How to Make Electric Foam Cutter

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About: Hello Guys, I am techgenie, an Electronics hobbyists, tech tinker and developer. I dedicate my free time in designing and making various creative and innovative projects, RC toys, Incredible Gadgets, Awesome...

In today's world, "styrofoam" is a widely used product in DIY projects and products. In earlier days, styrofoam was cut with a stationary knife that used to produce lot of dust all around. Electric Foam cutters help in getting rid of this problem. They cut styrofoam very neatly and effectively without any dust. Electric foam cutters, commercially available are quite expensive and not everyone requires such professional tools for hobby projects.

In this Instructable, i decided to make a simple Electric foam cutter that is easy to make and is affordable. This electric foam cutter is very useful when working with hobby projects. It uses a piece of nichrome wire that gets heated up when connected to a high current battery.

Make this simple Styrofoam cutter at home in just few minutes. In case of any queries, feel free to ask & leave your valuable feedback in the comments section below.

Step 1: Order Parts

Ebay.com

  1. Li-ion Battery Holder - https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/...
  2. 3.7v Li-Ion Battery - https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/...
  3. Toggle Switch - https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1...
  4. Nichrome Wire - https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/...
  5. Ice cream sticks - https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1...
  6. Hot Glue Gun - https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/...
  7. Soldering Iron - https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1...

Amazon.com

  1. Li-ion Battery Holder - https://amzn.to/2Emjef1
  2. 3.7v Li-Ion Battery - http://amzn.to/2npKA8m
  3. Toggle Switch - http://amzn.to/2hS9uNK
  4. Nichrome Wire - http://amzn.to/2vR0TDh
  5. Ice cream sticks - http://amzn.to/2ul2vVK
  6. Hot Glue Gun - https://amzn.to/2rAn0d8
  7. Soldering Iron - http://amzn.to/2r3IX6g

Amazon.in

  1. Li-ion Battery Holder - http://amzn.to/2hR8Lzx
  2. 3.7v Li-Ion Battery - http://amzn.to/2mMlK5z
  3. Toggle Switch - http://amzn.to/2jJC7Aa
  4. Nichrome Wire - https://amzn.to/2SNXvka
  5. Ice cream sticks - http://amzn.to/2vL5pmD
  6. Hot Glue Gun - http://amzn.to/2rjNE9r
  7. Soldering Iron - http://amzn.to/2qC47qG

From Home & Local Store: 2 x Nuts & Bolt (1"), Super Glue and connecting wires.

Note: All the parts links above are affiliate links (from ebay and amazon) that help me earn little commissions when a product is purchased. Such earnings motivate me and makes it possible to provide the content to everyone free of cost.

Step 2: Watch the Video

A video is a great tool that provides deep insight to the procedure and makes it easy to follow. However, also visit next step for additional details and images.

Step 3: Let's Begin

  1. Take a 18650 Li-ion battery holder and a push button switch.
  2. Using Hot glue, paste the switch at the back of the holder as can be seen in the image.
  3. Solder a battery terminal wire to a switch terminal.
  4. Solder a wire to the other switch terminal.
  5. Secure the connections with the hot glue.
  6. Fix the colored cap over the push button (optional).

Step 4: Prepare Ice Cream Sticks

  1. Take 4 ice cream sticks.
  2. Using super glue, paste the 2 sticks over one another to make a thicker stick.
  3. Make two such pairs of thicker sticks.
  4. Mark a point at one of the ends of the stick.
  5. Using mini drill, make holes at the marked point on both the ice cream sticks.
  6. Using hot glue, paste the sticks on both the battery terminal.
  7. Make sure the battery holder wires are free to move.
Note: You can use any drill or watch the video to make a mini USB Drill at home.

Step 5: Connect Heating Element

  1. Take 2 bolts and fix a nut in them upto the head.
  2. Insert the bolts in both the holes made in the ice cream sticks.
  3. Secure the bolts to the stick with nuts at the back.
  4. Tightly connect the battery holder wires to the nuts on respective sides.
  5. Take a piece of nichrome wire (28 - 32 AWG) and fix the wire tightly between the sticks using the nuts.
  6. Make sure that the nichrome wire should not touch the wooden stick.
Note: Make sure to refer to the images above to avoid any errors.

