Make enough attempts to cut foam using whatever you’ve got — utility knife, hacksaw, serrated plastic knife — and you’ll wish hard for something that cuts cleaner, faster, and better. While there are all sorts of ways to build a hot wire foam cutter, this design from [jasonwinfieldnz] is both interesting and imitable.
If you don’t already know it, nichrome wire is nifty stuff that’s readily available in thrift store hair dryers and toasters. It stretches as it heats up, and shrinks as it cools back down.
The interesting part of this build is that instead of using a spring to keep tension on the nichrome wire, [jasonwinfieldnz] designed and 3D-printed a bow out of PLA that does the job elegantly. While [jason] was initially concerned that the bow might possibly melt, he found in practice that although the bow does get warm to the touch, it’s nowhere near hot enough to even warp.
One nice touch is the simple fence that rides along two slots and secures with wingnuts. We also like that [jason] made this foam cutter largely from scrap material, and rather than buy a spool of nichrome, he opted for a skinny heating element and pillaging the wire.
If you’re a nichrome noob, know that it doesn’t take much juice to do the job. Even though a computer power supply is what [jason] had lying around, it’s complete overkill, so you would definitely want to limit the current. Check out the build video after the break.
Still not portable enough for you? All you really need is a 18650, some nichrome, and a few bits and bobs to hold it all together.
Continue reading “Foam Cutter Moves Like A Hot Knife Through Butter”
Foam is all kinds of useful, but trying to cut it with scissors or a serrated plastic knife is usually an exercise in futility. What you really need is a hot wire for nice clean cuts. [Elite Worm] built a hot wire foam cutter that can cut any type of foam with ease, be it Styrofoam or grey craft foam.
There are a ton of ways to heat up a taut piece of nichrome wire, but few of them are as good looking as this one. [Elite Worm] designed and printed a table with an adjustable fence so it can be used like a table saw. There is also a circle-cutting jig that looks really handy.
This design uses a 12 V power regulator to heat up a piece of tension-adjustable nichrome wire for buttery smooth cuts. This thing looks fantastic all the way down to the cable management scheme. All the files are available on Thingiverse if you want to build one for yourself, but you’ll need to use something other than PLA.
This wire cutter is pretty versatile, but you could go even smaller with a handheld version, or build a larger, CNC-based machine.
Continue reading “Hot Wire Foam Cutter Does Circles, Too”
Anyone who’s ever cut ribbon, grosgrain or otherwise, may be dismayed by the frayed edge. There are methods of avoiding this, like cutting the ribbon diagonally, or double-diagonally into a forked point, or cutting it straight across and cauterizing the threads with a lighter. But if you have a thirteen dozen baker’s dozens’ worth of goodies to festoon, ain’t nobody got time for that.
[IgorM92] made this hot wire ribbon cutter for his wife, who has a yummy-looking baking business. It combines the cutting and the heat-sealing into a single step by using the heating element from an old soldering iron. If you don’t have one of those, you could just as easily use the nichrome wire from an old hair dryer, a toaster, or wire-wound resistor.
Since the idea is essentially shorting a power source to heat up a wire, it should be done safely. [IgorM92] used a phone charger to condition mains power down to 5 V. There isn’t much else to the circuit, just a rocker switch, a power-indicating LED, and its resistor, but this simple project will no doubt save a lot of time and labor. Burn past the break to watch it ramp up production.
Nichrome wire is good for cutting foam, too. Here’s a bare-bones version that can be made in minutes.
Continue reading “Hot Wire Ribbon Cutter Ceremoniously Heats Up Productivity”
If you’re into amateur rocketry, you pretty quickly outgrow the dinky little Estes motors that they sell in the toy stores. Many hobbyists move on to building their own homebrew solid rocket motors and experimenting with propellant mixtures, but it’s difficult to know if you’re on the right track unless you have a way to quantify the thrust you’re getting. [ElementalMaker] decided he’d finally hit the point where he needed to put together a low-cost test stand for his motors, and luckily for us decided to document the process and the results.
The heart of the stand is a common load cell (the sort of thing you’d find in a digital scale) coupled with a HX711 amplifier board mounted between two plates, with a small section of vertical PVC pipe attached to the topmost plate to serve as a motor mount. This configuration is capable of measuring up to 10 kilograms with an 80Hz sample rate, which is critically important as these type of rocket motors only burn for a few seconds to begin with. The sensor produces hundreds of data points during the short duration of the burn, which is perfect for graphing the motor’s thrust curve over time.
