Software apps and online services
This is a showcase of a tool located in the UCF TI Innovation Lab. This is for showcase and demonstration only and not instructions on how to create a similar rig. This is a tool that produces extremely hot surfaces and should be used with extreme caution to avoid bodily harm. Fumes are also produced when cutting materials, so proper ventilation is also required.
This tool is utilizing a power supply, temperature controller, (TI MSP430 + thermocouple), motor controller, multi-axis pick and place machine, and industrial CNC controller from Masso (https://masso.com.au/). Significant effort is required to get all these pieces working together if you can even acquire them in the first place.
The basic idea is you can shape blocks of foam by cutting it with a hot wire (200 degrees C is a good temp for a slow cut). Similar to how you can cut a block of cheese with wire. You can cut big blocks into smaller blocks, and you can make tapered cuts using CNC to shape blocks into curved shapes. Why would you want to do this? Perhaps you are creating something that needs to float or needs to be insulated with foam. Some of the students at UCF use this tool to make autonomous boats for their design projects.
Microcontroller based temperature controller is regulating the temperature on the hot wire. If temperature goes high, speed of cut can be increased in order to avoid over melting the foam. If temperature gets too low, the wire will not be able to cut through the foam.
The Masso controller has HDMI out so a separate computer is not required to run the CNC machine.
In this demo, the cutter is making a straight cut down, you can see the temperature is being monitored. In more complex cuts you can taper the two ends of the wire to create curves.
Using this technique, it is very easy to design 3D shapes and make them a reality in foam. Highly educational for students to get hands on with engineering prototyping.
Here is the result of a foam enclosure for a boat project. Additional sanding and painting can be done to improve the aesthetics of these projects.
UCF TI Innovation Lab