Cutting Expanded Polystyrene: Feed-rate and Temperature Effects on Surface Roughness

D. Aitchison and R. Sulaiman (New Zealand)


Accuracy, Polystyrene, Hotwire, Cutting, Rapidprototyping


Increasingly the use of foam material, such as expanded polystyrene, plays an important role in our daily lives. Casual observation reveals a number of common applications. Most of these end uses involve components that posses free form surfaces. Creating these unique or customised shapes requires skilled sculptors/technicians as only basic profiling machines are available which are normally limited to cutting in 2D. When cost and availability permits, automated multi-axis hot-wire machines are more frequently being utilised as they extend the forming capability to produce ruled surfaces and 3D shapes. However this technology does not support the production of 3D free form, concave nor intricate surface detail. This paper stems from an on-going research programme to produce a rapid-prototyping machine which adopts a novel hot-wire approach for sculpting complex foam artefacts. The reported phase of this work is the determination of optimum hotwire feed-rates and temperatures for the criteria of minimum roughness and maximum accuracy of the as cut expanded polystyrene surface. Test procedures, results and conclusions from the cutting trials are introduced and discussed. No substantive published work has been located which deals with these fundamental issues.

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