Given such a small window in which to make measurements, [ElementalMaker] didn’t want to leave anything to chance. So rather than manually igniting the motor and triggering the data collection, the stand’s onboard Arduino does both automatically. Pressing the red button on the stand starts a countdown procedure complete with flashing LED, after which a relay is used to energize a nichrome wire “electronic match” stuck inside the motor.
In the video after the break you can see that [ElementalMaker] initially had some trouble getting the Arduino to fire off the igniter, and eventually tracked the issue down to an overabundance of current that was blowing the nichrome wire too fast. Swapping out the big lead acid battery he was originally using with a simple 9V battery solved the problem, and afterwards his first test burns on the stand were complete successes.
If model rockets are your kind of thing, we’ve got plenty of content here to keep you busy. In the past we’ve covered building your own solid rocket motors as well as the electronic igniters to fire them off, and even a wireless test stand that lets you get a bit farther from the action at T-0.
Continue reading “Arduino-Powered Rocket Test Stand”
Let’s face it: cutting foam with a knife, even a serrated plastic knife meant for the job, is a messy pain in the ass. This is as true for insulation board as it is for the ubiquitous expanded polystyrene kind of foam used for everything from coffee cups to packaging material.
Those stick-type hot wire cutters from the craft store that plug into the wall aren’t much better than a knife. The actual cleaving of foam is easier, but dragging a long, hot flexible wand through rigid foam just right, without making burn marks, is pretty frustrating. It’s not like you can hold the other end to keep it steady. A foam cutter built like a coping saw but held parallel to the wire would offer much better control.
[Techgenie]’s handheld hot wire foam cutter is a simple build based on a single 18650 and a piece of nichrome wire. While this is probably not the most Earth-shattering hack you’ll see today, it’s a useful tool that can be made in minutes with items on hand. Laptop chargers are full of 18650s, and nichrome wire can be sourced from old toasters, hair dryers, or space heaters.
You shouldn’t use just any old wire for this, though, or the battery will get hot and potentially explode. Nichrome wire has a high resistance, and that’s exactly what you want in a tool that essentially shorts a battery to make heat. [Techgenie] used a momentary button instead of a switch, which is a good way to stay safe while using it. It wouldn’t hurt to add some protection circuitry and take the battery out when you’re done. Burn past the break to watch him build it and cut a few tight turns with ease.
If you have bigger, more complicated foam-cutting jobs in mind, why not build a CNC version out of e-waste?
Continue reading “Build A Tiny Hot Wire Foam Cutter”
One of [Bithead]’s passions is making Star Wars droids, and in the process of building the outer shell for one of them he decided to use hot wire foam cutting and make his own tools. Having the necessary parts on hand and having seen some YouTube videos demonstrating the technique, [Bithead] dove right in. Things didn’t go exactly to plan but happily he decided to share what did and didn’t work, and in the end the results were serviceable.
[Bithead] built two hot wire cutters with nichrome wire. The first was small, but the second was larger and incorporated some design refinements. He also got an important safety reminder when he first powered on with his power supply turned up too high; the wire instantly turned red and snapped with an audible bang. He belatedly realized he was foolishly wearing neither gloves nor eye protection.
When it came to use his self-made tools, one of the biggest discoveries was that not all foam is equal in the eyes of a hot wire cutter. This is one of those things that’s common knowledge to experienced people, but isn’t necessarily obvious to a newcomer. A hot wire cutter that made clean and effortless cuts in styrofoam did no such thing with the foam he was using to cast his droid’s outer shell. Still, he powered through it and got serviceable results. [Bithead]’s blog post may not have anything new to people who have worked with foam and hot wire cutters before, but if you’re new to such things you can use it to learn from his experiences. And speaking of improving experiences, [Bithead] most recently snazzed up the presentation of his R2-D2 build by getting tricky with how he hides his remote control.
Looking for a
harmless way to really step up your office warfare game? Why not build a nitrocellulose desktop cannon!?
On of our favorite science DIY YouTube channels, [NightHawkInLight] shows us how he made this awesome cannon — with interchangeable cannon cartridges! It even has a bit of a steampunk feel to it.
Nitrocellulose, or flash cotton as it’s more commonly known, is used by magicians for fireball magic tricks. Similar to flash paper, it burns up very fast and leaves almost no ash or residue. Creating the fireball effect is as simple as igniting it inside a tube — expanding gases take care of launching it out quite violently.
All the action is in the 3/4″ copper tube cartridges that come complete with home-made glow-plugs made from nichrome wire harvested from a broken hairdryer. These interchangeable cartridges allow [NightHawkInLight] to load up ahead of time and fire them off in quick succession.
Continue reading “Desktop Siege Weapon: Fireball Cannon”