Hot Wire CNC Foam Cutter Frequently Asked Questions

posted in: CNC, Hot Wire | 0

I get quite a few questions from users all over the world most asking very similar questions so I thought I’d post the  most common questions and my answers here

Can I use NEMA 17 steppers motors for the machine?

Yes Check my new build using 3d printer electronics here

For my old machine, they would be too small but if you built a more lightweight version then they are fine.

Can I use the demo version of Mach3?

Yes, you can but its limited to 500 lines of g-code.  So for a very simple design, you may get all the coordinates in 500 lines.  What happens is when the machine reaches 500 lines, it just stops.  Puzzled me a first but that’s what it was.

Can I use LinuxCNC (EMC2)

Yes, you can. Here’s how to install it and configure it.

For foam cutting, this is the link

For routing, this is link

The TB6560 controller board is it OK?

The TB6560 gets some bad press on some of the CNC forums but I’ve had no issues with mine.  I purchased it as a kit with the NEMA 23 stepper motors.  As you probably are aware these come from China and quality control can be an issue when things are built to a price.  I don’t use my CNC machine all the time, in fact, it’s built to be easily dismantled due to space restrictions.  I have used it on several occasions for most of the day and its performed perfectly.  One thing I would ensure is that your machine axis moves very easily.  The way I test this is without any power to try and turn each threaded rod by hand and it should not bind or feel tight.  I spent some time making sure the alignment of the steppers and threaded rods were very straight and true which makes sure the steppers are not stressed.

This kit is good value on Amazon and has everything you need for a parallel port build.

TB6560 separate drivers

How much will it cost

Hmm!  Well, it depends on how resourceful you are.  The hardware for my machine used a lot of materials form an office clear out but I did have to purchase the drawer slides and the threaded rods.  The main controller board came from eBay and if I remember correctly it was £169, including NEMA 23 steppers.  I then built the powers supply form two old PC power supply units.  The PC running Mach3 was an old one I already had.  The biggest costs for me has been the software Mach3, Profili Pro2 and Dev-Fus Foam. I’ve spent more on this than the build. But if you use LinuxCNC you can reduce this considerably, with the free g-code generator.

My latest USB CNC Foam Cutter should cost around $200/£160/€180

Here is a free g-code generator that will generate the g-code for you  Here’s my video showing how.  

What type of foam do I use

I use mainly XPS foam which is a pink colour and similar to blue foam.  I’ve also made wings with white polystyrene which is very easy to come by at most DIY stores.  I get my foam from Wicks in the UK their XPS is a bit thicker than other places I’ve found.

What type of hot wire do I use

I’ve tried several different types including MIG welding wire and guitar string but the best results I get are with very thin Ni-Chrome wire about 0.5-0.6mm.  It needs less power and the amount melted is very small which helps in calculating the kerf value.  This is used in the software to allow for the amount of foam melted away.  With the wire being very thin and you haven’t got the kerf value right it doesn’t make too much of an impact on your design

Can I use a laptop with Mach3

You can but it’s not supported by Mach3 and you probably not have a parallel port on yours, unless it’s an old one.   I believe its to do with power saving and it can interfere with step pluses.  My advice is to get an old desktop, I use Dell’s compact GX620 which has a small footprint and a parallel port.  You can buy an add-on card to go in a more modern desktop and that works.

Check my link here because if you use a special USB adapter or board then a laptop can be used

What other controller boards can I use

Check this page and it covers several options including USB

What software can I use to generate  g-code from my design

Profili2 Pro is very good for generating the code for wings and has a massive database of airfoils. A new version is now available called DevWing Foam 2

DevFus Foam will generate the g-code to produce the fuselage sections.  Both are available in Demo versions that are fully working apart from being able to save the g-code.

Here is a free g-code generator that will generate the code for you I’ve not actually used it on my machine but should be enough to get you going for simple wings.

Another free one is JediCut which I haven’t tried yet seem to have good support

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.