endless possibilities

Having a foamcube at your disposal changes something ! You'll never look at things the same once you realise how easy it is to create balusters, tapered columns, chairs, endtables, signs, portals, and so much more.

5 axis cnc controller arduino

5 axis CNC hotwire foamcutter controller arduino

This universal arduino powered CNC controller with built-in GCODE interpreter can control 5 axis independently and simultaneously. Run stand-alone directly from SD card, or stream gcode directly from any gcode-streamer , serial window or internet browser. Also has built in digital hotwire control

€ 695,00

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5-axis CNC Foamcube + controller

full 5-axes of freedom to create complex shapes with ease using our All-in-one Foam cutter

€ 2.840,00

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4-axis CNC Foamcube + controller

Order your 4-axes Foamcutter now ! Everything is included to get you on your way. All Foamcubes are custom built and allow you to create large 3D shapes in minutes.

€ 890,00

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Learn about our CNC Foamcube

We’re happy you came here to learn more about our CNC cube !

Foamcube came to life in 2013 . Since then it developed into a 5-axis computer controlled foam cutter that will allow you to create very complex foam shapes within minutes. It can be used to cut huge letters, wings, tables, chairs, columns, ornaments, stage props, art and more.

The CNC foam cube was invented and developed in-house at Fablab013 (Tilburg – the Netherlands) by Pete Scheepens. On March 25th 2015, the Foamcube project successfully got funded through a kickstarter campaign that went well beyond it’s initial goal. This allowed the Foamcube team to jump-start production and engineering and it has helped to make Foamcube available to everyone worldwide. You can now find Foam cubes on every continent at Universities, tech-shops, museums, High Schools, workshops and in your neighbors garage.

Foamcube is open source where possible and you can build the project from scratch yourself if you want to using our online assembly guide. You can also order pre-built kits directly from this website.If you don’t want to tinker with it, you can also order a custom made pre-built and pre-tested machines per your specifications here.

Our foamcutter is still actively being maintained and developed ! Exciting new features are being added all the time. Check back regularly.

Foamcube V 4.0 – Februari 2017

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Foamcube V4.2 May 2017

 

programming / cailbrating the foamcube controller

When you first hook up your arduino-based 5-axis foamcube controller, you may want to adjust some settings like steps-per-millimeter , 3 or 5 axis mode and other choices for first time use. Adjustments are easy ; the controller can be calibrated or programmed in a couple of different ways :

Adjust settings through the LCD display

Most of the basic settings can be adjusted using the rotary encoder knob on your controller. Simply push the controller button , turn to the correct menu-option and press the button again. While this option is fine for basic settings you can also use our direct programming mode for more finesse and control

Adjust settings through a serial monitor

While your controller has an LCD screen, it also communicates through a computer screen with help of a so-called “serial monitor” . While on the serial monitor enter command (type on your keyboard) “M100” and hit enter. This shows you a help screen and explains all your direct programming options. People that have used GRBL and similar controllers may be familiar with this way of programming.

Things you can programm directly :

  • 3 or 5 axis mode
  • default speed setting
  • X-axis steps per unit (millimeters , degrees , apples , parsecs or whatever you prefer )
  • Y-axis steps p/u
  • U-axis steps p/u
  • V-axis steps p/u
  • A-axis steps p/u (on foamcube usually the rotation platform / steps per degree)

Typical direct progamming is done using a combination of a programming code and a value. For instance , to change the steps per mm. on the X-axis (code “$101” ) to 160 steps we enter :  $101 *160

Values are set in whole numbers preceeded by a star symbol ‘*’ .

****** SET UP MENU ******************
to change variables : type ‘$’ and a number, then SPACE then followed by ‘*’ and number”

$100 set steps per mm for the x-axis e.g. $100 *160 || Integers 1-255 only
$101 set steps per mm for the y-axis e.g. $100 *160 || Integers 1-255 only
$102 set steps per mm for the u-axis e.g. $100 *160 || Integers 1-255 only
$103 set steps per mm for the v-axis e.g. $100 *160 || Integers 1-255 only
$104 set steps per mm for the a-axis e.g. $100 *160 || Integers 1-255 only

How to cut a Twine in foam

 

intertwined 3D wordplay

One of our customers http://twine.jewelry  sells nice intricate hangers through their online webshop and needed a large twine demo piece for their upcoming business event.

