Using Ohaus Defender 5000 scales with BarTender

BarTender from Seagull Scientific is “the world’s leading design and print software for labels, barcodes, cards and RFID tags.” In this article, I’ll show you how to capture the net weight and tare weight from an Ohaus Defender 5000 scale with BarTender.

Notes:

  • This guide applies to the new generation of Ohaus Defender 5000 scales (2018 or later).
  • It was created using BarTender 2019 R8 and version 1.05 of the Ohaus Defender 5000 firmware. It may not apply to future versions.
  • I’m not a BarTender expert, if you think that you have a better solution, please let me know in the comments.

BarTender communicates with a scale by requesting the weight and – if supported – the tare weight in short intervals (every 250 ms by default). The received data is then parsed using regular expressions.

Unfortunately, the “Ohaus” protocols defined in BarTender do not work with the default settings of the current Defender 5000 scales. They also don’t support requesting the tare weight. Therefore, we’ll use the MT-SICS protocol instead. As you’ll see below, this is a very straightforward solution. However, for a limited number of multi-interval Defender 5000 scales, we’ll need to modify the regular expressions used by BarTender.

Note for legal-for-trade applications (verified scales): If you’re planning to use the alibi memory (SD card) installed in the Defender 5000 indicator, please note that the solution proposed here does not create alibi records. To do so, you would have to use the Ohaus “P” (print) command instead of the MT-SICS command to request the weight. However, this would create an alibi entry every 250 ms, which is probably not what you want either. In my opinion, the communication method used by BarTender is not well suited for use with verified scales and alibi records.

Configuring your Ohaus Defender 5000 scale

Note: This guide assumes that you’ve already connected your scale to your PC. I used the standard RS-232 port found on all current Defender 5000 models. Using the optionally available USB or Bluetooth interface (SPP) would be almost identical.

Apparently, you do not need to change the configuration of the scale, as it already supports MT-SICS commands in its default “Demand” mode. However, if you want to explicitly set it to the MT-SICS protocol, press and hold the Menu button, then press 7 to enter the Communication menu, select the interface you’re using, press 2 for Setup and then change the Assignment from “Demand” to “SICS”:
Ohaus Defender 5000 scale SICS

The other settings on this screen should not matter, as they’re irrelevant for the selected protocol.

Configuring BarTender

Add Scale Wizard Step 1

Start Bartender Designer, select Administer>Weighing Scale Setup and Add Scale. This will launch the Add Scale Wizard. Click on Next.

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 1

As mentioned, simply selecting “Ohaus 5000 Series” (or any other Ohaus model) will not work with the current Defender 5000 scales. Instead, select Define a model not listed above and click on Next.

Add Scale Wizard Step 2

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 2Select “Ohaus” as the manufacturer and enter a model name (e.g. “Defender 5000 SICS”).

If your scale is a single interval scale (which means that the readability does not change over the entire weighing range), select the “Mettler Toledo (MT-SICS Level 1)” protocol and click on Next. Then skip to step 3 of this guide far below.

If your scale is a multi-interval scale, things may get a bit more complicated. It all depends on the readability (aka “graduation”, “d” or “e”) of your scale. If it has the same number of decimal places over all intervals when using the default unit (kg), you can also go to step 3. If the number of decimal places is not the same, continue reading here.

Example:

Ohaus Defender 5000 scale dual interval
0.005 kg = 3 decimals, 0.01 kg = 2 decimals

Creating a new protocol

For multi-interval scales that don’t have a constant number of decimal places, we have to make a tiny change to the regular expressions defined in BarTender’s MT-SICS Level 1 protocol. Since we can’t modify existing protocols, click on New to create a new one.

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 3

Give the new protocol a name (e.g. “SICS”) and click on Copy existing Protocol.

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 4Select “Mettler Toledo (MT-SICS Level 1)” and confirm with OK. All fields for the commands and response patterns should now be filled in.

