAK” extension to the older file, and keep the .TXT extension on the newer file. If you turn this feature off, the older files ARE overwritten.
Q: What is a PC-DNC Plus or PC-DNC Pro Client?
A: A client is a bit of software that can be loaded on any PC on your network. The PC-DNC Client looks exactly like the PC-DNC Plus Server software, but it’s just the “Front-end” or User interface (UI). A Client automatically “connects” with the PC-DNC Plus Server over your network, and will let you manually operate the software just as if you were at the Server PC. You can have many Clients on a PC-DNC Plus system, which means you can have many PCs in your shop with direct access to the PC-DNC Plus system. Clients are a licensed option, and you can purchase as many clients as you need. A client license is a “floating” license, so you could have a license for 5 clients on your system that lets up to 5 other PCs connect at one time. If someone tries to connect with a 6th Client, the connection will fail until one of the other 5 Clients disconnects. Clients can be started and stopped at any time without affecting the PC-DNC Plus Server, which must run at all times for the system to be active. Each copy of the PC-DNC Plus Client contains a bundled copy of our PC-DNC Editor.
Q: How does the PC-DNC Plus machine monitoring feature work?
A: PC-DNC Plus can “listen” for a wide variety of commands from the CNC control. If your CNC has a feature called “User Macro”, then you can insert a “Cycle start” remote command or a “Cycle finish” remote command in your part program. Every time you run that part, PC-DNC Plus will receive these commands and will time-stamp them in a special file called “Monitor data for (machine name)” This file can then be analyzed to provide you with a part count along with a lot of other information, such as average part cycle time, average load (idle) time, along with a bar graph showing machine activity, such as idle time for lunches and breaks, setup time, etc.
For machines that don’t have the “User macro” option, PC-DNC Plus can monitor in the “Drip-feed” mode, it can monitor the status of one of the unused RS-232 “handshake” signals with a relay on the CNC, or it can also support the Haas monitoring feature.
Q: Can I “drip-feed” long files with PC-DNC Plus?
A: Yes. If your CNC control is capable of drip-feeding long files through the serial port, you can set up PC-DNC Plus to send the same file over and over until you tell it to stop.
Q: Will PC-DNC Plus, PC-DNC Pro, and PC-DNC Editor run on a “virtual” machine?
A: Yes, so far we have not had any issues running these programs on a virtual machine.
Q: I have older CNC machines. Some have serial ports, some do not. What do I do?
A: Well, the CNC controls with serial ports are not a problem, but older NC and CNC controls that only have paper tape readers can be fitted with a “BTR” board for about $1500. Those boards are commercially available from several companies, and we can recommend one that works well with PC-DNC Plus.
Q: If I put a PC-DNC Plus Server or Client on my shop floor, is there any operator security system?
A: Yes. Besides the usual Windows network security, PC-DNC Plus has a built-in operator security system. Users can log on with a username and password that give that user only certain specified access to machines on the PC-DNC Plus system or to I/O and configuration functions on the system. A universal “administrator” can do anything, but user “JOE” might be limited to only certain functions on certain machines. Users who log on will be automatically logged off if there is no system activity within a specified time period.
Q: My Mazak machines use a weird “binary” file. Can PC-DNC Plus or Editor handle them?
A: Yes, but the Mazak CMT files (it means “Cassette Magnetic Tape”) are not actually binary. They contain normal ASCII characters, but denote hexadecimal numbers (0 to 9 and A to F) and are saved in 128 byte “words” PC-DNC Plus and PC-DNC Editor can send or receive them, but with this one caveat: Files saved by other “brand X” systems may not have the same file format on the PC. There is no standardization, so files saved by another method may not be usable by PC-DNC Plus or Editor.
Many Mazaks, however, can also use “TAPE I/O”, which is a normal ASCII program saved in G-code format. Those are no problem at all.
Q: My shop does a lot of mold work and the programs are huge. What do I do?
A: You can “drip-feed” huge programs with PC-DNC Plus, but the important question is HOW FAST does the data need to be transmitted. A huge file might be needed for a long program, but the CNC may simply be cutting a large file at a slow rate. But if you’re cutting molds, you might need to pass data to the CNC at a very high rate to maintain high federates with point-to-point motions where the points are very close together. For these types of applications, an Ethernet connection between the CNC and your network is the best choice. Serial communications would be too slow for high-speed mold cutting. See what kind of Ethernet connection your CNC vendor offers, because they’re not all the same. Some CNC vendors require proprietary software for the Ethernet connection. If your CNCs can communicate directly with a PC using a standard Ethernet connection, we offer a “Windows Explorer” port on PC-DNC Plus. With this option, you can remotely request a file with a serial port (or barcode reader) and download to the CNC with the Windows compatible Ethernet port.
