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Cutting foam sheets... with a needle!

What a great looking build, Nesteffe! And, welcome to this little corner of the FoamRipper community!

You've got some really interesting stuff going on there... especially the endplate construction. It's really fun to see an entire machine suddenly "presented to the world" like this... without any fanfare or advance notice that it's coming . Please tell us more about yourself and your machine's construction details. And we love pictures! :D

I'm really enjoying my FoamRipper. I'm not sure exactly why -- I have several machines to play with -- but I really seem to be getting more enjoyment out of working/playing with this one right now... :unsure:

Thanks for sharing with us. And, again... welcome!

-- David
Thanks for the kind words! I am just an IT guy who likes to build things and I have been building Flite Test planes for a couple years now after starting with a hot wire cut self-designed trainer (the motor and ESC of which currently lives on the foamripper). Since building this thing I have now built three new planes, so it has already saved me quite a bit of labor in cutting planes, and I foresee a lot more coming in the future :)

Sorry to disappoint about the endplates, they aren't really that exciting. I just took Moebeast's DXF file, removed a bit of the material that didn't seem necessary, extruded it, and 3D printed two of them (one barely fits on a 305x300mm build plate). I don't know how they will hold up long term, but I didn't want to hand cut/drill them and I didn't have access to a CNC machine to cut them out of another material. Apparently the DXF file I used wasn't the correct one also because the channels for the conduit to pass through were shifted about 1/2" too wide and I had to take a dremel and open up those holes.

Here are some photos, if there is anything in particular you want to see let me know and I will take some more.

The main things I did differently from the base build from Thingiverse are:
  • Added an Endstop switch for the Z axis
  • Added screws to allow extending and fine tuning the zero points for the X and Z axis
  • Used a drag chain for the wires running to the Z carriage
  • Designed and printed a bracket that mounts on the conduit to hold the RAMPS board
  • Used an XBox 360 power supply with a switch to turn it on/off (I didn't realize the case of the switch isn't sealed and superglue got inside when I glued it to the bracket, now it is finicky to get turned on)
  • I printed some spacers to move the wheels out from the end plates so they don't run on top of the GT2 belts

Things I still need to figure out are:
  • A better method of mounting the power supply and LCD screen than zip ties
  • Some method of adding a guide to the needle
  • I have printed but need to install belt guides for the idler bearings that the GT2 belt runs on because the belt tends to walk off one side after a few cuts
  • I am still debating hooking up Octopi to it. I have a spare Raspberry Pi running Octoprint that I am just using to run a webcam so I can keep an eye on the foam ripper or my 3D printer, so at some point I may actually just mount that on the carriage and use it to start/run prints.
 
Thanks for the kind words! I am just an IT guy who likes to build things and I have been building Flite Test planes for a couple years now after starting with a hot wire cut self-designed trainer (the motor and ESC of which currently lives on the foamripper). Since building this thing I have now built three new planes, so it has already saved me quite a bit of labor in cutting planes, and I foresee a lot more coming in the future :)

Sorry to disappoint about the endplates, they aren't really that exciting. I just took Moebeast's DXF file, removed a bit of the material that didn't seem necessary, extruded it, and 3D printed two of them (one barely fits on a 305x300mm build plate). I don't know how they will hold up long term, but I didn't want to hand cut/drill them and I didn't have access to a CNC machine to cut them out of another material. Apparently the DXF file I used wasn't the correct one also because the channels for the conduit to pass through were shifted about 1/2" too wide and I had to take a dremel and open up those holes.

Here are some photos, if there is anything in particular you want to see let me know and I will take some more.

