Buduchnist Credit Union uses parallel interface for passbook printers

10th Friday, 2012  |  Life at LAVA  |  no comments

The Buduchnist Credit Union — a sizeable Canadian credit union catering largely to the Ontario Ukrainian community — uses the LAVA Parallel-PCIe, LAVA Parallel-PCIe/LP, LAVA Parallel-PCI and LAVA Parallel-PCI/LP cards as printer interfaces to IBM 9068-S01 passbook printers in their branches. As they upgrade their tellers’ computers to newer systems, they want to continue using the long-lived, specialized, and highly reliable printers they have installed. The LAVA parallel port cards fit the bill.

IBM passbook printer & parallel card

IBM passbook printer & parallel card

Soldering at LAVA

9th Thursday, 2012  |  Life at LAVA  |  no comments
surface mount machine

surface mount machine

It’s how we make our cards and boards: soldering is a part of the manufacture of all of LAVA’s electronic hardware. Soldering is in fact a couple of distinct types of soldering, as described in a couple of articles we’ve put together.

The first type of soldering, “surface-mount soldering,” is how components such as chips, resistors, and capacitors are typically fastened to a flat printed circuit board (a PCB) — in effect they are secured by the melting of tiny dabs of solder paste. That paste is applied to the PCB through a thin metal screen that has holes that match the solder pads on the PCB. Components are then placed precisely onto this prepared board, with the components’ contacts seated on the solder paste. This assembly is then passed through an oven that melts the solder paste, soldering the components to the board.

Surface-mount soldering

The second type of high volume soldering we do is “wave soldering.” This process is used for components that have conductors that pass from one side of the PCB to the other: “through-hole” components. Once these components are placed, the boards travel on a conveyor over a pool of molten solder. The solder adheres to the pins and contacts that touch it as they skim over the surface of the solder pool.

Wave soldering

After these two types of soldering are done, the electronics of a particular board are essentially complete. That doesn’t mean that they are ready to sell however: they might in fact be parts of a larger assembly, or they might need to be programmed (as with firmware and MAC addresses). At the very least, they need to be cleaned of solder flux, inspected, tested (and yes, we test every one), and packaged.

Parallel Port Control of Plasma Cutter

8th Wednesday, 2012  |  Engineering News, Life at LAVA  |  no comments
plasma cutter

parallel-connected plasma cutter

The parallel port is a crucial part of the control system for plasma cutters, such as those manufactured by PlasmaCAM in Colorado City, Colorado. PlasmaCAM makes a cutting table, automation electronics, and software to control plasma cutters, and they interface their cutters to PCs using parallel ports.

There are several reasons why parallel ports are preferred in this application. First, the PlasmaCAM uses servomotors on their x- and y-axis with encoder feedback for accurate positioning and contouring, and these motors require bi-directional communications simultaneously, a capability not available on USB. That bi-directionality enables a closed loop system that can communicate to the PC if the cutting head contacts an obstacle that causes the table to bind or the motor to slip — important for reducing waste and increasing safety.

In addition, newer interface technologies such as Firewire, USB, and Ethernet are less desirable in this application because they use higher frequency signals that are readily affected by electromagnetic interference.

Finally, PlasmaCAM also prefers the physically stronger parallel port cable and positively-securing connectors found in parallel port connections.

Parallel-PCI & Parallel-PCIe

Parallel-PCI & Parallel-PCIe

The LAVA Parallel-PCI and Parallel-PCIe boards are ideal in this setting. But note — not all parallel ports are equal here: some parallel port adapter cards in the market have insufficient port voltage levels, and all, or virtually all, USB-parallel interfaces also lack the required voltages. Better to go with LAVA.

McDonald’s Upgrades Their ECRs

1st Wednesday, 2012  |  Life at LAVA  |  no comments
Panasonic JS-170FR w LavaPort-PCIs

Panasonic JS-170FR w LavaPort-PCIs

When McDonald’s Canada and their POS system integrator Panasonic Canada were looking for a reliable North American manufacturer of serial cards to add into their cash registers, they chose LAVA.

They needed additional serial target devices to run a reliable, up-to-date, and efficient QSR operation. LAVA provided both companies with LAVA DSerial-PCI and LavaPort-PCI cards, which they tested extensively in their in-house labs and then in a series of field tests. Only when the cards had passed a battery of tests were they certified for the company-wide rollout.

LAVA was chosen for several reasons. As the manufacturer, we were able to meet McDonald’s build and deployment schedule while guaranteeing consistent product. McDonald’s were also reassured by LAVA’s 100% testing of all products built, plus our on-going technical support under the LAVA LifeTime Warranty. And it didn’t hurt that Panasonic had previous successfully used the LAVA DSerial-ISA as a cash register interface in the past.

POS RS-232 peripherals

POS RS-232 peripherals

These cards are ideal interfaces for a wide gamut of POS devices: weighing scales, card readers, pole displays, receipt printers, and so on.

As a result, every Panasonic JS-170FR workstation was fitted with two LavaPort-PCI cards, adding four serial ports to the base configuration. Moreover, as the implementation developed, McDonald’s needs evolved, and new backroom requirements added a DSerial-PCI into each restaurant’s backroom server.

McDonald’s Canada continues to use LAVA cards to this day either in new installations supplied by Panasonic, or through account maintenance provided by NCR Canada. McDonald’s values the cost-effectiveness and durability of LAVA cards in restaurants that sometimes rarely close.

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