A twine in this case is a mix of 2 different names cut at a 90 degree angle so both names intersect and create a 3 dimensional shape.

A few pictures say more than a 1000 words so take a look below to see what we mean :


 

Using the foamcube @ Fablab013 we loaded the part of the twine that reads ELLEN and started cutting it out of a block of EPS-300 styrofoam. (EPS-300 is very dense and tough).

After the ELLEN twine was done we rotated the block by 90 degrees and loaded the twine JORIS. Both twines were simple .DXF outline vector files (tip: use the free and open-source program inkscape to draw your own).

After both sides were cut we took a good 10 minutes to wiggle the shapes out of the block carefully. The result was a twine measuring 800 x 170 x 170 mm. that now functions as a large demo piece to show potential buyers what their jewelry may look like .

 

What can Foamcube do ?

5 axes of freedom

Foamcube is a 4 axes or 5 axes (styro) Foam cutter that can cut complex 3-dimensional shapes out of foam in a few simple steps. It is robust enough to run large commercial productions, while the controls are very intuitive and miles ahead of the alternatives on the market that cost 5 to 10 times as much. It features two independent towers, each with an independent X and Y or U and V axis, combined with a rotation platform or A axis, hence the name X-Y-U-V-A machine.

Many different kinds of materials

Foamcube has an electronically controlled wire and has an extensive speedcontrol and buffering system. Because of this the cube can handle a wide range of foams and other materials that can be cut in a range from 100 to 300 degrees celcius with a razorsharp kerf as narrow as 0,25 mm.  See this post for a list of materials you can cut.

Cut tapered or offset products

Unlike other foamcutters Foamcube has true independent 4 (or 5) axes control. This means the hotwire can be angled automatically in any direction. Software automatically calculates tapers and offsets from simple 2 dimensional drawings – no need to make complicated 3D models or work with exotic design software. The workpiece can rotate on a computer controlled platform during cutting, making for some very intricate shapes.

img_20161125_110047

Make thousands of products for dozens of industries

Because Foamcube is so precise and can cut such complex shapes it is suited for many different products. Below are just a few examples of how people use Foamcube :

  • Furniture making : Large font-like shapes are cut by foamcube in high density foam and then covered with a wooden board to distribute pressure evenly. The structures get coated and are placed in public auditoriums as seating blocks
  • garden ornament casting molds : Ornaments are cut as positive shapes out of large foam blocks. Once the cut shape is pushed out of the block it leaves a negative cavity that can be filled with concrete or other materials.
  • architectural models :
  • large letters , logos and digits :
  • stage decor pieces for concerts and plays :
  • tapered colums and molds for plasterwork :
  • lost mould casting using fire or acetone :
  • be sure to visit our examples in the menu above to see some real-life projects !

In commercial & educational settings

Foamcubes are being shipped worldwide and you can find them on every continent. They are used in commercial businesses for every-day productions, and they are used by many universities around the globe as part of educational or research projects.

Built-in universal GCODE interpreter

Internally Foamcube runs on GCODE (the language of computer controlled machines like lasercutters, 3D printers, plotters, CNC routers and FOAMCUBE). Because Foamcube’s gcode-controller was programmed and built from the ground up it is perfectly tuned for 5-axis hotwire control, but it can just as easily switch to hundreds of thousands of “2-dimensional” gcode files that you may find all over the internet. Naturally Foamcube also works on virtually all gcode created with the dozens of freely available or commercial toolpath generators.

 

 

materials you can cut with the Foam cube hotwire system

CNC Hotwire foamcutting materials

With Foamcube you can process a large variety of  foam products ranging from Simple hardware store grade EPS to very dense and sturdy EPP blocks. Below are some of the materials you can work with. Any material that melts in a temperature range of 50 to 300 Celsius can technically be cut with Foamcube. By adjusting speed or wire temperature* you can tune in to a perfect cut with a narrow kerf and a smooth surface.

 EPS 60  | EPP 50 | XPS

IMG_20160408_103655

 

EPS – expanded polystyrene

EPS foam typically ranges from EPS 60 to ESP 500. EPS 60 is the stuff you buy at the hardware store, it is very cheap and often used for insulation. When EPS-60 is cut it is smooth but still shows some of the open structure. The higher the EPS number, the more condensed and heavy the foam will be. EPS 300 and up are very dense and can be sanded and have some structural abilities. (furniture, floating things, stage props etc.)