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 5

In every single response pattern except for the last one, locate the following string:

\x20(?<Units>

Change it to:

\x20+(?<Units>

By adding a plus sign, the regular expression now matches strings which contain one or more spaces (\x20) in between the weight (or tare) value and the unit. This is necessary because some multi-interval Defender 5000 scales use two spaces after switching to the second interval:

RegexBuddy weight values with defaul MT-SICS regex

Note how the second line contains two spaces after “22.25”. With the default regular expression defined in BarTender, this weight value (and all others in the same interval) would not be captured.

I don’t know if BarTender was too strict or if Ohaus was too lax in implementing the MT-SICS protocol. I believe it’s better if I don’t comment on this any further. According to the MT-SICS protocol documents I’ve reviewed, the weight should be right-aligned and separated from the unit with one space character. However, the descriptions of MT “DeltaRange” multi-interval balances mention that the last digit is replaced by a space when the number of decimal places changes:

mt-sics
Source (PDF)

Therefore, it seems that Ohaus did nothing wrong and the regular expression in BarTender did not account for this scenario.

Note: If you’re regularly dealing with regular expression, I highly recommend the wonderful RegexBuddy software.

Your user-defined protocol should now look like this:
BarTender: Add scale wizard 6Click on OK.

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 7

Select the protocol we’ve just defined and click on Next.

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 8Everything in this dialog should be correctly configured for the use of a serial port (RS-232, USB or Bluetooth SPP). Click on Next.

Add Scale Wizard Step 3

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 9

Welcome back, my lucky readers who did not have to deal with protocols and regular expressions. Change the name of the scale if you feel like it and then click on Next.

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 10

In this dialog, you must specify the COM port on your computer that is used to connect to your Ohaus Defender 5000 scale.

BarTender Add Scale Wizard 11

This is it! We’re done! Click on Finish, but don’t bring out the champagne just yet.

Testing your Ohaus Defender 5000 scale

Bartender weigh scale setup

Back in the Weighing Scale Setup, select the scale you’ve just added and click on Properties.

BarTender weighing scale setup properties

Click on Test Connection. If everything is correct, BarTender should show the Net Weight and Tare Weight received from your scale:

BarTender Weighing Scale Connection TestIn that case, congratulations, you succeeded. You can now use the values from your scale in BarTender.

Should you not see any weight values, you’ll find some troubleshooting information below.

Troubleshooting a scale connection

Unfortunately, communication problems with scales can have many causes and are often difficult to solve. I can’t give you extensive troubleshooting instructions here, but I’ll tell you the same thing I also tell our software users: Download HTerm, a simple terminal program. Then try to communicate with your scale using HTerm instead of BarTender:

HTERM used for scale troubleshooting (MT-SICS protocol)

Change the following settings in HTerm:

  • COM port,
  • Baud to 9600,
  • Newline at to “CR+LF” (optional, looks nicer),
  • Send on enter to “CR-LF” (required).

Click on the Connect button at the top (shown as Disconnect in the screenshot as I had already clicked on it). Then type the “SI” (send immediately) command manually into the input field (lower red arrow) and press enter.

You should see the command you just sent under Transmitted data and the reply from the scale under Received Data (marked green on the screenshot).

If communication is successful with HTerm but not with BarTender, the problem is with BarTender. If you’ve changed the regular expression as described above, double-check that you’ve not made any mistakes. Contact Seagull Scientific for further support. Please don’t ask me for help in the comments.

If you can’t communicate with your Defender 5000 scale using HTerm, something is wrong with your setup. In my experience, the most likely culprits are:

  • Wrong COM port.
  • Wrong interface parameters (baud rate, etc.).
  • Wrong type of serial cable.

Please understand that I cannot diagnose these problems for you remotely. You may want to contact your Ohaus dealer or pay a specialist to help you.


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Last updated on August 14, 2020: Added information concerning the MT-SICS response format.