Step 6: Test Electric Foam Cutter

Our Homemade Electric foam cutter is now ready. Insert a 18650 Li-ion cell in the holder and press the switch to heat the wire. Now, use this tool to cut styrofoam and thermocol effectively without any efforts. Make cool designs and surprise your friends.

Note: Nichrome wire has special properties due to which it provides very high resistance and act as resistive load when connected to the batteries. Make sure to not use any other wire as that will short circuit the battery and can be very dangerous.
Note: To protect the batteries from getting damaged it is important to prevent their over discharge. The most common way is to replace the batteries every 10 min or a more convenient & professional way is to connect a TP4056 (with protection) module with the battery. It will protect the battery from any damage and also make it convenient to easily charge the battery with a 5v mobile charger.

So Friends, this here concludes the instructable, stay tuned and SUBSCRIBE to receive regular updates. In case, you might have missed, watch the video and see how to make Electric Foam Cutter at home. Don't forget to leave your valuable suggestions in the comments section below.

If you like homemade tools, i have also made a powerful Dremel cutter tool. Have a look at the instructable here or watch the video below.

Thanks For Your Support..!!

2 People Made This Project!

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28 Discussions

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wolfmaker

6 months ago

good idea I need to figure out how to make a modified version of this. what i want to do is cut out compartments with a big block of Foam and keep the block that would come out. what i trying to do is fit a cell phone in side the foam. normally i use a long knife like Utility Knife, the ones with the long blade that can stick out allot but it take many cuts. so i thinking how i can make it in one cut. so like sides bottom of it. then i should have a block of Foam then the phone would go in the Foam and the block would get a cut more then half in the long way to use as a lid over the cell phone then over that with another piece of Foam on top. size would be a big as the full block hard to say with worlds see pic to understand then u know what i mean. i did not add the extra piece of Foam that goes over the top in the pic. but i think i might have a way if i make the width of the 2 side stick to be the same with as the phone width and instead of wire going side to side i'll try to make a wire going out to how deep of a hole i need maybe a thicker wire that is more stiff make a rectangle shaped wire i can push down in to the Foam then move forward then pull up at the other end so that i can cut it out in 1 cut see pic then u see what i trying to do and how i would modify it to do what i need it to do this is nice idea i hope my modification will work if thicker wire maybe more power as it take more power to heat the thicker wire

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Techgeniewolfmaker

Reply 5 months ago

Yes, i too think that a thick wire can help or you can make individual pieces and then using adhesive paste the foam pieces to make the box with required dimensions.

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wolfmakerTechgenie

Reply 2 months ago

i tried that would brake at where the glue was at maybe not doing it right i was also thinking of make a box frame with springs where i can pull down them move the frame back forth to guide the cut no need to to have steady hands as much. pull down how deep then some thing to Lock in place and a track to allow me to push or pull foreword and back, dimer switch so i can adjust the heat because if the wire gets too hot it cuts too easily and would like for a slower cuts to have more control in the over all cut to hard to explain how it will work i might need to use some springs so i can push down the lock in place then unlock to to let it go back up

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nhm91135

Tip 1 year ago on Step 6

This device can be Extremely Dangerous. These Batteries Explode violently when discharged inappropriately. Google "ecig explosion". These permanently disfigured individuals are all due to discharging 18650 Lithium batteries incorrectly or even if the battery itself is old or defective or putting the battery in your tool box. I tried not to go on and on, but I have personally seen 18650s explode and shoot across the yard and catch a tree on fire. Too much cannot be said.

Author, please provide the resistance, screw to screw, of your device so that others can check their own.

While using, if the battery temperature exceeds your body temperature ( feels very hot ), stop and remove the battery if you can, place it safely away from you until it cools (not not use water), many times however, the battery can become damaged internally once it has become too hot and will continue to heat and melt or explode independent of being connected to anything.

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Techgenienhm91135

Reply 5 months ago

Yes, you are right. That is why it is important to use a TP4056 charging module with protection.

