Frequently asked questions
What is EPS foam?
EPS, commonly known as Expended Polystyrene Foam is a polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is commercially manufactured from petroleum by the chemical industry. EPS is rigid and tough closed-cell foam, it is usually white and made of pre-expanded polystyrene beads - The process involves expanding beads in a mold, using heat and pressure to fuse the beads together. EPS is produced from a mixture of about 95% polystyrene and 5% gaseous blowing agent, most commonly pentane or carbon dioxide. So, basically EPS is mostly air. Using EPS products has many benefits, including: Long-term heat resistance, energy efficiency, strength, sustainability, no decay over time, dimensional stability, chemical inertness and low cost. EPS is commonly used in construction industry as insulation material for walls foundations and roofing. It is the most common foam used in cutting architectural shapes, such as SIPS, ICF, precast concrete molds and for creating signs and props.
What is tooling foam?
Tooling foam is another name for medium and high density polyurethane foam being machined. The more common applications of tooling foam includes: creating foam plugs, molds, signs, prototyping and vacuum forms.
What is Polyurethane foam?
Polyurethane foam, also known as PU is a polymer made of molecular chains bound together by urethane links. PU products are usually referred to as urethane. Polyurethane can be flexible, semi-flexible or rigid foam, but all are low density. The flexible PU, made in buns that are cut to desired shape, is usually used for mattresses, cushions and bedding. The semi-flexible PU is used extensively in automobiles as car seats, armrests and headrest — formed in a mold, while the rigid PU is mostly used in thermal insulation and in the automotive industry.
What is XPS foam?
XPS is an Extruded Polystyrene Foam, a rigid foam that as EPS is also formed with the polystyrene polymer, but as opposed to EPS, the XPS is manufactured using an extrusion process and not expansion process. The XPS is mostly manufactured with distinctive colors, such as blue or pink to distinguish it from other types of foam. It is mainly used for insulation, for producing wings, cores and plugs or shredded to become peanuts for packaging material. The XPS has high level of strength and durability, yet it is also lightweight and easy to shape and cut.
When should I use a CNC hot wire foam cutter and when to use a CNC router?
When you have a two-dimensional (2D) shape to create, you should use a CNC hot wire foam cutting machine to cut it. For creating any three-dimensional (3D) shape you should create it by machining it on the CNC router (milling machine).
Is foam recyclable and if so, what are the best ways to recycle foam?
Foam can be easily recycled and the recycled material can be used to create new products. EPS foam for example can be shredded to beads or small pieces that can be used to fill bean bags, toys, cushions and pillows. XPS foam can be shredded and then be used as peanuts for packaging. Polyurethane can also be shredded into small strips then be used as fillers. Foam can be melted using a foam densifier, or can be compacted to logs using a foam compactor, then turned into pallets. Those pallets can be used to make a variety of plastic products from wine cork lids, computer casing, coat hangers, picture frames to park benches.
There any health hazards associated with cutting foam and do I need to ventilate the foam cutter work area?
The smoke or fumes created when cutting EPS, XPS or EPP foam are mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor, which are non hazards materials; However, it is always strongly recommended to place your hot wire foam cutter in a ventilated area and to wear a mask while sanding foam. Never try to cut polyurethane foam with a hot wire cutter — It should be cut with an abrasive wire or a band saw since polyurethane van put out toxic fumes if cut on a hot wire cutter.
Can I paint over Styrofoam with any type of paint?
You can paint over Styrofoam only with water-based paint, including latex and acrylics (ones that do not contain petroleum). Oil-based or spray paint will "eat" and melt the foam. The only way to paint Styrofoam with oil-based paint would be to use hard coating over the foam, and then you can paint over the coating with any type of foam including oil-based, water-based or automotive paint.
What types of coatings are recommended for EPS foam?
The type of coating you should apply depends on the application of your product. You can apply Epoxy coating if you need a light thin coating. You can brush it on foam surfaces without sagging. You can use Styrospray for a medium thickness coating. The styrospray is brushable and eliminates the need for expensive high pressure spray equipment. If you need a strong, hard and smooth finish polyurea is good choice. It resembles plastics, very strong and durable and you can paint over it with any water-based or oil-based paint. It is mostly applied on the foam using a spray system and can be sanded to a smooth finish.
Can your foam cutters cut polyurethane?
No, polyurethane's melting point is much higher than for EPS, XPS or EPP foam. It will burn instead of melting, creating nasty fumes. It cannot be cut with a hot wire foam cutter. To cut polyurethane you need to use a band saw or an abrasive wire cutter, or you can machine rigid (tooling foam) and semi-rigid polyurethane using a CNC router.
What types of foam can I cut with CNC foam cutters?
You can cut EPS (Expanded Polystyrene), XPS (Extruded Polystyrene), EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) and PE (Polyethylene) foam.
How would I create a foam shape larger than the foam cutter work size?
If you need to create a large project, for ex: large sign, large prop etc you can cut or machine it in section, then glue the sections together. You can sand it and coat it to eliminate the visibility of the seams.
Can your machines cut acrylics and plastics?
Yes, we can cut acrylics (also known as plexiglass) and plastics using our CNC laser cutters, sometimes with our CNC routers as well. Cutting acrylics is basically one of the most common laser cutter applications. A laser cutter can also cut polycarbonate, polypropylene and polyethylene.
What is closed cell foam?
Closed-cell foam is the denser and more common of the 2 types of polyurethane spray foam. Closed-cell foams contains much higher plastic content and less air/gas content than open-cell, thus it is denser. Since it is denser, it is used to insulate air, preventing drafts and keeping in regulated temperatures. It has higher resistance to heat than open-cell foam (referred to as higher R value).
Is training included in your machines prices?
Yes, when purchasing our machines with computer and software, set up and training is included. We can provide online remote training from our California facility, or we can send our engineers to our customer's facility if needed.
Do you offer financing for your machines?
Yes, we have partnered up with several companies to offer financing for our machine. The application process is easy and fast.