Foam Cutting Using a CNC Router

Foam Cutting Using a CNC Router

CNC routers are excellent cutting tools capable of cutting a wide range of materials using computer numerical control, a manufacturing method that can automate the cutting process’s control, movement, and precision. 

CNC routers are incredibly versatile machines capable of cutting and manufacturing products from wood, metal, composite, and foam. CNC router foam cutting is one of the least known capabilities among all of these, although it is steadily growing in popularity.  


High-Density Foam Characteristics

High-density foam, also known as thick foam, is a polymer created as a product of the chemical reaction between a polyol and a diisocyanate, which are chemicals from organic compounds. The resulting product is polyurethane, with a density almost twice that of low-density foam.

High-density foam is harder and more rigid than low-density foam. In terms of mechanical properties, it has greater tensile strength, higher compressive stress resistance, tear strength, and thermal shrinkage. These properties make it an ideal material for cutting using a CNC foam router.


CNC Router Form Cutting

Traditionally, foam cutting uses hot wire cutters for cutting 2D foam shapes, which require a flat surface. CNC router foam cutting has risen in popularity in recent years due to its 3D foam cutting capabilities, allowing manufacturers to cut out any 3D shape using a CNC foam cutter.

A CNC foam cutter is an axis machine capable of moving in 3D space and is typically available in 3-axis and 5-axis formats. It moves diagonally and in curves, which are motions that are essential to milling and carving.

These motions enable manufacturers to create various shapes and sizes from cutting high-density polyurethane foam and other materials such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) foam, aluminum, acrylics, plastics, polycarbonate, and light wood.

A CNC router provides a means of cutting materials using computer numerical control. These devices vary in size, ranging from small tabletop devices suitable for small workshops to large industrial machines used in large-scale operations. Despite their differences in size, they are generally made up of the same basic parts, which include the following: 

  • a dedicated CNC controller
  • servomotors
  • spindle motors
  • servo amplifiers
  • stepper motors
  • AC inverter drives
  • ball nuts
  • linear guides
  • workspace table

Generally, CNC routers for foam are capable of cutting the material into its desired shape. However, in some cases, the machine may have restrictions regarding the cutter length, height, or insufficient thickness on the material, which makes the design too large or too thick to be machined.

To circumvent these issues, the desired shape is cut into smaller sections and machined separately, which are then glued together once machining is finished. The sides are then sanded and coated with protective materials and paint in order to achieve a smoother finish.

Similarly, CNC routers can also be used to create molds to be poured with polyurethane foam and other casting materials to manufacture products bearing complex shapes.


Key Benefits of CNC Routers for Foam Cutting

  • Faster Return on Investment: CNC foam cutters offer more immediate returns on your investment, especially in low-volume manufacturing setups that require short processing times.

  • Lower Upfront Costs: relatively, CNC routers require a smaller upfront investment when compared to other methods of production, such as injection molding. This is because mold production costs are high, making them more suitable for high-volume productions.

  • Versatility: CNC routers are incredibly versatile equipment capable of manufacturing products for various sectors, including automotive, aerospace, architecture, fine art, museums, marine, and navigation. High-density foams can be processed in order to produce parts for vehicles, topographic maps, 3D displays, and sculptures, among many others.

  • High Degree of Repeatability: A CNC foam cutter’s functions can be digitized and controlled using a computer. Regardless of the degree of complexity of the desired shape, these can be programmed directly into the CNC software to achieve the same shape consistently throughout the entire production run.

  • Waste Reduction: the high degree of consistency and accuracy of CNC routers in foam cutting ensures that each cut is precise, leaving as little waste as possible.


Integrate Quality Foam Cutters in Your Operations With CAMaster

CNC routers are ideal for cutting all types of foam, from floral to butter board, and provide you with maximum precision and control. The best type of bit for this job is industrial-grade solid carbide. Bits with an up-cut spiral design will prevent chips from gathering in the workpiece.

CAMaster is committed to facilitating and increasing your company’s productivity and efficiency by providing the best quality CNC routers and accessories.

Our team has a broad knowledge base, and we are dedicated to sharing our experience with you to help you take your machine shop to the next level. Contact us today to discuss our range of Stinger and Cobra CNC routers for foam cutting.