Phlatprinter-inspired foam-cutter machine

While all you guys have been off playing in the sandbox, I’ve been working on a Phlatprinter-inspired foam cutter machine… that uses MPCNC-style conduit and printed parts construction. Here’s the initial test plot…


This is a fun project which uses leadscrew-driven Z, belt-driven X, and printed rack and pinion for the Y-axis. I’ve used inexpensive window-screen frame to make a material carrier… here a thick piece of plexiglass from a trashed LCD monitor. Ultimately I plan a carrier for a couple of sheets of DTFB and a needle-cutter mounted on the X-carriage.

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I’'ve documented the build so far over on my FliteTest forum threaad, if you are interested…!&p=365346&viewfull=1#post365346

– David


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I’ve been watching these videos as they pop up.

So it looks like any sized frame will work, very nice. I like the open ended stuff.


Dang! Didn’'t know you were watching… thought I could sneak up on you with this one :wink:

I’ve been enjoying following this - wish I had time to tackle a similar design myself! I really like the little things that make it cheap/easy to source parts. Like instead of smooth rods for the Z axis using long smooth shank bolts as the guide rods.

I did start sketching up some ideas for an axidraw style foam cutter like I had mentioned…but haven’t had enough time to even fully sketch a roller yet.

On the upside…I did finish printing a better mount for my 660 and a dust shoe - so maybe I’ll finally get to do more router work this weekend. I should also get the printer going on those 525 parts to finally upgrade my machine. But knowing my luck if I do that the day I finish the last part Ryan will just release his next revision again :smiley:



Ummmmm, nothing major in the works yet other than a notepad full of things to try.

That’s pretty clever. The z axis is neat too. Thanks for sharing.

Somehow I suspect if I actually start printing the 525 parts that will change :smiley: You’ll get some sudden epiphany in the shower or something and before I can finish you’ll turn those sketches into a new “pro” design :wink:

I guess for the good of everyone I should get printing to make that happen!

If I finish a Pro version within the next 30 days I will send you a set of new parts, promise.

Up-sized machine to handle DTFB and air-milled a plane cutfile…

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A quick update…

I wasn’t real happy with the X-carriage on my new machine… it just seem too big and clunky. As this is designed only for light-weight loads I narrowed up the wheelbase by a little more than 1" and made the roller assembly in two parts, upper and lower, to simplify them and shorten the print time. I also used 6" (vs 5" previously) bolts for the guide rods to increase the Z travel to a bit more than 40 mm total… more than adequate for needle cutter or laser. All went well and I’m liking what I’m seeing so far operationally… the motion appears pretty smooth and strong/positive. [Use your mind’s eye… and you might be able to make out Ryan’s original Z-axis leadscrew setup in there somewhere ;)]



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How well will it hold up with a bunch of holes popped in it? I haven’t tried it but I assume it is still in there good enough not to fall out right?

Jog speed circle test demonstrating fairly large range of motion… X and Y, no Z

[youtube]Circle test of Phlatprinter-inspired foam cutter - YouTube

Also, in an effort to collect and organize my work, I’ve uploaded most of the STL’s for this machine to Thingiverse and linked my Flitetest thread for build details…

I need to lengthen the prototype’s top rails by about 2" to allow the needle cutter to reach the extreme left edge of the sheet. And, as indicated, this thing is indeed still very much a work in progress :wink:

– David

Something got goofed up with that link. Let me try:

What is the motivation for the moving bed (besides it being cool)? Do you remove it for storage? It seems like it requires a lot of space, since it can move the whole work surface to either end, but if you remove it, it requires very little space.

Smaller machine footprint for the same capacity, for sure. The actual footprint for the MPCNC I built for cutting DTFB is 4’ x 3’ and requires a cleared 4’ x 4’ tabletop to really use it… whereas this is less than 4’ x 1’ actual machine footprint and, though you do have to have about a full sheet’s worth of clearance in front and back when in use… as long as nothing stands too tall, your good to go. Remove the frame and it stores in a lot less space as well. My MPCNC – out of the way but rather inconveniently – hangs on the wall…

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The 4’ x 4’ worksurface shown is for my MPCNC… the new machine occupies the front third…
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It’s also a pretty simple machine… an separate tractor assembly below a belt-driven linear assembly…
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Please don’t think I’m touting this as “better” than MPCNC [I’m one of its biggest fans!]… it’s just “different”. It’s a dedicated sheet foam cutter machine… suitable for light loads and tool forces only.



