I was recently on a west coast virtual meetup event and there was a discussion about plugins and someone chimed in asking “who uses serial scales?” (or something like that…) With 20+ years of experience working with Claris FileMaker Pro customers in a warehouse, it’s fairly common for us to interface with these devices.
First off, scales used on a shop floor are very industrial and expensive. The Mettler Toledo PS60 looks to be bomb-proof and costs over $500. While current PS60’s have a USB interface, older models rely on the trusty serial protocol. We recently did a shipping integration where a customer had a flashy new dimensionalizer (that cost thousands of dollars) with a serial interface.
Talking to Serial Scales from FileMaker Pro
Interfacing with a serial scale from FileMaker Pro is easiest with a plugin like MBS or Troi Serial. Both work equally well for this use case. In the scripts below we go thru a simple process – we open a serial port, we then send some data to the device (based on device spec, some require a CR/LF or some other characters), then we receive a response back. Some scales return fractional values so we then apply a modifier as needed to get a proper weight in pounds.
Note that on the Mac, you need to have an adapter for a serial scale. The preferred Tripp-Lite/Keyspan USA19-HS adapter requires drivers which will not work with macOS Big Sur. There are some serial to Bluetooth adapters which will provide connectivity for macOS.
But what if you don’t like plugins? If you’re in the mood for a science project, you could build a microservice with a Raspberry Pi that communicates with a serial or USB scale, but then exposes it to FileMaker thru CURL. But why waste time when using a plugin is so simple?
If you don’t like science, another alternative is PrintNode, a paid service that installs on your desktop and provides an interface to scales (and printers) thru HTTP requests. PrintNode requires a bit of setup and configuration but is very powerul. One benefit of PrintNode is you can then capture weights using your app with FileMaker Go or FileMaker WebDirect. This opens a whole new world to mobile warehousing.
Alternatives to Serial Scales
Some USB scales are simply serial devices with a USB adapter. When you look at them from the operating system, they require a driver and show as a COM port or some variant. Other USB scales act as HID devices and require special applications to communicate with them using a USB vendor and product ID. We’ve found that dimensionalizers have the ability to communicate over IP using simple HTTP requests.
NRGship solutions for FileMaker have the ability to communicate with scales using serial, HID, PrintNode or IP. NRGship allows you to quickly integrate UPS, FedEx, USPS and LTL validation, rating and shipping into your app.
Please contact our Sales Department for further information if you need help communicating with scales from your own FileMaker Pro app.