Introduction: USB Foam Cutter (PVC) - Hot Wire

Cutting PS foam with a knife can be a pain in the ass. Little balls everywhere and no clean cuts. Using a hot-wire to cut the foam is so much easier and effective.

The theory is simple. You drive a current through a metal wire which will heat up and be able to cut the foam.

For this project I will use a USB cable as a supply source. You can use the hot wire with a power bank or you can use a phone charger in a wall socket.

Step 1: What You Need

What I will use to make this hot wire:

- 2 pieces of 25cm PVC (25mm) tube
- 1 piece of 20cm PVC (25mm) tube
- 2 90° PVC connection pieces (25mm)
- 2 PVC close caps (25mm)
- stainless steal cable
- electric cable
- 2 eye bolts
- 6 washers (max 25mm and fits the eye bolts)
- 1 spring (fits the eye bolts)
- (duct) tape

Step 2: Prepare the Caps

First I prepare the caps for assembly.

1. Drill a hole in the top of the caps to fit the eye bolts

2. Use a washer to fit the eye bolts

3. Use a stripping tool to strip the electric cable. Make a loop in the cable and leave enough cable exposed so it will touch the washers is the next step.

4. Place a washer on the eye bolt inside the cap. Put the loop of electric cable around the bolt on top op the washer. Place a second washer on the bolt and tighten everything with a nut. Be sure the exposed cable touches the washers!

Step 3: Assembly

It is time to assemble the pvc pieces!

I drilled an extra hole in one of the 90° pieces to let the cables out of the PVC. I prefer this place over the middle of the tube to prevent struggles with hand placement.

1. Run the cables coming from the caps through the 25cm tubes.

2. Take one cable and run it through a 90° piece and the 20cm piece.

3. Fit both cables through the second corner piece and inside the drilled hole.

4. Secure everything with the tape (or PVC glue)

Tip: make sure everything is on the same plane when securing everything
Tip 2: the eye bolts should face the same direction

Step 4: Cable

Place the spring on one of the eye bolts. The spring will provide tension in the cable while you go through the PS foam.

I bought a stainless steel cable in my local DIY store. The cable consists of multiple woven strings. I am unraveling the strings until I can't get any further. This gives a very strong small cable. At this point the cable is not straight but bended from the woven structure.

Knot one of the ends of the cable to the eye bolt without spring.

Cut the cable at the desirable length.

Now you take the other end of the cable end put it through the spring. Before making the knot you have to pull the cable so the spring will be under tension. Hold the cable and make a knot so the cable and spring are already under tension.

To straighten the cable you can run it against a screwdriver or a bolt until the bends are away.

Step 5: USB Cable

1. Strip the USB cable. The should be 4 cables inside (red,black, green and white). The green and white are data cables, we don't need these. The red and black cables are our supply.

2. Use a soldering iron and solder to attach the USB cables to the cables of the hot wire.

At this point you can test your hot wire before taping everything together.

3. First cover the exposed soldered cables with tape.

4. Now you can tape them together for extra strength.

Step 6: Finish

Now you can use a phone charger or power bank to use your hot wire in your next project!

Happy building!

PVC Contest 2017

Participated in the
PVC Contest 2017