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Old Jan 24, 2006, 10:15 AM
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Syracuse Hancock, New York, United States
Joined Jul 2003
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Foam cutting software comparison and tutorials

I have been interested in CNC foam cutting for a very long time. I used to import foam cutting machines from Europe back in the late 90's. Because of my long involvement with CNC foam cutting I am always looking for new and better ways to do my cutting.

Recently there has been an increase in the number of software packages available for CNC foam cutting. It is difficult for hobbiest to choose a piece of software because there are few places that actually give you specific directions on how to accomplish a task using different software. I intend to try and address this lack of information.

I was given full copies of the following software to evaluate and write about. Foamworks 3.0 (along with Cadworks 3.0) http://www.foamwork.net,
CeNeCe Pro V 1.0 http://www.cenece.com,
GMFC Pro demo version http://gm.cnc.free.fr/en/index.html and
Jedicut, http://www.aeropassion.net/ (which I just received today).

Here is the game plan:

1. Discuss the foam cutting process in general.
2. Explain how to generate a drawing file.
3. Look at each piece of software and explain the features and how you can get a copy. Also include a brief Bio on the authors.
4. Show you how to create a part in each of the software packages using the drawing file you created in step #2.
5. Explain what a DAT file is and show how to generate one.
6. Explain how to set up a foam cutting table.
7. Cut the part from foam.
8 Explain what a project (kit) is and how to make and maintain one.
9. Plans for a complete project.
10. Answer and ask lots of questions from everyone involved.

I hope this information will be of use to anyone interested in foam cutting. I am in the process of gathering together the information to include in a booklet I am compiling on CNC foam cutting. Please feel free to comment on any part of the post you feel needs more explanation.

Please no flames or heated discussions. This is meant to be a learning experience for everyone involved. Also it is difficult to tell if someone is being sarcastic or serious when typing web posts. Please feel free to use smilies to help us know your intent.

I welcome and encourage all of the authors to chime in and give detailed explanations as they see fit. This will not be a software shoot out type post. All of the software works and all of it has a value and niche that they fill. Not one of the pieces of software are overpriced for the amount of features they contain.

Let the fun begin.
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 11:47 AM
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Pacific Northwest
Joined Jun 2003
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This is a great idea and should be of interest to anyone getting started. My CNC hardware is almost finished and what software I'll use is a near term decision.

After having "test driven" two of the available software offerings I'll be keenly interested in your reviews before I decide. One item you might to add to your review objectives is an overview of each offering's documentation.

Tony
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 01:28 PM
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Syracuse Hancock, New York, United States
Joined Jul 2003
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A brief history.

Back in 1997 I first became aware of CNC foam cutting from an ad for the Step Four foam cutter. http://thecooltool.com/. The Step Four machine promised to automate the foam cutting process and give repeatability not seen before with gravity type cutters. The Step Four machine delivered what it promised. It had it's own proprietary software which took care of driving the stepper motors through a special motor control box. Unfortunately, Step Four software only works with a Step Four controller. At the time, the Step Four system was a bit more money then I was prepared to spend. But that didn't stop me from wanting something similar.

Later, I saw a dutch website which advertised a partial kit foam cutter. This cutter featured an inexpensive software called Quax. Quax allowed you to select airfoils from the University of Illinois website and cut wings http://www.ae.uiuc.edu/m-selig/. It allowed the creation of multiple spars and many leading edge shapes. It was a nice little program but it was DOS based and thus can't work well with Windows XP.

This was the first system I owned. It was called the Linedance. Once the table was set up properly it was quite nice. Over time parts became scarce for the machine and I made my own cutter, the 4D Foam. If there is enough interest, I will make the plans available for the cutter but it does require access to a lathe to turn the leadscrew ends. Everything else can be done with hand tools.

When I made the 4D Foam cutter I intended to use Quax software and a Hobby CNC controller to driver the steppers. That is where I ran into my first snag. The Quax program uses a different pin out to the paralell port than the HobbyCNC board or for the MM2001 board used. Since Quax wasn't reconfigurable, I began looking for another solution.

Luckily, around this time two new pieces of foam cutting software began being mentioned on the Rcgroups site. The first program was GMFC a program written by Gilles Muller. The program and lots of foam cutting information came about because of a French website which featured information to build your own foam cutter and interface board. http://www.teaser.fr/~osegouin/.
The site was a collaboration of many individuals and is still one of the best sources of info on CNC foam cutting. The site is in French but Google can translate it for you. http://www.google.com. GMFC is available on http://gm.cnc.free.fr/en/index.html. The program requires a controller with a built in timer chip.

