View Full Version : AB Powerflex and cables
May 8th, 2002, 05:23 AM
Can someone clue me in why AB cannot make a drive that takes a standard serial cable to program. I just purchased a Powerflex drive and thought I would set it up via the free software (drive explorer lite) that the drive is supplied with instead of the key pad.
Why can't AB standardise on a common cable, the powerflex uses some style of mini-din, and as far as I can tell (very sketchy docs) I need an adaptor as well just to plug my notebook in. How hard can it be to utilise a standard 9 pin plug and a serial cable (or null modem) cable. A lot of other manufacturers do. Regards Alan Case
May 8th, 2002, 08:06 AM
You asked why A-B can't standardize. A-B buys and brand labels a lot of their hardware. The people that control this process obviously care more about gross margin than customer convenience. Maybe that's their job, but it is hurting A-B with a lot of users long term!
May 8th, 2002, 08:50 AM
They can't standardize any communication scheme. As soom as it seems that they are going to put their support behind one protocol, they drop it and move to the next.
Of course, they get to sell all their adapters.
May 8th, 2002, 04:58 PM
As a follow up to this, when I opened the box there was a pack of manuals 2 inches thick, beauty I thought, no more downloads and reprints. Nope. 1 quarter inch thick manual in english, all the rest re-prints in other languages. Straight in the bin. What a waste. Half a tree died for nothing. Surely it can't be hard to get the correct language version of the manual with each drive, even if the manuals are given to the distributors to supply with the drives.
Regards Alan Case
May 8th, 2002, 05:00 PM
Okay, facts first.
That "mini-DIN" you see on the PowerFlex drive is a "DPI" port. Drive Peripheral Interface (DPI) is an enhancement the to older A-B drive protocol, called SCANPort. DPI runs faster (500kb vs. 125 kb) and has enhanced data types and instruction set.
SCANport and DPI are both short-haul CAN networks. They're meant for the connection of HIM modules, network interface modules, and programming interfaces. You can use most SCANport devices with a PowerFlex DPI port simply by setting the DPI data rate to 125 KB.
Why CAN ? Easy multidropping and good noise immunity. Both are vital inside an AC drive enclosure and neither is true for RS-232.
Why the 8-pin Mini-DIN ? SCANport uses a resistor array inside each adapter to indentify it's "Adapter Number". That's what four of the pins are for. SCANport also carries +12V power, which you might not want to plug into your PC's serial port, which using a 9-pin D-SUB connector would invite. SCANport plugs also need to be difficult to pull out while fishing around inside the drive cabinet, so they have locking connectors.
What do I need to use Drive Explorer ? A DPI/RS232 converter. Sold by A-B as 1203-SSS, which includes the RS232 cable, a SCANport cable, and the rattlesnake's-head-shaped AnaCANda adapter.
What the heck... the cable that comes with the 1203-SSS is another nonstandard RS232 plug ! (ducking, running, back to explain more later....)
(P.S. Shame on you, Tom... never been to Mequon ?)
May 8th, 2002, 05:14 PM
(P.S. Shame on you, Tom... never been to Mequon "?)"
Sure - I was at the Mequon plant when it was brand new. At that time thery were still putting Stromberg guts in "their" VFDs. A guy that works for me tends a little bar where some of the Mequon guys hang out. It would be indiscrete for me to repeat on a public forum some of the indiscretions he picks up!
May 8th, 2002, 05:25 PM
Hi Ken. I would like to know the percentage of drives that are installed in a stand alone to a network environment. (Rhetoric question, answer not expected) Nearly all my work is stand alone. That is why speed of comms is unimportant. I would like to have 1 cable (even a 1747-CP3, which by the way can do a hell of a lot of other tasks on other brands) that I can plug in and set the parameters in a spreadsheet format. These drives are not cheap, bin the extra language manuals and use the money saved to put a dedicated 232 programming port on the drive. Ease of use means more customers.
Regards Alan Case
May 8th, 2002, 05:31 PM
What I meant, Tom, was "this time, it's not outsourcing that's causing the wierd cables". And I don't even want to speculate on the what comes out of Brown Deer or Mequon after a half-dozen long-necks.
What I would like to speculate on is where that fershlugginer "tiny, flat, with two little bevels on the plug and locking ears and it looks like it goes into every PC card I have" connector that is the RS-232 connector on the AnaCANda came from.
You know the type of connector; it's on all the PCMK/B cards, and on most of my Ethernet cards, and on the 1784-PCC and PCD cards..... I think it's what AMP calls a "CHAMP" connector.
So how did it end up being the A-B Drives RS-232 connector of choice ?
The first place I saw it was hidden down on the right side of a 1203-CN1 as the RS-232 port. You can use it for Hyperterminal setup of the CN1, or for PCCC messaging.
The second place was on the 1203-GU6, on the front, for the same purpose. I suppose they wanted to keep the cable the same as the CN1.
Next I saw it on the AnaCANda ! Okay, now the thing has momentum. There's no stopping it.
None of those products are so price-sensitive or size-limited that they cannot handle a 9-pin D-sub connector. At that point you go hunting for the decision maker who either decided to save 4 cents or somehow insist that *his* serial cable absolutely had to be purchased.
It is only slightly cool that you can take the RS-232 cable from your AnaCANda interface and plug it into a 1203-GU6 or 1203-CN1 and configure them in terminal mode with your Palm Pilot.
May 8th, 2002, 05:40 PM
Non-rhetorically, I think we can presume that a standalone programming port wasn't put on the drive for cost reasons. What you and I think is insignificant is what burns ulcers into the design managers responsible for squeezing dimes out of the control boards.
The user manuals are back in the box after a few years of experimenting without putting them in. The luddites won that round.
Most of the "standalone" programming, I think, is expected to be done through the HIM module, one parameter at a time or through the Quick Start sequence, not through DriveExplorer. Therefore, the HIM module's connection type (SCANport/DPI) was what got put onto the main control board.
I agree, I'd love to have a regular DF1 port on the PowerFlex 70 and 700. But it's not there so I carry an ANACANDA and wonder why it can't serve double-duty as a 1770-KFD......
May 8th, 2002, 05:54 PM
Ken, I don't mind the manual, but not 6 or so in all languages. Only 1 was any good to me (the English version). I don't know what it is like in the States but here the AB drives are near the top of the price tree. I would not complain about paying a bit more for a dedicated stand alone programming port. If price was the main consideration, then we would not be having this discussion, I would be talking to the hitachi rep.
Seems to be that the accountants are dictating policy, AB is an engineeering company, engineers are meant to be in charge and the accountantants are meant to be at your service. Regards Alan Case
May 8th, 2002, 08:43 PM
Allen-Bradley was an engineering company.
Rockwell Automation is a publicly-traded limited-liability corporation.
Therefore, often, the pencilnecks win the product design discussion. Can't say it makes me happy, but I can say that I can tell you how to get through it.
That was my first post. The others are just to defend the honor of the God-fearing, beer-drinking, hockey-playing, drive-building people of Mequon, Wisconsin.