EPS-60 typically cuts fast and needs relatively low temperatures to cut (approx. 25 mm/sec @ 220-240 Celsius). Higher numbers mean lower speeds or require higher wire temperatures.

Low grade EPS 60

EPS 100 demo

XPS – extruded polystyrene

xps a.k.a. styrofoam a.k.a. styrodur a.k.a. styrisol is much denser than EPS and has better insulating properties. It can be purchased at local hardware stores and typically has a yellow or blue color. XPS sheets often act as a composite material because the top and bottom of the sheet are more dense than the middle part. Because of this reason it requires a different setting on your Foamcube and it also matters if you cut sheets perpendicular or parallel. XPS cuts a bit slower than EPS and prefers higher temperatures but has a very smooth finish. (approx. 12 mm/sec @ 250-270 Celsius).

styrisol sheets (XPS) give smooth finishes but cut slower

 

IMG_20160408_103743

EPP – Expanded polypropylene

Epp is an eco friendly foam that is typically very dense and has high structural integrity. When cut it makes tough parts that can handle a beating. E.p.p. is a bit harder to come by, but you should be able to find a few suppliers on the internet that are willing to cater. Due to it’s dense and rugged nature EPP cuts slow but it’s well worth the extra time. EPP wants a hot wire so be prepared for a beefy power supply or a short hotwire. (approx. 10 mm/sec @ 270-280 Celsius).

Rugged and dense EPP foam

IMG_20160408_103717

 Foamcube uses a 0.22 mm. hotwire and has a very narrow kerf width.

IMG_20160408_103328

PE – Poly Ethylene Foam

PE Foam is very easy to cut and is ideally suited for inlays, protective casings, molds, furniture, or to build large very lightweight decor pieces in very little time. Polyethylene foam edges are very clean when cut with a foamcutter / hotwire and the material is fairly cheap, comes in dozens of colors and all kinds of sizes.

Dozens more ….

While the materials above are most often used in our lab, there are naturally dozens of other materials you can cut and style with our CNC Foam cutter. Feel free to experiment and play. Foamcube can handle some abuse and loves new stuff to chew on ! Found a new material to play with ? Please let us know …..

a word about NiCr hotwire length for foamcutters

nicrFor Foamcube we use NiCr type hotwires. NiCr stands for Nickel Chromium.

The NiCr wires are strong, can handle high temperatures and do not expand too much when heated. They are also available in very small diameters so the kerf of our foam cuts can be nice and tight.

Since most Foamcube wires are either a maximum of 50 cm. or 100 cm. we use the same wire for both and simply vary the voltage running through the wires. Ideally we want a temperature range of about 220 – 300 Celcius, which can easily be achieved by using either 12 volts or 24 volts.

The wire we use has a resistance of 22 Ohms per meter and has a diameter of only 0.254 mm. It’s right in the sweet spot.

When we apply 12 Volts DC to a 50 cm. long wire, it’s temperature hovers around 250 Celcius. It draws approx 1.1 Amps from your power supply.

When we apply 24 Volts DC to a 100 cm. long wire, it’s temperature hovers around 250 Celcius. It draws approx 1.1 Amps from your power supply.

So by doubling the input voltage you can make the hotwire twice as long keeping the same temperature range. This also implies that by controlling the input voltage you can control the temperature of the hot wire.

When you build your own foam cutter it is recommended to keep your wire length at maximum 40 cm. (12 volts), 90 cm. (24 volts) 190 cm. (48 volts) etc. Power supplies in increments of 12 volts are easy to find and are a lot cheaper than having to acquire say a supply of 28 volts. By keeping the wire length a little shorter you will have a wider temperature range to cut denser type foams using off-the shelf power supplies like ATX supplies from an old computer, LED power supplies from China, or even your typical plug-in-the-wall power supply that delivers more than 1200 milli-amps.

We carry spools of Ni-Cr wire in our online store for your convenience. If you source your wire locally make sure it consists of Nickel and Chromium  (no iron, aluminium and other traces) and has a resistance of 22 Ohms/meter at room temp.

