I’ve worked with Zen Toolworks equipment on all of of my CNC projects so far, but the latest piece of ZTW equipment that I’ve been able to get my hands on is a bit different. Although designed to be used with their router base, their new hot wire foam cutter kit can also be used as a stand-alone unit, allowing one to cut foam into whatever shape is needed.
As seen in the above video, I decided to use it as a stand-alone machine. Partly this was because I’d never worked with a foam cutter before, but admittedly, the fact that I didn’t want to disturb my now reliable ZTW CNC router probably factored into things. That being said, there are some really cool designs that I’ve seen done with this kit, including one that uses 4 axes to twist the wire at whatever angle is needed. I went with an extremely simple design that used under $5 in additional parts, that I will go over in an upcoming post.
This is a new type of “machining” for me, but as an engineer it definitely reminds me of a wire EDM machine, albeit much cheaper and not able to cut as hard of materials (serious understatements). I found this quite fun to use, and was really amazed at how the wire just cuts through 2 inch Styrofoam with very little effort. The machine can only burn so fast (maybe 30 inches per minute) or the wire gets stretched out.
The foam wire cutter was able to cut both types of foam-like packing material that I tried, it definitely was able to cut faster with Styrofoam. It’s a great way to reuse something that you might throw away anyway, and it obviously opens up new making possibilities! There are, of course, vendors of ready-made foam cutters (like this one from Amazon), but the ZTW kit is a really good quality set of parts (including lots of extra hardware and wire) that will allow you to make your own cutter to the exact specifications that you desire. Both certainly have their place, but if you want some sort of CNC control, the ZTW kit seems like a great place to start.
Although the video below isn’t a ZTW model (as far as I know), and definitely not my machine, check out this foam cutting robot that was listed on Make. If you were wondering what you could do with a custom CNC foam cutter kit, this should give you some inspiration:
Be sure to check out the CNC router that I built using a Zen Toolworks kit! If you want to be kept informed about future projects, be sure to subscribe via RSS! I’ll go over how I actually made my cutting unit in the next post.