The main things I did differently from the base build from Thingiverse are:
  • Added an Endstop switch for the Z axis
  • Added screws to allow extending and fine tuning the zero points for the X and Z axis
  • Used a drag chain for the wires running to the Z carriage
  • Designed and printed a bracket that mounts on the conduit to hold the RAMPS board
  • Used an XBox 360 power supply with a switch to turn it on/off (I didn't realize the case of the switch isn't sealed and superglue got inside when I glued it to the bracket, now it is finicky to get turned on)
  • I printed some spacers to move the wheels out from the end plates so they don't run on top of the GT2 belts

Things I still need to figure out are:
  • A better method of mounting the power supply and LCD screen than zip ties
  • Some method of adding a guide to the needle
  • I have printed but need to install belt guides for the idler bearings that the GT2 belt runs on because the belt tends to walk off one side after a few cuts
  • I am still debating hooking up Octopi to it. I have a spare Raspberry Pi running Octoprint that I am just using to run a webcam so I can keep an eye on the foam ripper or my 3D printer, so at some point I may actually just mount that on the carriage and use it to start/run prints.
Ah! 3d printed endplates... excellent! Mark has updated the DXF file on his Thingiverse page since I downloaded and built my FoamRipper a year or so ago, so wasn't aware it might still have problems. After making a couple of adjustments and adding printed spacers and bushings as you did, I soon had workable pieces. I cut a couple of thin-plywood test plates for fit-check and then milled mine from some scrap 3/4" particle board from a long-forgotten and broken piece of fake wood-grain furniture. I don't have as large a build plate as you do on my 3d printer (Prusa MK2S... 250x210) but it appears that I COULD print endplates, less the lower wheel slot (which I don't use anyway), if I ever build another one...

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I had intended to "some day" cut my conduit to "proper" length but then had the idea to use the overhang... and printed a small shelf to carry my LCD controller...

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I'm not sure what "guide" you're talking about adding to your needle cutter but -- since you are already successfully cutting planes -- you may not really need it. I cut planes for years with just the basic cutter with a sports ball inflation needle. If you have a laser, it's possible to add laser-cut wooden pre-guides to a basic cutter. Below shows upper and lower pre-guides (there's a little cotton-wad oiler between as well...) added to a basic cutter platform...

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I have a Pi ZeroW running Octopi hooked to my machine as well. I use it primarily to jog/position the tools and run small programs for laser focus, cut/engrave tests, etc. It is convenient and gives the timelapse camera capability and works pretty well with vector files. I have noted problems running raster laser jobs (documented a couple of pages back in this thread) over USB, however... but putting the gcode files on SD card and running from the LCD controller seems to take care of those problems...

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I look forward to hearing more about your plans to improve your machine. Please keep us posted and don't hesitate to ask questions.

-- David
 
Ah! 3d printed endplates... excellent! Mark has updated the DXF file on his Thingiverse page since I downloaded and built my FoamRipper a year or so ago, so wasn't aware it might still have problems. After making a couple of adjustments and adding printed spacers and bushings as you did, I soon had workable pieces. I cut a couple of thin-plywood test plates for fit-check and then milled mine from some scrap 3/4" particle board from a long-forgotten and broken piece of fake wood-grain furniture. I don't have as large a build plate as you do on my 3d printer (Prusa MK2S... 250x210) but it appears that I COULD print endplates, less the lower wheel slot (which I don't use anyway), if I ever build another one...

View attachment 135966

I had intended to "some day" cut my conduit to "proper" length but then had the idea to use the overhang... and printed a small shelf to carry my LCD controller...

View attachment 135967

I'm not sure what "guide" you're talking about adding to your needle cutter but -- since you are already successfully cutting planes -- you may not really need it. I cut planes for years with just the basic cutter with a sports ball inflation needle. If you have a laser, it's possible to add laser-cut wooden pre-guides to a basic cutter. Below shows upper and lower pre-guides (there's a little cotton-wad oiler between as well...) added to a basic cutter platform...

View attachment 135969

I have a Pi ZeroW running Octopi hooked to my machine as well. I use it primarily to jog/position the tools and run small programs for laser focus, cut/engrave tests, etc. It is convenient and gives the timelapse camera capability and works pretty well with vector files. I have noted problems running raster laser jobs (documented a couple of pages back in this thread) over USB, however... but putting the gcode files on SD card and running from the LCD controller seems to take care of those problems...

View attachment 135977

I look forward to hearing more about your plans to improve your machine. Please keep us posted and don't hesitate to ask questions.