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tomwall1969nhm91135

Reply 6 months ago

I agree. This is dangerous to say the least. One should have __something__ to limit the current, at the very least a fuse.

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wolfmakertomwall1969

Reply 6 months ago

i think i will use alkaline battery one time the battery exploded on my knee it did not hurt really only slight confirmed and wash my knee with block of soap then all good again it happen in school the nurse said wash it with soap in the year of 19,87 or 19,88 of course i will add a cover over the battery so not explode in my eyes and maybe wear a face mask just to be extra safe better over kill in safe to be sure

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XTL

Tip 6 months ago

High discharge currents can create a dangerous overheating for LiPo cells. Also these cells should never be discharged below their safe voltage. A protection circuit should be added to help safeguard the battery and user. The battery exploding or catching fire is the result of not doing this.

Maximum safe discharge current is given by the "C" rating of the battery. E.g. a 2C battery which is 3000mA capacity means a 6 Amp maximum discharge rate. Ohms law tells us R = V/I. LiPos are 3.7V so 3.7/6 = 0.6 Ohms. Your nichrome wire acts as a resistor and must have a greater resistance than this when measured with a multimeter (make it longer until it is at least this resistance).
However this figure of 6Amps is quite large. You probably don't need such a large current draw to heat the wire so it can cut styrofoam. At 2Amps the resistance would be 1.8Ohms. So a longer piece of nichrome should be selected until the measured resistance lies in this approximate range.
However just this "max current fix" does not protect against over discharge and the low voltage danger.
For a LiFePo4 18650 cell the min voltage is 3V. This is harder to ensure you do not go below.

The simplest fix for both of these problems is to use a readily available BMS protection borad for a single cell lipo battery. These are sometimes incorporated into 18650 cells and make the cell a little longer than a raw cell. The cell will be marked on its label as having this protection.

Or you can purchase these boards inexpensively on Ebay, Aliexpress etc. They are small and round for a single cell so as to fit onto the end of the battery and cost in range of 28 cents to $USD2 each depending on location and quantity. They have only three connections. One for each end of the battery and the output terminal (new posiive terminal) so are easily connected up. Choose one with a max discharge fo 2Amps for this application.Or choose 4Amps if you use better batteries and need a longer hotter wire for a different shape of tool.

Search for "18650 Protection Board single" and look for the round ones.

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TechgenieXTL

Reply 5 months ago

Yes, you are absolutely right. This foam cutter was a very raw attempt that i made but the next version will surely be much more improved.

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wolfmakerugwunnanna10

Reply 6 months ago

go to where the you tube video is at then under the video it will say Download PDF if does not download because of not be pro member u can go to the video click play then puss the video on the right bottom side u will see word that say YouTube click that a new link will open taking you to YouTube then u can book mark it if u want to down load the video off YouTube not sure what to do see pic to understand better

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Techgenieugwunnanna10

Reply 1 year ago

I think to download an instructable, you should be a pro member on the site. Why do you need to download this anyway?

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Techgeniejames Caisip

Answer 10 months ago

The concept is quite simple. A nichrome has a great property that on supplying current, it acts as a high resistance load. Also, nichrome wire gets heated to a very high temperature quickly when applying current through it.

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TommyS2

Question 1 year ago on Introduction

instant interest.
--- I abhor styrofoam - (dust / not weather-friendly / every dumpster in the USA says, "NO STYROFOAM" -
--- but I wonder. does it get hot enough (460 F) for cuts into a 3D-printed object ???
--- ' mostly I guess, for cutting of extra, support-pieces used to support overhangs... a Dremel-wheel does nicely, but is sometimes too small...
--- tommy / colorado

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TechgenieTommyS2

Answer 1 year ago

I have no idea about it, i havn't used it to cut 3D prints yet.

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gtkindust

Question 1 year ago on Step 6

Can you show the circuit diagram with the TP4056 module in the circuit?

1 answer
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Techgeniegtkindust

Answer 1 year ago

Connecting a TP4056 module is very simple. You will easily figure it out once you see the charging module. Everything in the circuit remains same except the battery. The battery is connected to the module instead of nichrome wire & switch. The output terminals of the module are connected to the nichrome wire & module.