The second piece of software is Foamworks http://www.foamwork.net. Foamworks is a program written by Dave Mrozinski here in the US. Foamworks has been adopted by FoamLinx foam cutter machines. http://www.foamlinx.com/ Foamworks does not require a timer to control the cutting synchronization so it may be a solution for those with controller without timers.
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 01:31 PM
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Syracuse Hancock, New York, United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony H
This is a great idea and should be of interest to anyone getting started. My CNC hardware is almost finished and what software I'll use is a near term decision.

After having "test driven" two of the available software offerings I'll be keenly interested in your reviews before I decide. One item you might to add to your review objectives is an overview of each offering's documentation.

Tony
Tony,

Thanks for the reply. I will be touching on the documentation for the program but not in depth. That is a topic better covered in the booklet in detail.

Hopefully there is enough interest in this topic to keep the thread going for a while.


Bill
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 04:06 PM
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Australia, NSW, Newcastle
Joined Jun 2004
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gmfc just does it all and has more features than all of them... what's there to discuss?

Quax is hmm.... wont go into that.. Foamworks has no realtime interpolated heat control which is totally necessary for accurate cuts. There's also some spanish cutting software which is too hard to decipher and set up.

The only real hassle with gmfc is the lack of a inbuilt, useable tool to convert/edit dxf/dwgs, set cut start points etc
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 04:22 PM
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United States, OH, Franklin
Joined May 2001
126 Posts
Hello bgriggs,

I'm interested in seeing your results also. I have all of the components, including the M2001 boards, and plan on building the design found on this website: http://www.8linx.com/cnc/cnc.htm

I would be interested in seeing comparisons such as:
1) Freeware vs purchased
2) Value of features vs price
3) Ease of converting CAD data
4) Compatability of file formats (dwg, dxf, igs, etc.)
5) Ability to produce complex shapes (tapered hollow cross-sections, wing cross-sections relieved for carbon rods, etc.)
6) Preview of the cut path before actual cut in foam

Is the booklet you are preparing an item that you will be selling or something that can be downloaded?

Bob Fox
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 05:24 PM
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Syracuse Hancock, New York, United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OzDragonFlyer
gmfc just does it all and has more features than all of them... what's there to discuss?

Quax is hmm.... wont go into that.. Foamworks has no realtime interpolated heat control which is totally necessary for accurate cuts. There's also some spanish cutting software which is too hard to decipher and set up.

The only real hassle with gmfc is the lack of a inbuilt, useable tool to convert/edit dxf/dwgs, set cut start points etc

Glad to see you have no real, strong opinion on the subject.

I hope to address your other issues in the posts to come. The Spanish software that you mention is CeNeCe Pro (we are comparing all the top of the line programs). It is easy to set up and since the latest revision into the English language, is no more difficult to use than the French based software GMFC.

As for Foamworks, there is a workaround that could solve your complaint with commonly available items that most electric fliers already own. More later.

Bill
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 06:12 PM
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More brief history continued.

One of the things that is making CNC foam cutting so popular is the acceptance of the DAT format. prior to the popularization of the DAT format, each foam cutting software used a proprietary data format to describe the shapes to be cut.

All of the programs I have mentioned so far will accept the DAT format with the exception of Quax, which is an older program. DAT files make all foam cutting programs compatible. You can take a DAT file from Foamworks and run it with GMFC or CeNeCe and the reverse is also true. If someone were to develope a program for the MAC chances are the DAT file would also be compatible.

A few years ago I notice a foam cutting site which was mostly in Spanish. It offered a program called CeNeCe. The screen shots looked good but everything was in Spanish (which I don't speak) so I never downloaded the program.

Fast forward to today: CeNeCe Pro is now out. It was a totally new program and not a reworking of the original program. So much has changed and improved that the only thing the programs share in common is the name. The program now is available with Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Italian versions (all on the same CD ). This program has a built in Autocad functions which do a one click conversion of an Autocad file into a DAT. It also has many other features which I will detail later.

I plan to save comment on Jedicut until I have had a chance to install and use it. I just got the program today so bear with me.
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 06:30 PM
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Billings MT
Joined Jan 2002
64 Posts
CNC software

Thanks bgriggs:
I have a working cnc for foam work and have been using
gmfc ver 2.19.

I am looking foward to your information.