Software Kern BalanceConnection: what’s new in 2019

Two versions of Kern’s BalanceConnection software are now available: the standard version (SCD-4.0) and the Pro version (SCD-4.0-PRO).

The following table shows the features of the standard version on the left and the additional features of the Pro version on the right (according to Kern’s 2019 catalog):

BalanceConnection SCD-4.0BalanceConnection SCD-4.0-PRO
· For operating systems Windows XP, Vista, 7,
8, 8.1, 10
· Supports balances measuring devices with
RS 232, RS 485, Bluetooth, LAN or WLAN
network (TCP/UDP/IP)
· Highly flexible formatting of the output (any
order, formatting and rounding), particularly
recording of date and time for every value
transferred, if required
· Any number of devices/interfaces can be
connected, as well as simultaneous and
synchronised recording of several balances
· Key-activated or time-controlled interro-
gation of measurements or trigger of device
functions, also for continuous recording
· The interface protocols for KERN balances are
already predefined (standard configuration)
· Compatible interface cable included when
you order a KERN balance at the same time
· Many different transfer and recording
options:
– Microsoft ® Excel/Access/Word in the
fore ground or background
– Other Windows applications (through key
simulation), e.g. shipping software or ERP
system (SAP, Sage, etc.)
– File recording (e.g. as text or CSV file)
– Print out on text or label printer
– Screen output such as large display, line
chart (drying curve for moisture analyzer),
histogram, etc.
· ODBC/SQL databases such as SQL Server
or MySQL
· Transfer to HTTP Webservices/Web forms
· Histogram
· Enables the connection of medical balances
to practice EDP systems using the device
data transfer protocol (GDT) and also the
HL7 protocol
· Implementation of programs/scrips using
freely-definable command lines
· Command sequences
· Defining the conditions for specific events
and the reaction to these events
· Filter for stability recognition (configurable
value storage)
· Central configuration repository, e.g. on the
network
· On-screen displays with configurable user
interface for flexible balance operation

If you do not need the features listed on the right, the standard version is the right choice. However, this version has also become a bit more expensive compared to the single version available so far.

Inexpensive alternatives

If you don’t need the extensive functionality of BalanceConnection and only want to connect a single scale to your PC, we offer two very inexpensive alternatives. Each of these programs has a single purpose and is therefore easy to set up and use:

  • 232key: Transfers the weight to any application (e.g. Excel, shipping software, etc.) using a key simulation (virtual keyboard wedge).
  • Simple Data Logger: Stores the weight in a CSV file (if desired with date and time), the weight can also be retrieved from the scale using a timer (Plus version only).

Further information

How to connect your scale to a network (Ethernet) using Moxa’s NPort 5110A

Many scales and balances are equipped with an RS-232 interface. Moxa’s NPort series and similar serial device servers allow you to connect such scales to a network (Ethernet). In this article, I’ll show you how to connect a Moxa NPort 5110A to an Ohaus scale and how to configure and test it.

1. Physical connection

The Moxa Nport 5110A has an RS-232 port (DE9M) on one side and an Ethernet port on the other side:

Data cables (red) are not included.

To communicate with your scale, you’ll need a matching RS-232 cable. The Ohaus Defender 3000 scale used in this example requires a DE9M to DE9F straight (1:1) cable:

Ohaus scale with Ethernet connection through Moxa NPort 5110A

Once the physical connection to the scale has been established, the Moxa NPort has to be configured. There are several ways to do so. I prefer the following method:

  1. Connect the NPort directly to a single computer (not a LAN) with an Ethernet cable.
  2. Use the NPort Administator software included with the device to configure it.

2. Network configuration

Start the NPort Administrator and locate your NPort by clicking on the Search button:NPort Administrator: Search

It should be found at the default IP address (192.168.127.254).

