A CNC hot wire foam cutter is a computer controlled machine used for mainly cutting Polystyrene foam (also known as EPS foam) and similar materials, such as polypropylene (Known as EPP) and polyethylene (known as PE). The machine consists of a wire running between 2 towers, which is heated via hot wire power supply, thus melting and cutting the foam into the desired shape. The towers can move in an X-Axis (right-left) and a Y-Axis (up-down).
Cutting the foam is done in 3 basic steps:
1. Drawing the desired shape to be cut.
2. Converting the shape into G-Code
3. Running the machine with the software to execute the desired shape.
Any Cad tool, such as Auto Cad or Corel Draw can be used for drawing the shape, as long as the file can be saved in a DXF format. CAD means Computer-aided Design. It is a modeling tool used to design curves and figures in 2 dimensional space (2D) or curves, surfaces and objects in three-dimensional space (3D). There are various CAD files in the market. More recommended ones include Instant Engineer 14, which can be purchased online for few dollars, DesignCAD, AutoCAD and TurboCAD. Another Cad tool software is DevFoam, that combines both the drawing and the G-Code generation. It is a user friendly application for cutting foam with a 4 Axis CNC machine.
Next step is to convert the shape into G-Code. The G-Code is another name for the computerized tool by which we tell the machine what to cut and how to cut it. For the conversion one can use software such as DeskCNC, DevCad or FoamWorks.
DeskCNC was originally designed for a 3 Axis CNC Router machines. It was later on modified to enable a 4 Axis foam cutters to run as well.
FoamWorks is known for its simplicity and being a user friendly software. It is designed to drive a 4 Axis foam cutter via a parallel port of any windows based computer. It can cut any shape, but works best for cutting RC wings.
For the last stage of running the machine, software such as Mach3 and DeskCNC can be used. The Mach3 program is a G-Code reader. It allows you to turn your PC computer into a 4 Axis CNC controller for machining and cutting. It is an operating system for running the CNC hot wire foam cutter. It was originally developed for the home hobbyist, and later modified for use for any CNC machine operation for industrial use.