Foam hotel – architectural model

Foamcube comes in many different sizes, but every cube is capable of making models well beyond its boundary size. As an example we used a 1 cubic meter cube to create a 12 cubic meter mockup of a chinese hotel. The hotel was designed and cut by Space and Matter (Amsterdam), read more here : http://fablab013.nl/inspiratie/cnc-foam-cube-cutter-da-lang-palace-china/

The 3D model of the hotel was cut into several smaller pieces and fed into Foamcube. The entire process took about a week to put together, but the actual cutting of all the parts was done in a timespan of approx. 14 hours.

thin foam is cut by standing a sheet straight up
thin foam is cut by standing a sheet straight up
initial body is made out of rough cut blocks
initial body is made out of rough cut blocks
more detail is added
more detail is added
the small details like balcony's windows and columns are no problem for Foamcube
the small details like balcony’s windows and columns are no problem for Foamcube
final pieces were put together using simple white wood-glue and toothpicks
final pieces were put together using simple white wood-glue and toothpicks

 

Below is an image of the model as it was shipped to China. To read more about this project please go to :

http://www.spaceandmatter.nl/dalangfever/

Foamcube safety sheet & quick start guide

Foamcube safety sheet

Foamcube d.i.y. Kits are distributed by :
Bijbibi / Fablab013
Groenstraat 139 Hal 553
5021 LL Tilburg
the Netherlands

via4321@gmail.com
+31 6 373 402 83

online manual : http://foamcuttingcube.com

With Foamcube comes your own personal online drive. It contains important documents, settings, manuals and instructions. Please take time to familiarize yourself with these documents first.


your personal online drive :

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B08tCnnhDeKgZjkzRnF6cC15Wlk

 

Do it yourself kit & limitations

Please note that all Foam-cube kits are delivered as a collection of loose parts that need to be assembled by the end-user into a usable machine. Although efforts were made to make these products as safe and easy as possible, the distributor can not make any guarantees towards the final product regarding safety or compliance to local rules that may apply in your country or region.

Before you build your machine you should be aware of any regulations that may apply to you when implementing such a machine in a private or (semi)public setting. Note that as the constructor of the machine you take on sole responsibility for safety and compliance and indemnify the distributor against any claims or damages.

 

Potential safety hazards you may encounter

  • Foam cutting machines like Foamcube have electrical parts that may overheat, melt or catch fire. Never leave your machine unattended when it is plugged in.
  • Foamcube uses a hotwire to cut foam. Wire temperatures can run as high a 1000 degrees celsius ! hotwires, when touched, may cause severe and painful 3rd degree burns.
  • Hotwires can easily ignite other sources and start fires.
  • When cutting material with hotwires you may generate noxious or poisonous fumes. Take proper precautions.

 

 

  NEVER connect or disconnect electrical connections when your Foamcube is powered on, plugged into mains, or connected to the USB port.

This WILL destroy the stepper drivers inside your controller.


Welcome to your online drive for Foamcube support. In this google drive folder you will find various documents that will help you get the most out of your Foamcube CNC hotwire foam cutter.

Installing software

As of Jan. 2018 all Foamcubes will be powered by Arduino microprocessors. The software is already pre-loaded onto your arduino controller. To install upgrades or newer versions of the controller software you can use the “XLOADER” software to upload a new “HEX” file into your controller. Both xloader and the HEX files can be found in your online drive in the “software” folder.

HEX files are pre-compiled software packages that can be uploaded to your controller without hassle or difficult settings. Foamcube HEX files all have names with the build-date in them so it’s easy to find newer software for your Foamcube controller.  Name formatting for HEX files : YEAR-MONTH-foamcube…….hex (e.g. 2018-01-foamcube.hex)

 

building your foamcube

If you have not yet started assembly of your cube you can find a standard online assembly manual here : http://foamcuttingcube.com/  Please see the “assembly” menus on the top of the page. Note that your cube may look different so use the guides loosely as Foamcube is always under development to improve user experience.

Need more help ?

While most people have no problems building and running their cube we understand if you have more questions. Please post general questions in our forum and we will do our best to get you an answer within 24 hours : http://foamcuttingcube.com/forum/

Demo files

In your online drive you can find a folder called “demo files”. It contains some .DXF and gcode files to get you started quickly.

Simple 2D  shapes

Flame : load the .dxf file into the usbcnc software and cut it out of a small sheet of foam.

3D shape out of a 2D file

candle 2 : cut it out of a small piece of foam. Then turn 90 degrees and cut it again.

