Conversion Kit Turns Old PCs into Inexpensive Test Stations

Older model PCs can be converted into versatile multi-test stations for quality control inspectors, process engineers and lab technicians with a new kit that could save operators hundreds of dollars in capital costs.

Older model PCs can be converted into versatile multi-test stations for quality control inspectors, process engineers and lab technicians with a new kit that could save operators hundreds of dollars in capital costs.

Called the QuickTEST Kit, it is the latest in Teramar’s line of Simple Performance and Automated Monitoring (S.P.A.M.) products.

The kit is designed to work on PCs with 386 or newer processors. Installation often takes less than an hour. After the system is running, it can perform tests and record results automatically, running single or multiple test functions simultaneously.

The Software

The system uses Teramar’s MeterBOSS Software, a DOS-based utility that gathers, collects, and reports data from almost any instrument capable of generating a serial output. Data from sensors, multimeters, scales, calipers, and most serial devices is displayed on a monitor as a "digital meter" or bar graph, with user-definable measurement units and alarm limits. MeterBOSS supports most brands of serial instruments directly, and using standard adapters, accepts RS-422/RS-485, 20mA, and fiber optic inputs.

The Software

The software stores logged data as ASCII text that is easily printed or imported into spreadsheets and other programs, for detailed post-process analysis and evaluation.

Serial Port Expander

The PortMUX Serial Port Expander, the other primary kit component, solves the most common problem PCs have with serial communication: only one RS-232 serial port. A single PortMUX enables the monitoring of up to five instruments through one serial port (up to 99 in a cascade configuration), with visual receive and transmit indicators for each device input. The software automatically detects and configures all available PortMUX ports, with no manual switching required. The expander unit has its own internal power supply, making it portable and suitable for use with laptops.

Accessories

Available accessories like RelayMASTER and i/oMASTER increase the kit’s versatility: A RelayMASTER unit consists of four "ice cube" relays that MeterBOSS’s logic sequencer uses to cycle simple machines, perform repetitive operations, or automatically life cycle test products - operations that normally require the use of a PLC. Each i/oMASTER holds up to six isolated input or output modules that enable a PC to receive and apply remote logic signals to the logic sequencer, and provide redundant outputs from alarms.

Breakout Box:

Here is what operators of the kit will need:

  • IBM-compatible PC or Macintosh® with PC-DOS or Windows compatibility
  • DOS 3.1 or higher
  • Windows ™ 3.1 or Windows 95 (MeterBOSS runs in a DOS window)
  • 3.5-in. high density disk drive (5.25-in. floppies are available)
  • EGA, VGA or equivalent monitor (color VGA recommended)
  • 520K minimum hard drive space (2 MB recommended)
  • One available RS-232 computer port.
  • 3-button mouse is recommended.

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