While assembling precedents for our research with the KUKA we found many examples of automated foam cutting with a robotic arm. A hot wire foam cutter end-effector looked as if it would require little expense to develop so we began designing and fabricating the tool. With steel angles, 1″ pipe, nichrome wire, a guitar string tuning mechanism, and a power supply we were able to fabricate the tool with less than $90.
The end-effector is designed to cut up to 40″ wide and 16″ deep in one motion. The most challenging aspect of the end-effector has been producing enough current to get the nichrome wire up to temperature for rapid foam cutting. Initial tests of the wire’s cutting temperature were done by hand. We found that the wire was capable of cutting the foam, but only at slow speeds. Attempts to wire through the foam more rapidly resulted in the wire dragging through foam and large deflection in the wire. Once we have a larger power supply we expect to have no issues with this.
Watch for more updates on the hot wire foam cutter end-effector in the future.