-- David
On my end plate I ended up reducing the size of the bottom wheel slot a lot in order to shrink down the bottom half and I also modified the top into more of a point instead of being more squared like in the original. That allowed me to fit on the build plate diagonally, but just barely. I had done a few calculations with the wheels I bought and the thickness of my workbench so I I knew I could get away with shrinking the bottom wheel slot, but it turns out I could have shrunk it even more. It probably still wouldn't be enough to get down to a ~250x210mm build plate, but if you didn't use the bottom wheel at all it does look like it would fit on yours nicely. In hindsight I might have been able to print it full size anyway because we do have a printer with a 460x460mm build plate at work that I can use for free.

By "guide" I did mean a pre-guide similar to what you have with your wood pieces. I don't know if it is really necessary but I am guessing it wouldn't hurt.

One thing I am still working on is improving the quality of my cuts. In some directions the cuts are really nice and smooth, but in others they are more jagged. In the below picture you can see a bit of what i am talking about, I think this was when I had a loose MIG tip still and it doesn't do quite as bad anymore, but I do notice it a lot more on cuts moving in the X directions than the Y direction. I had read somewhere in this thread that having a rough/angled tip on the needle can contribute to that issue, so I guess I should start by rounding the tip a bit. If that doesn't yield any improvement I will try some pre-guides, after that I guess I will be back asking some more questions :)

IMG_20190627_224542.jpg
 

zozo

Junior Member
I was looking for an easier option to cut the planes of the foarmboards and I came accross this point. I guess I am just too lazy of looking though all the 129 pages in the hope of finding the list of materials that I would require to build one of these. Any suggestion where I should look into it?
 
I was looking for an easier option to cut the planes of the foarmboards and I came accross this point. I guess I am just too lazy of looking though all the 129 pages in the hope of finding the list of materials that I would require to build one of these. Any suggestion where I should look into it?
No list of materials. It's strictly DIY and the idea is to use what you have on hand and/or can easily get... wood, metal, plastic, etc. Automated foam-cutting is indeed for "lazy" people... but some work and study is generally required to actually build and use a needle-cutter.

That said, there are a couple of 3d-printed versions of the needle cutter out on Thingiverse which might spell things out enough to satisfy your list of materials need. One of the most popular, and one I can highly recommend, is jhitesma's Improved Needle Cutter.

If you'll tell us a little about yourself, your capabilities, and your CNC foam-cutting plans, we'll do our best to help you build your own.

And welcome to the party. Should you decide you want to pursue it, just let us know.

-- David
 

zozo

Junior Member
I am pretty new to the hobby. So far I have built two airplanes from foamboards and I've printed them cut the prints out pined them to the foamboard, traced them then cut the foam board out. However this process took me about 3-5 days until I had everything cut out and was ready to glue the parts together. However cutting things manually does not makes sure that the cuts are straight and square therefore from time to time things get out of alignment. Like the ft spitfire had a tendency to roll(not sure if that was the reason for it). I was thinking to build a mpcnc and put a needle cutter on it. That should make the cutting process much faster and hopefully also fix the not square cuts issue. However I am living in eastern europe therefore not sure yet if I can get most of the parts from local shops. Fortunately I can 3d prints the parts pretty cheap as I do not own a 3D printer yet.
 
I am pretty new to the hobby. So far I have built two airplanes from foamboards and I've printed them cut the prints out pined them to the foamboard, traced them then cut the foam board out. However this process took me about 3-5 days until I had everything cut out and was ready to glue the parts together. However cutting things manually does not makes sure that the cuts are straight and square therefore from time to time things get out of alignment. Like the ft spitfire had a tendency to roll(not sure if that was the reason for it). I was thinking to build a mpcnc and put a needle cutter on it. That should make the cutting process much faster and hopefully also fix the not square cuts issue. However I am living in eastern europe therefore not sure yet if I can get most of the parts from local shops. Fortunately I can 3d prints the parts pretty cheap as I do not own a 3D printer yet.
Zozo,

I quickly tired of hand-cutting planes... and, since I was already into CNC, the basic needle-cutter idea rapidly took shape.