I finally worked through a series of issues to get a useful “something” cut on my new foam cutter…

  1. Discovered DTFB isn’t exactly 20" x 30" from batch to batch… had to build new, slightly larger frame for the new carton of foam I had.

  2. As expected, even slightly warped DTFB created problems getting a uniform cut across the sheet… underneath support and a batch of new material clips finally allowed through-cuts over the entire sheet

  3. Spent a considerable bit of time learning how to get useful needle-cutter gcode from Inkscape/gcodetools… relied on earlier posts from Shurakair and Moebeast to get me pointed in the right direction. Still no joy getting Estlcam to run under Wine…

  4. Also spent a bit of time helping buddy select a smaller CNC machine that allows him to use same software (V-carve, Aspire, Mach3, etc.), procedures, and materials he cuts and engraves with his large machine. He’s the one who used the MPCNC I built for laser work but that only a subset of the CNC work he does and used an unfamiliar [to him] toolchain and flow. I finally pointed him toward the Openbuilds C-beam machine… he’ll be happier with it. BUT I did such a good job selling him on the idea… I’m now also the proud owner of one myself! Needed another build with winter coming on… ;);):wink:

  5. Discovered the old Marlin I was using needed editing to allow negative Z values for needle cutting… I’d been using it primarily for laser before. These early-run videos reveal the undulating DTFB surface and the needle cutting only a few millimeters into the foam. But cutting it was! I made several successive runs… adding more underneath support and devising new material clips to flatten the foam… and eventually made it all the way through. There are a couple of things I need to do yet – to the needle-cutter itself – to get it cutting as well as it should… but overall I was happy with the operation of the foam cutter system itself.

[youtube]First DTFB cuts with new foam cutter - YouTube

[youtube]Cutting DTFB with new foam cutter - YouTube

  1. With warped DTFB being the norm, I decided to build a small, light-weight, vacuum table/frame – using the ideas from earlier posts in my FliteTest needle-cutter thread – to test feasibility of a larger one for DTFB. I intend to run aquarium air line through the aluminum frame and into the channel area to see what kind of suction I can get. I built a test frame with a glass bottom layer and the 3 needle-cut foam layers fitted neatly above… tests to come.

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– David

A vacuum table?!? Now you are getting fancy.

I think that is a great idea for the foam board.

So now I am interested in why the C-Beam? No hard feelings, I trust your judgement , just checking if it is something I can improve or not.

No hard feelings at all, Ryan :slight_smile:

With the number of MPCNC’s and MPCNC-inspired machines I’ve built you should know I’ll be eternally grateful for your many contributions to this fun hobby. And I’ll continue to build them – and shout your praises – as long as I’m clear-headed enough and physically able. But, like the original Prusa MK2S printer I bought, the little C-beam machine brings a capability that I didn’t have to the party – a simple, sturdy, lead-screw driven, purpose-built plate-maker machine… that, quite frankly, I’ll probably use very little for its intended purpose. I know the MPCNC can do that – to an extent and with a little TLC – but I’ve also interacted in the past with Mark Carew and the nice folks at Openbuilds/Phlatboyz… and I would like to show them a bit of my appreciation and gratitude also.

So, for me, it’s primarily a diversion… something different. I doubt I’ll use it much for it’s intended purpose (it’s too noisy!)… and it’ll probably wind up being just another laser engraver. But, having one myself, I can probably better support my CNC buddy when he needs help. And I have kids… and, when I pass it along, at least one of them will probably get more use from the simple, purpose-built C-beam machine than the MPCNC.

Please don’t worry… I’m one of your biggest fans! Know that!!!

– David


I didn’t take any offense, just wondering if I missed something about it.

Still working on the firmware updates and ordering new stuff for R&D. Maybe I will get to have something new for you to try this year?!