Note: It’s not always necessary to change your PC’s IP address if you’re running the NPort Administrator software. However, if you receive error messages during the following steps, try to temporarily set your computer’s IP address to an address on the same subnet (such as 192.168.127.1).

Select the Ethernet connection under Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network connections, right-click on it and choose Properties, then select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click on Properties. Make a note of your current settings so that you can restore them later, then enter the temporary IP address:
Ethernet IP address setting in Windows 10

If the NPort is shown as locked, right-click on it and select Unlock:
NPort Administrator: UnlockThe default password is “moxa”.

Right-click again and select Configure, then select the Network tab:
NPort Administrator: Network configurationEnter a static IP address, subnet mask and gateway that work on your network (or select DHCP or BOOTP for automatic address assignment, though this is not recommended for most operating modes).

To make the NPort accessible on our network, I set its IP address to 192.168.0.253:
NPort Administrator: Modified network settings

With the network configuration complete, you can disconnect the NPort 5110A from your computer and connect it to your network (LAN).

3. RS-232 configuration

It is essential that both the NPort and the scale use the same settings for the serial port (RS-232). In the Serial tab, select the port (the NPort 5110A only has one, but you still have to select it), check Modify and click on Settings:
NPort Administrator: Default serial settings

Enter the RS-232 settings found in your scale’s menu or user manual. The default settings of our Ohaus Defender 3000 scale are shown in the screenshot below:NPort Administrator: Serial configuration (RS-232)

Important: By default, the NPort is set to CTS/RTS flow control! You cannot change this setting when using the Setup Wizard through the web console. As mentioned before, I recommend using the NPort Administrator software instead.

4. Set an operating mode

To change the mode, go to the Operating Mode tab, check Modify, select the port and click on Settings:NPort Administrator: Operating Mode

The NPort 5110A supports several operating modes, I will only discuss the following two here:

  • Real COM mode: This mode allows you to create a virtual COM port on a PC and use the scale as if it were connected directly to that PC. This is very useful when you’re using software which only supports connections to COM ports and cannot communicate over TCP/IP (such as our 232key virtual keyboard wedge software).
    Please note that you’ll have to install a virtual COM port driver on the PC that communicates with the scale. In my tests on Windows 10, setting up the COM port through NPort Administrator did not create a new virtual COM port on the system. However, using the NPort Windows Driver Manager worked.
  • TCP Server: The NPort acts as a server, waiting for incoming connections from TCP clients on port 4001 (or on another user-defined port). The maximum number of concurrent connections can be changed from 1 (default) to up to 8. This mode works with software like our Simple Data Logger and many others.
    NPort Administartor: TCP Server mode

    Note: It is not necessary to set the data packing options unless you want to optimize either for minimal latency or maximum throughput. By default, the device will try to find a reasonable compromise (this is likely achieved by observing the delay between the data received over RS-232 to determine when a “line” of data is complete).

    When I set the scale to continuous transmission mode (wich has no delay between the weight values), the NPort packed 104 bytes in each Ethernet frame, corresponding to almost 6 weight values (the scale sends 80 values/s):
    Wireshark screenshot

For further details and for information on the other modes, please consult the user manual.

5. Run a test

Depending on the operating mode chosen above, you’ll have to use different programs to test the NPort 5110A. In addition to the software I’ve already mentioned above, you could use the following:

Real COM mode

A terminal program like Termite or HTerm can connect to the virtual COM port. Make sure that the connection parameters correspond to the settings of your scale.