3D shape

candle 1 : cut it out of a sheet that is at minimum 10 cm thick. after it was cut, turn it 90 degrees and load “candle 2”. Now cut candle 2 through candle 1 to get a 3-armed candelabra.

rotationcut

Load bal72.txt as a gcode file. Set rotation platform to 5 degrees. Start the cut and see the bal take shape in 72 cuts. (This is probably the most inefficient way to create a shape like this. Using ping-pong mode in our online gcode builder will be far more efficient.)

online gcode builder – ROTATIONCUTS

Once you are familiar with all the options and settings on your Foamcube you may want to play with our online gcode manipulator a bit. It helps you transform simple 2D outlines into 3D shapes. The gcode it generates can be loaded into usbcnc directly. Don’t be fooled by it’s simplistic appearance. When you put in more complex shapes, you get very complex 3D shapes as results. Experiment !

you can find the online gcode builder at :

http://foamcuttingcube.com/buildgcode/

foamcut Japanese garden ornament in plaster

Vera came up with the idea to recreate a japanese tea-garden on top of our steel containers in the lab. Naturally we needed some ornaments to create atmosphere so Vera started up her Illustrator (yes, I know, inkscape is better 🙂 and started drawing a 2d outline of her first ornament. We want a positive model in foam so we can coat it, and we want a negative mold so we can pour new ornaments in plaster-of-paris.

IMG_20150205_170734
cutting a larger block to managable size
IMG_20150205_160201
Cut once, rotate 90 degrees and cut again
IMG_20150205_155913
second pass for the final product
IMG_20150205_173712
tadaa … !

 

 

 

 

 

 

CNC cut baluster and foam mold

The cube can create complex 3D designs in a very simple manner. This time we want to create a mockup baluster for in the garden, and afterwards we also want to have the pouring mold so we can create new balusters very easy and repeatedly in concrete.

Step 1 : Draw some images in your favorite vector software (we use inkscape , it’s freeware)

baluster

Step 2 : Load your .DXF images into CNC usb and start cutting the foamblocks on your  foamcube.

IMG_20150204_112445

 

Step 3 : rotate your foamblock by 90 degrees and load your second .DXF to make the crosscut

2nd cut to make our baluster
2nd cut to make our baluster

step 4 : remove foamblock and gently extract positive mockup/prototype from your block. What’s left is a perfect mold for pouring concrete or gypsum.

IMG_20150204_120600 IMG_20150204_120611 IMG_20150204_120114 IMG_20150204_120105

IMG_20150204_134640

 

poured in concrete

foam pinnacle & casting mold

japanese_topThis foam pinnacle was designed in the free Inkscape vector drawing software and saved as a .DXF file in millimeters.  The .DXF vector-image was then imported into the foam cube software and copied to both cutting towers.

 

For this model the cutting towers ride in stereo, mimicking eachothers movements. Once one cut is completed the model is rotated 90 degrees and cut again. This creates a perfect pinnacle and a very solid re-usable casting mold for materials like concrete or plastics.

pagode_4

pagode_2

pagode_1

cnc hotwire foam cutting tips

In order to get the most out of your foam cutting projects we have collected some tips and experiences straight out of the lab :

  • hotwire thickness : thicker wires can carry more current and can get hotter thus travel faster , but with more heat and speed comes more inaccuracy. Keep your wires thin and speeds low for more accurate models.
  • speeds : Denser foams need more heat or lower speeds. Thicker blocks also need a speed adjustment.
  • complex models : To create complex shapes it may be neccesary to rotate your foam blocks in incremental degrees (usually 45 or 90 degrees). Keep your blocks aligned securely and perpendicular to the hotwire for best results.
  • dirt : To cut costs many people use old insulation blocks. No problem, just be careful with any dirt on the blocks that may accumulate on your hotwire. Dirt will instantly bake on and ruin a perfect cut.
  • When you have a choice, always start cutting at the top and work your way down to the bottom of the piece.

decorative mouldings – CNC foam cutting examples

Mouldings can be very expensive, but now they are very easy to make with your own foam cube. Simply draw a flat image of a moulding’s cross-section and import it into the software.

IMG_20140805_101111

 

Let the machine do it’s hotwire cutting while you have a cup of coffee. And once your foam cutting cube is done, simply slide your new mouldings out and separate them.

 

IMG_20140805_101532

 

IMG_20140805_094922