It's been a year since I released the last version of TouchDRO, and it's definitely time for some updates. If you've been following this blog, you might recall that I made "Beta" version available at the end of last year, and was planning to push a new version out around February of this year. Well, it's the end of October, but finally I got it stable enough that I feel pretty good about letting it into the wild. There is a ton of changes, including many new features that people have requested. I will try to cover the important ones in this post, and over the next couple of weeks (as the time allows) will dig deeper into some of them.
Multiple Preference Banks
|The app can store up to six preference banks|
This is one of the most fundamental changes to the application. In a nutshell it allows you to set up up to six different configurations and switch between them at will. This means that you can share the same tablet between up to six different machines, each with it's own configuration, even if the machines use scales with different resolution, or even a different number of scales.
Configurable Readout Display
|TouchDRO with all axes enabled||TouchDRO in Lathe mode|
with two axes and tachometer
The old version of the application was designed to work with a vertical mill, so the readout display was pretty much hard-coded to display three axis readouts. In the new version I scrapped that approach and re-implemented the user interface from the ground up to be dynamically configurable. In plain English this means that except the X axis, all other readouts can be shown or hidden to suit your needs. For instance, you might want to see only X and Z axes on a lathe, or all four readouts on a knee mill.
Another, somewhat related feature, is the ability to change the readout display font. In addition to the traditional 7-segment font, there are two more choices: default system font and a generic monospace font. The latter two options don't have the "shadow" characters and stand out much better on the black screen. Finally, the fourth ["W"] axis can now be shown as a standalone readout or be summed with one of the other readouts. This setup might be useful on a knee mill with scales on the quill and the knee itself.
|DRO In "Mill" Mode||DRO In "Lathe" Mode|
At the first glance it might appear that the only difference between a lathe-only and a mill DRO is the number of axes. The "Lathe" mode goes further, though. First of all, it removes the unneeded functions, such as hole circle and hole array, and adds a new "Radius/Diameter" switch. Second, the "Tool Offset" function is revamped to work better on a lathe. Third, point list and "Add Point" command are reconfigured to use only X and Z axes. Finally, the "Axis Details" screens behave differently on different machines. On a mill all enabled [linear] axes use the same dialog, while Z axis in "Lathe" mode can toggle between three feed rate modes: inches per minute, inches per revolution and turns per inch.
|Lathe mode uses a different Tool Offset dialog.|
Tachometer support was by far the most requested features, and the new version of the app now has it. If enabled [via the app settings], tachometer output will appear as the "RPM" axis. Additionally, tachometer input is used to calculate real-time chip load. In "Lathe" mode, in addition to chip load, the DRO can display feed rate in units/rotation or rotations/inch.
Feed Rate/Chip Load are shown on the "Axis Details" screen that can be accessed by touching the axis readout.
Another frequently requested feature is the tool library. In a nutshell this feature lets you predefine a virtually unlimited number of tools that can be then used for setting the tool offset or calculating chip load. Tool library is linked to the selected preference bank. Thus, there are really six different tool banks that are machine type-aware.
|Dimension preset dialog can take arithmetic equations|
In addition to the major changes above, I've made a number of small changes and adjustments, including the following:
Depending on the selected machine type, touching an axis readout brings up "Axis Details" dialog that can be used to preset dimension, enable near-zero warning etc.
For people that use the DRO primarily in metric mode, there is now a global "Metric Mode" setting. When enabled, the application will start in metric mode, which is not tightly integrated throughout the whole app, so all dialogs use the same units.
Preset dimension function (activated by long-pressing any of the axes) can take simple arithmetic expressions. This can be used to do on-the-fly conversion from fractional dimensions or even unit conversion.
As I mentioned above, the "Axis Details" dialog has a few new features, such as chip load, feed rate and audible near-zero warning.
Finally, since I've received hundreds and hundreds of emails complaining that the DRO is inaccurate, I added a "nag" startup screen that reminds the user to perform basic configuration and calibration before using the DRO.
As you can see from the list above, there is a lot of changes, big and small, that will make TouchDRO much more usable and flexible. Many of those features are hidden in the settings screen or behind other user interface elements. Based on the questions I've been getting, vast majority of the users doesn't get past the initial display. Even though the app is usable with only the basic functionality, the additional features are there to make things easier. If you're upgrading from the older version, you might not even notice most of those features, but hopefully this post will inspire you to poke around and see what the TouchDRO can do to maximize your productivity.
Finally, I would like to give credit to the members of the "TouchDRO Beta Testing" Google+ community. For close to a year they have been providing invaluable feedback, helping me with testing, and helping each other with troubleshooting various issues. I don't want to mention names here out of respect for their privacy, but in short: "Thank you, guys! The app would not be what it is without you."