TCP Server

You can use PuTTY set to “Raw” TCP mode to act as a TCP client:
PuTTY configurationThe following screenshot shows commands sent to the scale and the replies:PuTTY communication with Ohaus scaleAnother option is our free TCPTester software. It repeatedly sends a user-defined command to the scale (e.g. to request the weight). Once a reply has been received, the command is repeated:

TCPTester tcp utility used to test Moxa NPort connected to Ohaus scale
TCPTester free TCP test utility available from Smartlux

During testing, it can be useful to observe the LEDs on the NPort:

  • The “Ready” LED should be green.
  • The “Link” LED is green when the NPort has established a 100 Mbs Ethernet connection and orange on a 10 Mbps connection.
  • The Tx/Rx LED flashes orange when the NPort receives data from the scale and flashes green when the NPort is sends data to the scale over the serial port. Therefore, If you’re sending commands to a scale, you should be able to see it flash green. A reply from the scale would cause the LED to flash orange. If this is too difficult to see, consider using the web console to diagnose connection issues (I found it worked best in Firefox):
    Moxa web console monitor async

I hope this article has been useful. What are your experiences with Moxa’s NPort serial device servers? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! For support, please contact Moxa or your vendor.

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Record the weight from a scale or balance to a file – Simple Data Logger software

Connecting your scale to a PC and recording the weight should not be a difficult task. However, data logging software available from scale manufacturers or third parties is often expensive, difficult to use or frustratingly unreliable. We developed Simple Data Logger (SDL) to address these issues.

SDL writes the weight received from a scale or balance to a file, optionally adding the date and time. The CSV files generated by SDL can easily be opened in Excel and other spreadsheet applications for further processing and visualization.

Recording the weight from a precision balance using Simple Data Logger

SDL currently supports the following connections:

  • COM port: RS-232, USB virtual COM port, Bluetooth SPP, etc.
  • TCP/IP: Ethernet, WLAN (raw TCP format only).

Note: Your scale has to send data in ASCII format.

Get started recording weight values with Simple Data Logger

Connect your scale to your computer, download and install SDL, then follow these steps to configure the software (updated on December 7, 2019 – please refer to the documentation on the SDL website for the latest instructions):

  1. Input tab:
    Input tab: A&D scales and balancesIf your scale or balance is listed in SDL, simply select it and press the set default parameters for device button. Otherwise, select “generic measuring instrument” and enter the interface parameters manually. Set the radio button to match your connection: COM port (RS232, USB VCP, Bluetooth SPP) or TCP/IP.Make sure that you’ve specified a terminator (a.k.a. delimiter, the last character your scale sends in each line of data) or a timeout (e.g. 100ms, SDL will process received data if no additional data is received during this time).
  2. Output tab:
    Output tab (English US)Choose a file for the recorded data. SDL will create if for you if it does not exist (otherwise, data will be appended). Choose (or enter) a date and time format or select “None” from the list if you do not want SDL to add the date or time. Pick a decimal separator (for numeric values) and value separator (used to separate values from each other). The correct settings for your locale can be made automatically by clicking on the set values button.
  3. Start tab:
    Start tab: A&D FX-300i balancePress the start button to start recording data. Press the “PRINT” button on your scale or balance to send the weight to SDL. Depending on you scale, this button might have a different name (e.g. “DATA”). Some scales like the A&D FX-300i used in this example also have to ability to automatically transfer each (stable) weight. Data received will be shown in the event log (with the captured weight value shown in blue) and the weight will be written to the chosen file. Press stop to stop data logging and to close the file.

    Note: SDL can also handle continuous streams of weight data if this is what your application calls for (we’ve tested it with a scale which sends 100 values per second). The total number of recorded values is only limited by your disk space (but please keep in mind that Excel cannot open files containing more than 1,048,576 rows).

Process the weight values in Excel (or other spreadsheet applications)

Provided that you’ve made the right format settings in the output tab, you can easily open the CSV file in Excel (or other spreadsheet applications like Google Docs, OpenOffice/LibreOffice Calc). The weight will be recognized as a number, allowing you to make further calculations (i.e. calculating the total weight as shown below):
Everything shown here can be done with the “Basic” version of SDL (which is free for personal, non-commercial use). The “Plus” version has additional features including a timer to request the weight from the scale in user-defined intervals.

Very affordable licences can be purchased from our partner FastSpring (immediate license delivery).

 

Links and further information