Embroidery Machine Connection: supporting old serial connections with new PC technology

05Nov12

Old Floppy diskSome embroidery machines in commercial use today still use floppy disks and or serial com port connection to upload designs into the embroidery machine memory.

If you are in this situation, you may be hesitant to get a new computer or update your software because PCs no longer support floppy disks and do not have conventional 9 pin com ports. Don’t worry – there are solutions!

After speaking to several customers about this issue, Gillian Suggett from Wilcom Europe set out to explore this topic and help customers solve this technical issue. Below are her findings: 

Floppy disks are no longer an option!

Floppy disks – are a completely outmoded format it is important to pursue an alternative mode to transfer designs to embroidery machines.

Reasons to stop the use of floppy disks:

  1. Floppy disks will soon be (are) obsolete and increasingly difficult to get hold of new, especially quality 720/DD disks.
  2.  Old reused disks deteriorate affecting the file integrity.
  3. Supporting Non DOS floppy disk formats like Barudan FDR is becoming impossible to support with new PCs and operating systems. External USB floppy drives offer limited functionality. (do not support non dos formats)
  4. Transferring designs via disk is time consuming and less efficient than other methods.

What are the alternatives to floppy disk?

USB FLOPPY DISK EMULATOR

There are various emulation devices available that replace the floppy disk unit on the embroidery machine with a disk emulation unit that allows users to use a USB memory stick to transfer designs.

For Example: Barudan have a device available that replaces the existing Floppy disk unit with a USB floppy disk emulator.

If you’re tech savvy you can install youself – as a guide the cost is £185 +VAT for N series machines, for all other machines £120 +VAT

DIRECT CONNECT VIA SERIAL COM PORTS

Using a serial coms connection from PC to embroidery machine is a very low cost reliable solution for design transfer. The cable is cheap to install and can run over 20 m without problem. However, conventional com serial ports are no longer standard on new PCs and adding a custom device or having a bespoke PC built to accommodate a serial coms port can make the solution more complicated and expensive.

The industry recommended solution to overcome this problem is a USB to serial convertor. However, the reliability of these devices has made the solution difficult to recommend with confidence. Embroidery machine suppliers report mixed results in terms of reliability of USB to serial convertors and this affects customer productivity.

There are plenty of USB to Serial convertors available online ranging in price from £1.98 to £24.00

Finding the best adapter can be a challenge since there are so many different models, types and manufacturers. Its difficult to know why technically one device is better than another, and or to identify what the requirements are for connection to an embroidery machine.

This is the specification checklist supplied by one brand supplier:

The Quick Checklist:

  1. Preferred processor chip
  2. Preferred serial driver chip
  3. Minimum 5.0VDC output power at serial connector (ensures reliable data transmission)
  4. Build-in electro-static protection for at least 600W (protects against static electricity)
  5. LED lights for TX and RX activity (nice to have when troubleshooting)

I decided to check out the forums, I found lots of unhappy customer’s who had purchased these convertors to support old serial devices on their new PC, reliability and operating system compatibility being the biggest issues. However, after some research I managed to find two brands/models that consistently preformed well in customer feedback.

IN-HOUSE TESTING

The 2 devices I indentified and purchased for testing are:

  • ATEN – USB to Serial Convertor (RS-232) £9.99
  • Plugable USB to RS232 DB9 Serial Adapter (Prolific PL2303HX Chipset) £13.38

My tests were performed using:

The PC – DELL Vostro Intel (r) core i5-2410M 2.3 GHz with 4GB Ram, 64 Bit OS Win 7 Pro SP1

The Embroidery Machine  – Barudan BEDT-ZN-10 T single head 9 needle

The cable specification

9 Way – 9 Way

(Male or Female ends)

2 ————————————- 3

3 ————————————- 2

4 ————————————- 6

5————————————–5

6————————————–4

7————————————–8

8————————————–7

Wilcom software – EmbroideryStudio e2

Machine connection software settings :

Protocol – Standard serial

Baud Rate 9600 (machine specific)

Data Bits 8

Stop Bits 2

Parity None

Handshaking Embroidery Machine7

THE RESULTS

I installed and tested each device separately.

I ran tests using both Wilcom Stitch Manager and Machine Manager, and was able to find a method to consistently and reliably down load to the embroidery machine using both of these devices.

Both devices preformed equally well.

 However, the installation of the devices did vary – these are my comments:

ATEN – USB to Serial Convertor (RS-232) £9.99

Did not come with a Win 7 driver. Required to download, unzip and install from their website.

The device has a light that indicates when data is being transferred – this was very useful.

Plugable USB to RS232 DB9 Serial Adapter (Prolific PL2303HX Chipset) £13.38

Very easy to install, Win 7 compatible. Does not have a data transfer light.

*Please note: research and pricing current  as of July 2012. This is an independent review only. Wilcom does not provide technical support on hardware devices. 
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One Response to “Embroidery Machine Connection: supporting old serial connections with new PC technology”


  1. 1 Get a ‘Smarter’ Wilcom software « Wilcom

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