Q: I’m trying to justify the cost of a new DNC system. What factors should I consider?
A: A good “remote-call up” DNC system like our PC-DNC Plus can save a lot of money in surprising ways. The most significant cost savings are in the way that a DNC system eliminates the “walking back and forth” between your computers and your CNC machines. If (for example) your CNC operator can request and download a file in about 1 minute rather than the 10-15 minutes or so required to walk back & forth, you save 10 minutes or so each time you change programs on the CNC. This may not sound like a lot, but the time you save is both MACHINE PRODUCTION time as well as OPERATOR time. That can be a huge cost savings. Remember though, that a short-run job shop that loads new files several times a day will save much more than a long-run production shop where the same program file runs for weeks. As with any software, the more you use it, the more you save.
Q: What’s the expected life span of a PC-DNC system?
A: Software never wears out but hardware does. The hardware we use (Moxa) has an excellent life span and an excellent factory warrantee. Our software might become “dated” as newer versions of Windows are introduced by Microsoft, but we try to stay current on those changes. We expect that 15 or 20 years from now, our PC-DNC Plus systems with Moxa boxes will still be going strong on future versions of Windows.
Q: What’s the difference in the software between a wired PC-DNC system and a wireless one:
A: There is no difference. The PC-DNC Editor and PC-DNC Plus/Pro software doesn’t care if your serial connection is wired or wireless.
Q: Can I use barcode readers with PC-DNC Plus?
A: Yes. Barcode readers with a serial port interface work very nicely with PC-DNC Plus. You can print a barcode on your part’s blueprint or routing sheet that contains the “remote request” command for the desired part program. By just scanning that barcode, you can queue up the file for downloading to the CNC. One wireless (Bluetooth) barcode scanner can be used for several machines in a group by first scanning the barcode that identifies the CNC, then the barcode that requests the file.
Q: What kind of serial cables do I need for PC-DNC?
A: It depends. There are really only two types of serial cables that you can choose from. One is a “Straight” cable, sometimes called a “MODEM” cable because it’s the kind of cable you would use to connect a computer to a telephone MODEM.
The other kind is a “NULL MODEM”, which is internally cross-wired so the “Send” wire on one end is connected to the “Receive” wire on the other end, and vice-versa. This is the kind of cable that you would use to connect two similar devices together (PC to PC, PC to CNC, etc.) This is the type of cable that we use for 90% or so of our applications.
In addition to the two “types” of cables are the polarity of connectors. Connectors used are typically either 9-pin or 25-pin, and they can be either MALE or FEMALE. So, you have a lot of possibilities. Here’s a chart:
PC to most CNC controls ---------------- 9-pin female --------- 25-pin male ---- Null Modem
PC to (some) Okuma controls ---------- 9-pin female --------- 25-pin female --- Null Modem
Quatech box to CNC---------------------- 9-pin female --------- 25-pin male ---- Null Modem
Moxa box to CNC ------------------------- 9-pin female --------- 25-pin male ---- Null Modem
Bay Tech box to CNC -------------------- 25-pin male ---------- 25-pin male ---- Straight (Modem) cable
PC to Bay Tech box Host port --------- 9-pin male ------------25-pin male ---- Straight (Modem) cable
You can purchase any kind of Serial cable from our supplier, Cablestogo.com.
Q: How fast can serial communications be?
A: CNC controls each have their own serial “speed limits”, so this question is hard to answer. Sometimes, a CNC control might be able to use a very high baud rate (bits per second), but the CNC might not be able to process the data that fast. It’s best to use a baud rate that the CNC can accommodate rather than the highest possible baudrate. PC-DNC Plus, Editor and Pro can use baud rates up to 117,200 bps, which translates to 11,720 characters per second. Most CNCs, however, are limited to 9600 baud (960 cps) or 18,200 baud (1820 cps).
Q: What kind of computer do I need to run PC-DNC
A: Our older PC-DNC system using the Bay Technical Associates port controller box was available originally for MS-DOS computers, and the later “PC-DNC for Windows” was available for Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, and XP. Running the old PC-DNC for Windows software is problematic under Windows Vista, 7, 8, or 10.
PC-DNC Plus runs well under Windows XP, Windows 7, 8, or 10
PC-DNC Editor runs well under Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10.
Q: What kind of serial port hardware (boxes) do you offer?
A: We have used Quatech and Bay Technical Associates boxes in the past, but now we use Moxa devices almost exclusively. Moxa has an 8-port, a 4-port, and a 1-port device with an Ethernet host connection, and they also have a excellent 1 and 2-port wireless devices. Moxa provides an unconditional 5-year factory warrantee as well.
Q: Are your serial boxes proprietary?
