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

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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

 

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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

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

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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 …..

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.

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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.

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poured in concrete

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.