My new CNC Foam Cutter design uses a USB interface so check this out first as it may be more suited to your requirements. https://www.rckeith.co.uk/how-to-build-a-usb-cnc-hot-wire-foam-cutter/
The new design can still use the parallel port if you prefer and the details are in the ebook. Parallel ports on are now obsolete but you can still get a PCI card to fit in a PC plenty on eBay or Amazon. Or use an old PC that you have gathering dust
This page has links to all the resources you’ll need with the eBook, plans and cutting lists.
The controller board and the stepper I’d recommend you buy as a kit including the power supply. Loads on Amazon, AliExpress and Gearbest check the parts list below to see what I’ve used and recommendations. I’ve included all the details of my machine so if you follow this you can build your own.
- Part Lists
- CNC Controller
- TB6560 DIP switch setting on my Blue Board
- Alternatives to TB6560 parallel controller
The full build details are in the eBook which you can download here
To save yourself time and some expense take the cutting list to your local DIY store and get them to cut all the parts. My local store does this and you only pay for what you need and you’ll get them cut to the correct size with nice square cuts.
The links below are affiliate links so if you use them to purchase from them thank you very much. You don’t pay any more but I earn a little commission. My build is based on these parts with a couple of options for the controller hardware.
|1||4 Axis TB6560 Controller Board||Amazon US
|1||4 Axis TB6560 Controller Board |
All in one with power supply.
Drivers all on one board usually cheaper
|4||NEMA 23 Stepper Motors 57BYGH56-401A or similar.||Amazon US|
|4||NEMA 17 Stepper Motors 0.9 -1.5 Amp x 4||Check the latest price|
|8||600mm Drawer Slides x 2 pairs – 4 in total|
450mm Drawer Slides x 2 pairs – 4 in total
|Purchase from a local DIY store|
|4||Flexible couplers x 4 |
M10 x5mm for NEMA17
M10 x 6.35 for NEMA23
|Get the couplers here NEMA17 are 5 mm x 10|
|4||10 x 1.5mm T-Nuts x 4||USA Price Check
UK Price Check
|40||M6 Cross Dowels Bolts 50mm and Barrel Nuts x40||Get the Cross Dowels here|
|4||10 x 1.5mm x 1000mm (cut to size) Threaded Rod x 4|
If you prefer to use T8 Lead Screws
M5 x 8mm couplers will be needed as well.
450mm for vertical
750mm for horizontal
The step/mm will need to be re-calculated as well.
|Purchase from a local DIY store.
Alternative T8 lead screws UK
Alternative T8 lead screws USA
|1||12 mm MDF Moisture resistant or paint after the build.||Purchase from a local DIY store.|
This next part covers the electronics I’ve used but I have another post that covers several options for motors and controllers in more detail. Maybe worth a read if you’re unsure.
For my original design, I decided to use NEMA 23 motors. A NEMA 23 stepper motor has a 2.3 x 2.3 inch (58.4 x 58.4 mm) faceplate There are many options to choose from in this range and generally the longer the motor body the more powerful the motor is. My new design uses NEMA 17’s which are 1.7×1.7 inches on the faceplate, but NEMA23’s can still be used. The plans have a template drawing for both stepper motors.
The NEMA 23 I used on the original design were rated at 2.8Amps with 175oz/in holding torque. I’m now using NEMA17’s rated at 0.9Amps with 56oz/in which work really well and are a lot cheaper.
Choosing a CNC controller can be a little intimidating if you are new to the subject. There are several options all with their pro’s and cons. One of the main factors is the size of stepper motors you decide to use.
The TB6560 all in one board I used is my opinion is a little easier to use because a lot of the wire connections are already made on the board. If you use separate driver modules each module needs to be wired up making for a lot more wires. So there’s potential to get more crossed wires.
If your stepper motors are rated above 2.8Amps then we need to use a controller with stepper drivers rated to handle the current.
TB6560/TB6600 controller with the parallel port
This controller is used with Mach3 or LinuxCNC which interprets the g-codes and via the controller board moves the stepper motor.
G-code is the language CNC machines use to tell the hardware what to do, such as move the X-axis 1 inch. There are many codes and they usually start with the letter “G” or “M”. Fortunately, we don’t need to learn these but understanding a few of the most common ones can help with understanding how the machine works.
LinuxCNC used to called EMC2 and has been around for some time and I did prefer to use this instead of Mach3 for both my machines. I’m now using the USB version. I have a full post on installing configuring and LinuxCNC here
Mach 3 has been around for a while and is extremely well documented with some good tutorial videos on their website. Although not specifically for a hot wire machine they are worth watching. I’ve watched them several times http://www.machsupport.com/help-learning/videos-tutorials/
Mach3 and LinuxCNC are designed to use the old parallel printer port which is now legacy, which modern PC’s don’t have any more. There are a few options:
- Get hold of an older PC with a printer port. Mach3/LinuxCNC doesn’t need a high-performance PC so most older PC’s will work just fine. This is what I have done and I have a few spare ones as well. Plenty on eBay from around £50/$80
- Install a printer port add-on card. This one on Amazon has good reviews http://amzn.to/2fTsJIY
- Use a USB or Ethernet motion controller board. This with the driver software will configure Mach3 to use either your USB or Ethernet port. The TB6560 then plugs into the motion controller. Check my article for options https://www.rckeith.co.uk/mach3-parallel-port/
I use an old Dell GX 620 ussf running Windows XP with 2GB of RAM. Mach3 will only work on a 32-bit version of Windows. You can use a laptop ArtSoft doesn’t recommend it due to the power saving features used on laptops, which may cause missed steps. I use LinuxCNC on this machine as well. I have a disk for each and just swap out when I need the other.
My PC was a fresh install of Windows for Mach3 and nothing else on it. It’s not connected to the internet so I have no need for anti-virus and updates. I’ve even switched lots of unnecessary services off. I get the g-code on by USB memory sticks.
The configuration of Mach3 with the TB6560 and all my setting go to this page http://www.rckeith.co.uk/4-axis-cnc-hot-wire-configuration-for-tb6560-and-mach3/ includes setting home and limit switches.
This is a good option and works well I have full details here http://www.rckeith.co.uk/foam-wing-free-cnc-software/
The display is much better in my opinion for 4 axis foam cutters, Mach3 can look a little weird on 4 axes.
TB6560 DIP switch setting on my Blue Board
I’ve had a few comments on the website from people struggling to get their machine working correctly. Here’s how I have mine set up.
This is configured for 75% current, fast decay mode and 1/2 micro-stepping. My stepper motors are rated at 2.8 amps and the drive will supply 3 amps at 100% so I reduced this to 75% to give me 2.2 amps and the motors work fine and have run like this for several years.
Alternatives to TB6560 parallel port controller
Software to generate g-code for Mach3 and LinuxCNC
Profili2 Pro http://www.profili2.com/ was very good for generating the code for wings and has a massive database of airfoils. Its been replaced by DevWing Foam 2 http://www.devcad.com/eng/devwingfoam.asp
DevFus Foam will generate the g-code to produce the fuselage sections. Both are available in Demo versions that are fully working apart from not being able to save the g-code. www.devcad.com See my Hawker Hurricane build on the website
Here is a free g-code generator that will generate the code for you http://swarfer.co.za/rc/wire/index.php I’ve used it on my machine and it’s easy to use and may be all you need Start with this first.
Another free one is JediCut https://www.jedicut.com/en/. My video playlist above includes a tutorial on how to use Jedicut to generate g-code