Custom Software Solutions for the PCB Industry

California Software Systems develops, sells, and supports our own standard products. We are not a consulting firm, or a value added reseller, nor do we seek development contracts. We will however, customize our products so they “look and feel” the way you want. We make computers do the job the way you want it done. Here are a few examples of some of our more interesting “customization” projects.

  1. Hole Selection by the Numbers
  2. Automatic Printing of Bar Code Labels
  3. Directory Structure and File Compression on Network File Server
  4. Our Code is Better Than “SCRIPTS” for CAM
  5. Using Non-Standard Formats (PDA, Hitachi, Pluritec, etc.)
  6. How to Run Both Fox and California Software Systems
  7. Keeping a Centrum Installation Alive
  8. Opic and Checkmate Bomb-Sight Programmers
  9. Gerber Editing System

Selecting Holes by Hole Number

Excellon Mark 4California Software Systems has always provided the ability to select groups of hole to drill by using either a window or picking individual holes, one at a time. However, one of our customers had an unusual problem. In general, the optimizer being used by their CAM department did a great job finding the shortest drilling path. However, when dealing with a large number of holes there were often two dozen, or more, which didn’t get picked up on the optimized path. The CAM software would add these left over holes to the end of the new, “optimized”, drilling program. The job would drill fine. However, at the very end of the program the machine would swing wildly all over the panels picking up those last, un-optimized, holes. The problem for the machine operator was, if you broke a bit near the end of the program, how could you easily pick up these last remaining holes which were randomly located all over the panel? This problem ended up significantly increasing the production time for many of drilling jobs.

To solve this problem we developed a simple, four step technique:

  1. Display the drilling path on the computer screen (F3).
  2. Click on the first and last holes you need drill and note the hole numbers.
  3. Enter these first and last hole numbers and let the computer automatically mark all the holes in between.
  4. Drill only the “Selected” holes.

This works so well that we now include it as a standard feature of our Graphical Drill/Route System 7.52. Now there are three ways to select holes: (1.) with a Window, (2.) One hole at a time, or (3.) by “Start” and “Finish” hole numbers.

Contact California Software Systems today.

Automatic Printing of Bar Code Labels

Pluritec makes an excellent single spindle drill with an automatic loader. Bar code labels are printed and attached to each stack of circuit board panels. A Sieb & Meyer PC and a bar code label printer are provided with the machine. By reading the bar code label the machine finds the correct drilling program, panel size, tools, etc. – regardless of the order in which the stacks of panels are placed in the loader.

Our customer uses the machine principally to drill complex electrical test fixtures. Each fixture is different and requires from 4 to 12 different plates. However, the Pluritec software is designed to create and print only one label at a time. If the days work required drilling four new fixtures, the machine operator had to setup and print between 16 and 48 different labels – one at a time! In addition, the machine operator had to manually create, edit, or move several files into different subdirectories on the PC for each label in order for the machine to run correctly. This was a complex, error prone, and time consuming process which required an hour or two every day just in preparatory work.

After trying for more than a year to obtain help from the machine manufacturer, our customer brought the problem to California Software Systems. We wrote a new label printing program which runs on the PC connected to the machine. Now all the operator has to do is enter the job number. All of the files are properly setup and the labels printed for a complete fixture in one burst which typically takes less than a minute.

This is an example of our creating something completely new to solve a new problem. If you have a computer related bottle neck in your production process, California Software Systems can help develop the solution for you.

Contact California Software Systems now.

Directory Structure and File Compression on Network File Server

Where and how to store your production data files is a problem that must be resolved at every facility. Often the solution has evolved thru several types of media from punched paper tape all the way to multiple domains on several servers. When you expand your network to Drilling and Fabrication you must decide whether to use your existing techniques or adopt new, more efficient methods. Here are some of the more common network subdirectory structures and file compression techniques used in our industry:

  • All drill and route programs in same subdirectory on one server (our recommendation).
  • All drill programs in one subdirectory. All route programs in another (often uses two separate servers).
  • Different subdirectories for each type of machine (subdirectories for Excellon, PDA, TruDril, etc.).
  • Different subdirectory for each job, often on different CAM workstations.
  • Different subdirectory for each customer on CAM workstations and/or network file servers.
  • Alphabetical subdirectories according to the first letter of the file name (A, B, C structure).
  • ARC, ZIP and other file compression techniques create “File Libraries” on network.

California Software Systems has adapted our products to all of the above directory structures and file compression techniques – and several others. However, we believe experience has proven the first choice (a single subdirectory for everything) is the simplest, best, and most practical method for both storage and backup of all your current jobs. However, your situation may be different. If you want to do it differently – we can help!

Contact California Software Systems for help now.

Our Code is Better Than “SCRIPTS” for CAM

Most CAM systems allow you to write “scripts” to automate complex or common tasks. However, there are times when scripts are simply not up the task. This is where California Software Systems can help. We are not limited to scripts. We write our software principally in “C”, Visual Basic, and Assembly language. The final product is complied into executable programs. This means we can make the computer do almost anything you want.

Here is a good example of a California Software Systems’ solution:

Our customer wanted to combine the 2nd drill, route tooling, and panelized rout program for the entire panel in a particular sequence. The tools needed to be renumbered. Tool compensation (G40, G41, and G42) had to be turned “on” and “off” at the appropriate places to produce the correct finished dimensions. Then an M48 header had to be created and M30 and M00 commands inserted as necessary. Next the whole thing had to be optimized for minimum drill path length. Lastly the routing portion of the program needed to be optimize for the continuous use of one tool over the entire panel before picking up a different size router bit.

