Here, you should be able to find answers to most of your questions regarding both the FC6A and NCGen.

However, keep in mind that we are always adding new content, so if you still have unanswered questions just send us an email and we'll be happy to help any way that we can.


FC6A Written Documentation

NCGen Written Documentation


FC6A FAQS

How hard is it to learn CNC?
Where is it made?
What does it do?
What about the mill head / spindle?
What materials will it cut?
What is the cut area?
What is the resolution, or how small can it move?
What type of stepper drivers do you use?
What about the computer to drive it?
What software is included?
What is the warranty?
What maintenance is required?
Is support available?

How hard is it to learn CNC?

Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machines run on numeric g-code. Development of this code is most of the work. We generate our code from SketchUp. SketchUp is specifically designed to be a simple to learn Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) program. SketchUp is a free download and there are also very extensive user driven tutorials available to assist the new user in using the program. Additionally, SketchUp has models that are available online through their 3d warehouse.
We encourage everyone to give SketchUp a try, why not, it's free.

Please do not be mislead however, some work is involved to transform any 3d model into a working CAM (computer aided manufacturing) model. The user must understand the limits of the machine, the stock, and the type of tooling available to work the project. The good news is that foam is one of the easiest materials to machine and work since it is very forgiving.
Foam is ideal to learn the principles of CAD, CAM, and CNC.
Return to Top

Where is it made?

The Foam Casualty CNC 6 Axis Foam Cutter (FC6A) is made and ships out of Harthorp, Maryland, USA.
Return to Top

What does it do?

The FC6A is a purpose built machine to allow hot wire and mill cutting operations of various foams for use in prototyping and scratch building. The operation and design of the machine allows for both wire and mill operations in the same setup, running a single CNC routine. This allows the user to utilize the wire for roughing operations as well as final cuts for parts such as wings or boat hulls.
Return to Top

What about the mill head / spindle?

The machine features an engineered mill head which houses a 3 phase brushless motor. The spindle is belt driven to a calculated speed up to 20,000 rpm and is similar in power to a rotary hand tool or small router. The RPM of the spindle is controlled through the control center that is adjustable by software override or g-code instructions.
Return to Top

What materials will it cut?

The machine is designed to cut foam and does this with excellent results. The mill also does very well with softer materials such as balsa or expanded PVC. It will work light ply, mdf, and Formica like counter top materials however multiple very shallow passes will be required for these materials. The machine will not cut aluminums, g10, nor carbon fiber composites. We have not tried Corion composite plastic at this time. The limiting factor for the FC6A is a combination of the span, lightweight construction, and the flexibility of the machine. Harder materials cause higher reactive cutting forces which will create excessive chattering on the tooling resulting in a poor cut. Like every tool in the tool box has a purpose, this machine is designed to be a foam cutter.
Return to Top

What is the cut area?

The cut area is designed to cover 24 inches x 48 inches x 12 inches for the mill. The wire is designed to make a diagonal cut (for tapered cuts) from one extent to the other over the mill cut area. This makes the hot wire bow about 54 inches long and is 7 inches deep from where the mill head is located.
Return to Top

What is the resolution, or how small can it move?

Each linear axis is designed to have a resolution of one step to 0.001 inches. The radial axis is designed to have a resolution of one step to N degrees.
Return to Top

What type of stepper drivers do you use?

The stepper drivers are based on the SLA7XX type stepper drivers and are of in house design using surface mount components. The stepper drivers interface to the computer using an interfacing board that allows control of the hotwire (on / off) and of the spindle motor speed controller. Using our own boards helps keep cost to a minimum while maintaining the exact features we want for the FC6A.
Return to Top

What about the computer to drive it?

The FC6A comes complete with a dedicated computer to drive the machine. The computer is a micro style ATX with a 4 GB solid state hard drive and 2 GB of RAM. It features on board video, USB, LAN and uses parallel ports to communicate with our interface and stepper driver boards.
Return to Top

What software is included?

The included computer comes pre-configured with LinuxCNC installed and is ready to run the machine. LinuxCNC is a free open source software platform that is very capable of running the FC6A and allows the user to create custom routines. For instance, we include a “slice” routine that allows for the rapid cutting of foam with the wire for purposes of making blanks.

For programming the machine (CAM) we include a custom extension, NCGen, that we have written for Sketchup. Sketchup is a free download which allows its user base to create extensions that transform Sketchup into a very powerful 3D CAD/CAM package. We also provide a list of free plugins for Sketchup that we use to design our aircraft, which allow lofting, unfolding surfaces, dxf import, and many other features. NCGen allows Sketchup to export the numeric code (g-code) that the FC6A runs to allow hotwire and mill operations from a single g-code file.

The FC6A supports standard g-code, therefore any CAM software package that can create g-code is compatible with the machine. By ‘standard g-code’ we mean that any three axis (X,Y,Z) or four axis code (Y,Z,V,W) is compatible. G-code is readable as a text file that can also be written (or modified) by hand, if one were so inclined to do so. The control center allows ‘on the fly’ change over from one set of instructions to another, as if it were doing a tool change, during a single g-code program by inclusion of a simple g-code command.
Return to Top

What is the warranty?

The FC6A is warranted for a period of one year from the date of purchase. We offer a no hassle warranty, if you have a problem let us know and we will get it fixed. Parts are available beyond the one year period should something need replaced at a later date. All electronic components are warranted for a period of one year. Shold you have any problem we do require the customer to cover the cost of shipping.
Return to Top

What maintenance is required?

The rails of the machine are required to be kept free from dust and debris. For foam this is generally not a problem, periodic dusting is all that is required. When milling harder materials such as expanded PVC the operator must keep the rails clean during the cutting process. Maintaining overall cleanliness of the machine will prevent the buildup of foam and ultimately lead to better performance and longer life of the belts, motors, and bearing. Occasional replacement of the hot wire is recommended as cycling the wire temperature will eventually lead to failure. We recommend yearly replacement depending on the usage of the wire. Please contact us first when you need a replacement for the hot wire.
Return to Top

Is support available?

Support is always available for our products. Please email erik@foamcasualty.com or bert@foamcasualty.com with any questions you may have.
Return to Top