Form cutting is a process that is done using a special piece of equipment referred to as a hot-wire foam cutter. The machine cuts materials such as polystyrene foam. The cutter has many components that include a thin and a taut metal wire that gets heated through electrical resistance in order to be able to cut through material. The temperature of foam cutting wires usually reaches 200 degrees Celsius or more depending on the model of the machine.
Various materials can be used to make the wire although it is made from nichrome or stainless steel in most cases. This wire can be pre-formed to any shape a person wishes to produce. The wire is normally very hot that there is no need to touch the material for it to be cut. The material gets vaporized before it is even touched by the wire.
Tensioning of the wire can be done using a bow or a frame that has springs. Many people tend to favor a single strand of stainless steel wire over nichrome wire if diameters range from 0.008 inches to 0.020 inches. This diameter is suitable for frame-tensioned cutters. Commercially, a nickel-based alloy wire Rene 41 is often preferred. This nickel-based alloy is preferred because is maintains its tensile strength at cutting temperatures.
This machine is appropriate for cutting several different materials. It is specifically appropriate for cutting through any thermofusible expanded foam. These refer to materials that normally melt at moderately low temperatures. Custom materials, flexible expanded polypropylene foams, polymathacrylimide, extruded polystyrene, and expanded polystyrene blocks are some of the materials that this machine can cut.
There exist various models of these cutters used today. They include, simple manual cutting tables, performed wires, template-guided manual tables, computer numerically controlled cutters, and push through slicers among others. Pre-formed wires are used by attaching them to handles. When in use, the operator needs to guide the wire manually to produced desired shapes. Handheld cutters operate similarly where they are guided by the operator manually so that it cuts freehand shapes.
Hot wire foam cutting tables usually have a horizontal table that is used to secure the foam work piece in place. The wire, which may be horizontal or vertical then cuts through the work piece secured on the table. Hobbyists usually use vertical wires to cut small, but complex shapes like letters. Vertical tables can be utilized to cut prismatic members only.
Horizontal tables find most use in the construction and packaging industries. The table contains tracks on either side, which are used to hold the wire. The tracks enable the wire to be moved with a great level of precision. The tracks allow both upward and downward motion. Angular cuts can also be produced by horizontal tables.
Today, CNC capabilities have been integrated into foam cutting. This gives even more capability to cut extremely sophisticated shapes with great accuracy. However, factors like stiffness of races used for supporting end effectors, stepper motors, and backlash of drive systems can affect accuracy. Usually, tensioned wires are held by the end effectors.
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