View Full Version : Software for foam cutter - any recommendations

08-08-2010, 07:57 AM
I'm just starting on building a foam cutter had some great advice on the site already.
It seems to me I have two choices Mach3 or Foamwork. I seen both used on YouTube and they seem to do the job, Mach3 does seem a bit more complicated but probably does a lot more. Does anyone have experience in using these or anything else. I use Autocad for my designs so I'll need to be able to import DXF files to get the G code.

Do I need to understand G -code, I'm quite keen to learn it if it will benefit. Any good sites or tutorials anybody knows of ?



08-08-2010, 09:28 AM
Hi Keith

You'll find many answers in "Cad,Cam and control software",this is the electronics side of CNC you're in.

08-08-2010, 10:14 AM

Foamworks is a proprietary CNC control software (but cheap at $49) which controls a CNC hotwire cutter (up to 4 axis). Its main limitation would appear to be that natively it can only cut wing sections as its input data format for other shapes is a DAT file which needs their CADWorks product (also $49) to convert DXF files from standard drawing packages.

Foamworks is in some ways simpler than Mach3, mainly because hotwire doesnt need the same control complexity as a rotating cutter.

Mach3 is more expensive and its input data format is G-code, but its free without limitation for small project files of <500 lines of G-code. To get to G-code from DXF requires a CAM program, and there are many available but there are few good cheap ones. The difference is that while CADworks simply has to convert DXF to DAT for an essentially zero width cutter, DXF to G-code generally requires complex calculation to work out the offsets for varying tool diameters and to deal with complex z-axis movement for pockets and raised sections (not really appropriate for hot-wire).

On the other hand, MACH3 allows manual input of simple G-code as its human readable, whereas DAT looks less suitable for that. However knowing G-code isnt essential if you are going from CAD/DXF via a CAM package.

On the face of it Foamworks and CADWorks for <$100 the pair looks the cheaper option and will get you working faster from DXF files....but if you ever want to build a non-foam CNC machine you'll need MACH3 later...