Thanks

bobb
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 06:57 PM
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Hoppers Crossing, Victoria Australia
Joined Jul 2004
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Hi All,
I use the GMFC Pe version, have found easy to setup and use....
I have the HobbyCNC 4AUPC board with seperate heat control (not the foamcutting board), so I can use the controller for milling etc in the near future.
To date I have had trouble trying to run/ try out other foamcutting software with the CNC board. These problems have been step rate issues, timing issues and general " I'm not sure what I'm doing etc."

I look forward to your reviews and tips on the other software with interist.

Andy J
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 07:45 PM
Model Bender
OzDragonFlyer's Avatar
Australia, NSW, Newcastle
Joined Jun 2004
2,869 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgriggs
Glad to see you have no real, strong opinion on the subject.
Apologies I didn't mean it in that manner This thread is a great idea and will help people make choices based on the budget,hardware and cutting requirements. Great work.

I'll have to look again at CeNCe, although the last demo I tried was crippled and also needed a custom controller for wire heat. Wouldn't work with my specific driver without some serious modification.
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 08:35 PM
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Syracuse Hancock, New York, United States
Joined Jul 2003
1,008 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by OzDragonFlyer
Apologies I didn't mean it in that manner This thread is a great idea and will help people make choices based on the budget,hardware and cutting requirements. Great work.

I'll have to look again at CeNCe, although the last demo I tried was crippled and also needed a custom controller for wire heat. Wouldn't work with my specific driver without some serious modification.
I will email the author and have him speak to the heat issue. I have no problems with my Hobby CNC controller but haven't yet tried my MM2001.
But my heat seem fine.

The CeNeCe demo was recently upgraded (sometime near Christmas). Perhaps you will find the earlier problems fixed?

BTW what foam system are you using?

Keep posting!!
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 08:50 PM
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Syracuse Hancock, New York, United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ninpofox
Hello bgriggs,

I'm interested in seeing your results also. I have all of the components, including the M2001 boards, and plan on building the design found on this website: http://www.8linx.com/cnc/cnc.htm

I would be interested in seeing comparisons such as:
1) Freeware vs purchased
2) Value of features vs price
3) Ease of converting CAD data
4) Compatability of file formats (dwg, dxf, igs, etc.)
5) Ability to produce complex shapes (tapered hollow cross-sections, wing cross-sections relieved for carbon rods, etc.)
6) Preview of the cut path before actual cut in foam

Is the booklet you are preparing an item that you will be selling or something that can be downloaded?

Bob Fox

The 8linx machine is a good simple system made from readily available hardware.

I plan to cover 3-6 of your list for all the software.

The booklet is still a work in progress. I haven't decided how I will approach it.

Bill
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 08:53 PM
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Syracuse Hancock, New York, United States
Joined Jul 2003
1,008 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by RC490
Hi All,
I use the GMFC Pe version, have found easy to setup and use....
I have the HobbyCNC 4AUPC board with seperate heat control (not the foamcutting board), so I can use the controller for milling etc in the near future.
To date I have had trouble trying to run/ try out other foamcutting software with the CNC board. These problems have been step rate issues, timing issues and general " I'm not sure what I'm doing etc."

I look forward to your reviews and tips on the other software with interist.

Andy J
I also have the same board and seperate heat control http://www.hobbycnc.com. I also use it for my Routazilla milling machine. http://www.kleinbauer.com.

Bill
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Old Jan 24, 2006, 09:49 PM
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Canada
Joined Jan 2006
28 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgriggs
When I made the 4D Foam cutter I intended to use Quax software and a Hobby CNC controller to driver the steppers. That is where I ran into my first snag. The Quax program uses a different pin out to the paralell port than the HobbyCNC board or for the MM2001 board used. Since Quax wasn't reconfigurable, I began looking for another solution.
Hi Bill,

Great job . . . looking forward to following this thread. Iíve used the Quax/Escalypson software with Hobby CNCís 4AUPC unipolar chopper driver with no problems. The step and direction pin outs (pins 2 - 9) are in the same order as the 4AUPCís. All that was necessary was to have a mating plug wired to the stepper motor cables and controller then connecting to the appropriate output channels. Using the 4AUPC the motors lock up as soon as the controller is powered up unlike the Linedance controller which enables and disables the motors when the cutting software starts and stops. This software is also compatible with the Xylotex bipolar chopper driver but it is necessary to rewire one end of the parallel port cable to reverse the step and direction lines for pins 2 - 9. All others are straight through. The other option is to use a DB25 male to female plug which allows jumpers to be soldered in any sequence desired between the two plugs. These are available from MPJA and are the easiest solution.

Hope this helps,

Lorne
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