MPCNC and the needle cutter are a great fit... I've built several of them. I also suggest you actively seek help over in the V1Engineering forum... there are many European MPCNC users and I suspect you'll get all the help you need to get the proper parts identified and ordered.

Good luck!

-- David
 

Keno

Active member
Ah, I have my MPCNC running and I should have built one a long time back. I am not using a needle cutter yet but I am working one. At present I am using a Dremel tool with a 0.8MM milling bit and pleased with its smooth cuts. The learning curve has proven to be well worth time spent. Thanks to you and others posts as they have contained a wealth of info. A lot of time spent on YouTube also.
 
David, (or anyone else who wants to chime in)

Couple of questions after doing much reading, both on this thread, and V1 Engineering, but I am looking for opinions,
1. When considering a CNC, is it best to build one to do all tools, or specific machines for specific jobs. I mean if a "foamripper" is my primary goal, but having a spindle is something for the future, are there other things to consider besides the time involved in configuration, and adjustments needed when switching the "tool"? Or is it easier than I think, unless dealing with a laser, to get things dial in. (Or am I wrong about the laser as well, and it's not as hard period.)
2. It appears foam rippers and other "light duty" things (to me) are using the "low rider" style more and more, and less of the traditional X, Y, Z-axis machine with square box like rails, instead of wheels for one of the axis. Again, are there things to consider, other than workspace needed to consider between the two? I believe I'm correct in thinking that things that don't touch the material, or touch lightly the material, don't need the old style, unless the tool is heavy. But I'm error checking my thought process here. Or have I not payed attention to detail, and the low rider style, can have, or does have another wheel on the underside to eliminate lift?

I was planing to do the old style, but here lately with more photos and pictures presented, as I neared the more recent posts, and finished reading this thread, everything I thought I was going to do/build, is now under scrutiny.

Thanks in advance,
Steve
 
Sorry guys, spoke before typing #2. Did more research and found that Lowrider is fine for spindle, so other than workbench space, is there a reason to lean towards one over the other.
 
Welcome, Steve. Good questions...

I personally think it best to build a machine for a primary/specific tool/task... and accept the fact that it's suitability to other tasks will be limited. If tasks not suitable are eventually planned I'd think in terms of building a separate machine.

In general... smaller footprint machines can be more rigid and heavier-duty ... larger footprint machines are less rigid and lighter duty.

I've built several larger MPCNC's (4' x 4' and 4' x 3') for needle-cutting foam. They worked fine for that task... and were also suitable for pen/marker, drag-knife, and laser duty; i.e. light-duty use. These machines were rather bulky (taking up a lot of shop space) and this was also before the LowRider machine had come on the scene.

I've also built several smaller foot-print MPCNC's (2' x 2') for light-milling with a Dewalt palm router over a limited work-area. Certainly capable of lighter-duty use as well... the limited work area will then most likely be the greatest restriction.

The original LowRider was a heavier duty machine than MPCNC... carrying a larger router and capable of handling full-sheets of plywood. It was far more rigid than MPCNC and covered a far-larger work-area. Other tasks/tools are possible, or course, but the tool mount plate's proximity to the material surface makes it somewhat more difficult to align and see what's going on with the tool's business end.

Then Moebeast came up with his LowRider-inspired Foam Ripper... a simpler, lighter, cheaper machine, specifically designed to cut foam, that is also somewhat portable. This is the machine I eventually built and adapted to the uses i've documented in this thread and elsewhere. This machine more resembles the moving, overhead gantry style machine I started with. It's actually my favorite machine for lighter-duty tasks as, for off-duty tasks, the gantry can be moved to one end and a generous portion of the work surface made available for other tasks; i.e. something not possible with the MPCNC.

I hope this addressed your questions. If foam-cutting was my primary goal, I'd be thinking FoamRipper. If making furniture, go with LowRider. If versatility, go with MPCNC... smaller foot-print for heavier duty tasks and larger footprint for light-duty tasks only. Also, given the differing and sometimes conflicting requirements, I'd recommend separate machines to address a range of tasks rather than trying to build one multi-purpose, do-all machine.

