Yesterday I published the first beta build of the TouchDRO application to the Google Play Store. This release includes a few major upgrades, such as tool library, tachometer, configurable user interface and preference banks. Tachometer output is pretty much self-explanatory; the other three need a bit more clarification.
Update 2004-02-03: To access the beta version of the application you need to join the “TouchDRO Beta Testing” community on Google+. Once there, navigate to the opt-in link that appears under the community description. If the link isn't there, try accessing the community from a desktop, since the "mobile" layout of the page is different.
|Tools are accessible right from the main DRO screen|
In the last release I added tool offset function. Although it’s useful by itself, having a predefined tool library makes it much simpler to use. The user can define a virtually unlimited number of tools, and set the offsets by selecting those tools from the library. Setting tool offset for on a milling machines is as simple as clicking the appropriate tool in the “Tools” pane and selecting the offset direction. On a lathe it’s even simpler: since there is no need to set the offset direction, the offset is set by simply clicking a too.
User Interface Changes
|DRO screen with all axes enabled|
There is a number of user interface changes. First and foremost, axes Y,Z and the tachometer can be shown or hidden using the corresponding setting. W axis, in addition to being summed up with one of the three primary axes, can now be displayed as well. When axes are shown or hidden the application will try to scale the font and the buttons, so the readout will fit on the screen without scrolling.
|DRO Screen In "Lathe Mode"|
Second, the application tweaks the UI based on the selected machine type. For instance, when “Vertical Mill” is selected, it will display mill functions; points will show X,Y and Z coordinates (if set). On the other hand, in “Lathe” mode the points will display X and Z coordinates only. Similarly, the “Edit Tool” and “Tool Offset” dialogs look completely different, depending on the machine type.
|Tool offset function in "Vertical Mill" mode|
|Same function in "Lathe" mode|
Finally, the traditional 7-segment font is not the only option anymore. Using the “Display Font Setting” a user can now choose two additional fonts: generic monospace font and the default system font.
Multiple Machine Support
|A user can now store up to six sets of preferences|
One of the perks of TouchDRO is the ability to use one tablet with multiple machines. The new version makes this almost seamless by using up to six setting banks. A setting bank is a virtual folder that stores the complete set of application settings and saved workspaces. For example, a shop that has a milling machine and a lathe can use two separate sets of settings and calibration data for each machine. During a milling operation the user would switch to the bank that contains the settings for the mill. Switching to lathe is as simple as disconnecting from the mill controller, switching the appropriate bank and connecting to the lathe. The whole operation takes less than 30 seconds.
In addition to the major changes, there is a number of small improvements that should make the application a bit more pleasant to use. First, as long as the DRO screen is active the application will prevent the tablet from going to sleep. Second, metric mode can be set as default, so the application will start in with “mm” selected. Finally, input averaging is now disabled by default, but can be enabled in the settings. When the filter is disabled, the DRO will be more responsive but the last decimal digit might flicker with some scales.
In my experience IGaging/AccuRemote scales tend to flicker more than the other, and the filter reduces that to almost nothing. “Sylvac” scales tend to flicker much less and in “slow” mode lag too much, so disabling the filter makes the DRO more usable. With glass scales disabling the filter makes the DRO silky-smooth with no flicker whatsoever.
Overall this release brings a good amount of new functionality to the application. Configurable user interface and multiple machine support makes TouchDRO much more convenient and flexible. If you’d like to participate in the beta testing, or simply try out the new features, please join the “TouchDRO Beta Testing” community on Google+. This will give you access to the beta version of the application via Google Play Store. Please keep in mind that even though I’ve been testing it in my garage for some time now, there are still minor bugs and cosmetic issues.