California Software Systems wrote a custom program which pulled the needed files from various computers on the network, automatically created the desired drill and rout programs, and then stored everything in a compressed “JOB” file on the drill room file server.

Your PCB drilling and routing requirements may not be nearly this complex. However, the idea is the same. If you are having trouble with your CAM scripts, contact us. We can probably do the job better and faster, using a high level programming language rather than the scripting tools provided with your CAM system.

Contact California Software Systems for the quick solution.

Using Non-Standard Formats (PDA, Hitachi, Pluritec, etc.)

Excellon format II is the defacto standard in the United States for drilling and routing programs. In the past few years all new machines we have seen, regardless of the manufacturer, can run Excellon programs. However, there are many good, older machines still in production service which require their own proprietary machine language.

Today all CAM software can output in Excellon format. Regardless of the type of machines you may have on your production floor, you want your CAM people working exclusively in Excellon. You don’t need the problems and aggravation inherent in trying to create, store, and maintain identical drilling and routing programs in two or more different machine languages. In addition, the vast majority of skilled CAM operators are trained in the Excellon language.

California Software Systems recommends a separate computer be connected to each machine on your production floor. The computer can then be used to convert Excellon programs to what ever language your machinery requires. This will make both the machines and the operators more productive.

We have done conversions for PDA, Wessel, Hitachi, DAC, Posalux, TruDril, and others. Chances are California Software Systems can do automatic conversions for you regardless of the make or model of your machines.

Contact California Software Systems for the automatic software conversion solution now.

How to Run Fox and California Software Systems Simultaneously

Fox was one of our early competitors who is no longer in business. Some of their installations used a chronological subdirectory structure. There were directories named LINK, DRL30, DRL90, DRL180, DRL19MON, DRL1YEAR, and DRL2YEAR which corresponded to 30, 90, and 180 days, etc. Different versions of the same file with the same name could be stored in each subdirectory. Each time the file server was rebooted all the drill and rout programs got re-shuffled according to dates.

We had a customer who wanted to install additional machines on a Microsoft network using our Graphical Drilling System while continuing to support their older drills and routers on their Fox system. They also wanted to continue to use software and procedures they had established for the Fox system in their “Programming” department. .

California Software Systems solved the problem by installing our standard System on the new machines and supplying one custom utility program. The custom program searched the Fox data base, located the correct file, and placed a copy in the “CURRENT” subdirectory used by our Graphical Drill/Rout System. The customer was then able to use all the graphical capability of our System while still being able to run the same programs on their other machines. They were also able to continue to use their existing methods to create and modify drill and rout programs.

Within a year they replaced the Fox installations on all their machines with California Software Systems. They then updated their CAM software and eliminated the Fox server completely.

Contact California Software Systems for our new Graphics System 7 solution for your PCB business today.

Keeping a Centrum Installation Alive

One of our customers had a potentially serious problem. They had one computer running Centrum Research software connected through an A/B switch box to two older PDA routers. Routing programs were created elsewhere and brought in on floppy disks. The two machines were installed in such a way that both had to be shut down to repair either one and production came to a screeching halt! In addition, making any changes in their operating procedures was difficult because the operator could not speak or read English.

California Software Systems installed more memory in the computer and loaded Windows 98. We then connected the computer to their new Windows 2000 file server. Next, we reloaded the Centrum software and made it run in a “DOS window.” Lastly, we redirected the input from the local floppy disk drive to the new file server. To the machine operator it appeared that nothing had changed, except they no longer needed floppy disks.

Contact California Software Systems solution for your special PCB needs.

Opic and Checkmate Programmers

Excellon produced their OPIC I, Opic II, and OPIC III bomb-sight programming machines. Advanced Controls sold several versions of their Checkmate programmers. These machines were used to create drilling programs from “customer film” by digitizing the location of each hole.

Today most printed circuit boards are created on computers. When the design is finished the computer outputs a file containing the exact locations for the center of each hole. This has eliminated the need to manually “program” most jobs. However, there may be times when you receive new work on film, without a drilling program; then California Software Systems has a product you really need.

Our Graphical Programming Systems connects a computer directly to your Programmer. Each time the operator digitizes a hole it appears graphically on the computer screen. Once all the holes in a single part have been programmed, the computer can automatically mirror image, rotate, and step and repeat the pattern. The computer can also automatically insert any tooling holes you may require.

Creating drilling programs on a bomb-sight programmer used to be a difficult and a highly skilled job. Now, with the aid of a computer it is a very simply task that can be done by almost any trainee.

Contact California Software Systems today.

Gerber Editing System

California Software Systems has a good, inexpensive, Gerber Editing System. However, we no longer promote it because, frankly, there is to much competition in the market place. In addition, many customers wanted us to train employees who have no background in the design of printed circuit boards, or in the use of a photoplotter. The result is it is simply to expensive for us to provide our normal, exceptionally high, level of support. However, if you have an employee who is willing to read and educate themselves about Gerber files, we may have the right product for you. California Software Systems is here to help your company. Please call or email us today to discuss your needs.

Contact California Software Systems.

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