A: No. These are off-the-shelf devices that you can purchase from many distributors online. We RECOMMEND these devices because we know how well they work with our PC-DNC line of software. When we sell these units to you, we charge the manufacturer’s recommended list price. We make a few dollars off our volume discounts, but that’s all.
Q: Why should I go with a wireless DNC system?
A: The best way to justify the slight added cost of a wireless system is the elimination of all those overhead serial cables. Sometimes, wireless is necessary because of overhead gantry cranes or extraordinarily high ceilings. One other way to justify wireless is the cost savings when you move machines around in your shop. An overhead serial cable has to be re-routed whenever a machine is moved, but wireless DNC boxes eliminate that cost. Don’t forget the cost of labor if you have to pay someone to climb ladders or work on scissor-lifts to run all those cables.
Q: What kind of range can I expect from a wireless system?
A: A wireless access point or router can communicate with a Moxa wireless serial device that’s about 300 feet away. Larger shops can, of course, use multiple access points to extend that range.
Q: My shop has a wireless network already. Can I use it with a PC-DNC Plus wireless system?
A: Yes you can, but we usually recommend that the PC-DNC Plus wireless devices be kept on a separate subnet from all other Ethernet devices. For smaller shops, we recommend a separate access point for the PC-DNC system so we can eliminate problems with IP addressing. It also reduces problems with maintenance and troubleshooting. We have many stories to tell, like the one about how an operator’s cell phone would grab the IP address of a wireless device, so the Moxa serial device would stop working at 3:00 pm, or whenever that employee came to work. We like to eliminate those kinds of problems before they happen.
Q: Do you offer wireless kits that we can install ourselves?
A: Yes, we do. We offer a kit that includes a USB-to-Ethernet adapter for your PC, a DLink wireless access point, and a 1-port Moxa wireless device and a serial cable for each of your CNCs. To prepare the kit, we pre-configure all the IP addresses and attach 4 super-strong magnets to each of the Moxa devices. We can then “remote-in” to your PC-DNC Plus server computer to set everything up for you, or we can give you the information you need to install them yourselves. All you need to do is stick the Moxa units on the side of your CNCs, plug in the serial cable, then call us for the instructions or the remote online installation.
Q: Can we order a “turn-key” system where you install everything?
A: Yes, but that can be costly. Usually, customers can handle the installation themselves, or we can work with their IT people to make everything work using “remote access” to your computer. If you must have us come in to do the work, we have to charge you for our time, our travel, as well as food & lodging. We like to save our customers money wherever we can.
Licensing & Support:
Q: Do I need to pay for support?
A: Email support is free and is enabled via the Form submission below. If you need phone support an Annual Service Agreement is required or you can pay per hour.
Q: What is included with the Annual Service Agreement?
A: The Annual Service Agreement includes both email and phone support, software updates, and one PC license transfer.
Q: What’s the best way to get support on an existing system?
A: Complete the form request below and describe the symptoms. We will need to know some things about your CNC control, and network. Questions like “Does this problem happen on one CNC machine or several machines?”, or “Was this machine working OK yesterday?”
We may then ask you to perform a couple of simple tests, or we may ask if we can “remote-in” using our RemotePC account. When we remote-in, we can actually operate your computer from our offices, and possibly spot the trouble very quickly. RemotePC is a very secure system, on which you can give us permission to operate your computer just ONE TIME, or many times, until you remove your PC from the system.
Q: How do I transfer my PC-DNC Editor to a new computer?
A: In order to transfer you PC-DNC Editor license from one computer to another, download the latest version of our software here. After installation, you will need to send us your old security code along with the new security code. We will then send you back a permanent password.
Q: How do I locate my security code for my PC-DNC Editor?
A: You can find your security code by clicking “About” on the main menu of the PC-DNC Editor then click “Purchasing information”. There you will find your 9-digit security code.
Q: Is there a charge for transferring PC-DNC Editor software from one computer to another?
A: Yes, we charge a fee of $50.00 for each PC-DNC Editor license that you transfer. One free transfer is included if you have an annual service agreement.
Q: How do I transfer my PC-DNC Plus to a new computer?
A: In order to transfer you PC-DNC Editor license from one computer to another, download the latest version of our software here. We will need a screenshot of your old license and also your new 9-digit security code.
Q: How do I locate my current security code for my PC-DNC Plus?
A: You can find your current security code by clicking “About” on the main menu of the PC-DNC Plus on the original computer, then click “Your Current License”. Take a screenshot of that information and send that to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Is there a charge for transferring PC-DNC Plus software from one computer to another?
A: Yes, we charge a fee of $150.00 for each PC-DNC Plus license that you transfer. One free transfer is included if you have an annual service agreement.