-- David
 
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Been reading through this thread as I have been using a router to cut depron and this could be a useful conversion.
Just a thought how about fitting a sprung shoe to the needle cutter similar to a sewing machine to hold the board down?
 
Hey, Streff... welcome to the party.

The presser foot idea has certainly been brought up before and several folks are using it IIRC. Another hold-down method that a number of us are using is a vacuum pad... consisting of three sheets of DTFB -- two slotted sheets with slots at right angles and a top sheet, doubling as spoilboard, with holes at all the slot intersections. Workpiece goes on top, of course, and the entire stack sucks down to both the machine work surface below and the workpiece on top. Works well as the needle kerf is quite narrow and suction is usually still maintained even after cutting is complete.

Please let us know how we can help.

-- David
 
Been reading through this thread as I have been using a router to cut depron and this could be a useful conversion.
Just a thought how about fitting a sprung shoe to the needle cutter similar to a sewing machine to hold the board down?
The vacuum pad is the best solution I have used. I still put pins in 2 corners just in case something goes wrong. It is cheap, you can use your cutter to make it, can replace it whenever needed for $3.75. I have cut over 100 sheets without needing to replace, also have used it for ply with a router.
Btw over 100 sheets with old style wire crank, only replaced my needle once. I have everything to build an upgrade, just no need.
 
The vacuum system seems to be the best way to go. I did mine a bit different than the 3 sheet way but I am happy with mine. The only trouble is how do I mask the noise from the vacuum? Muffler I guess, or maybe ear plugs. Happy building.
 
Noiseless, no. But you can get one of those inexpensive router speed controls and get adequate vacuum at the lowest, quietest setting. Here's a job setup video I did (turn down the sound)... everything shown can be done in less than a minute but I was also trying to demonstrate the vacuum noise from speed control MIN to MAX, setting the needle cutter speed with the tach, and adjusting/zeroing the Z height...


-- David
 
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Since everything is moving very slowly here now, I'll take this opportunity to give a status update...

Something I never thought I'd do, I'm selling my place and moving to the San Antonio area. I'd originally intended to spend the remainder of my days here on my family's plot of land in East Texas and, for now, I'm in reasonably good health and sound mind and can live alone and pretty independently. But, at 73 years old and with a family history of heart/dementia/Alzheimer's issues, I can't realistically expect that to continue for too many more years. It is inevitable that I'll eventually need the increasing help/support of my kids... but jobs and family will never allow any of them to come and settle in rural East Texas, so I need to go to them. And, as It happens, there's a perfect place available, right next door to my loving daughter and her family, that will allow me all the independence I still want/need now... but without the burden of owning/maintaining a place that's gotten to be too much for me to handle alone. So NOW seems the perfect time to make the move and "down-size"... and not leave the burden of dealing with this place, and a lifetime's accumulation of "junk", after I'm gone.

Thankfully, I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to "play" more than I "work" in my retirement... but, right now, I'm fighting a losing battle trying to "organize" [some of] my junk in preparation for my upcoming move/life-change. This is WORK! I do just a little at a time -- until I'm sweating profusely and my heart is pounding and I'm huffing/puffing heavily -- and then have to go sit down. What a mess!

Normally, messing with my machines is PLAY... doing to them what I want, when I want to do it. But, to stay OT (too late!) and with time starting to run short, I've dismantled two of my earlier ***NEEDLE-CUTTING*** machines (a 4'x3' MPCNC and a BuildYourCNC-inspired machine) so that I can pack the hardware and electrics. I can't stand the thought of just trashing them...

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So, that's the latest with me... more WORK at the moment than PLAY. I am still online during my rest breaks, however, and keeping up with the several forums in which I participate, so I'll chime in if/when the spirit moves.

Later.

-- David
 
Thank you, Tommy.

Just easing along this morning, watching FedEx playoffs, and dismantling yet another machine (Phlatpinter-inspired)... which indeed once carried a ***NEEDLE-CUTTER*** to cut my first 3-sheet DTFB vacuum pad...

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-- David