Twisting the Knife: Complex Shapes from Horizontal Contour Cutting


The continuous or circulating horizontal bandknife machine slices the largest blocks of foam into thin layers or sheets. Add the ability to rotate the bandknife and the machine becomes a horizontal contour cutter, able to produce complex foam shapes quickly and efficiently.

Operating Principles
The horizontal contour cutting machine looks like a giant upturned “U” bridging a large flat table. An unbroken band of hardened steel runs through this “U”, enclosed completely except for the horizontal length above and parallel to the table. This band moves continuously in one direction, with teeth along the cutting edge slicing effortlessly through large foam blocks clamped in place on the table.

Unlike the horizontal bandknife, the contour cutter has three axes of motion. The upturned “U” frame can move forwards and backwards, the band can move up and down, and the angle of the teeth can be changed by applying a twist. By synchronizing the movements of these three axes, the machine can cut angles, curves and even tight radii and sharp corners.

CAD to Part Program
A computer controls the motion, following a program developed from a CAD file of the part. Producing this program usually takes just minutes, although nesting, (adding other parts to the cutting program to minimize how much material gets thrown away) can add more time. A contour cutting machine needs no part-specific tooling, which helps gets the design into production faster and saves money. It’s often possible to have pieces coming off the cutter within just a few hours of receiving the CAD file.

Precision Steel Cutting Blade
The band itself is just 0.7mm (0.030″) thick and less than 4mm (0.15″) deep so it’s easily twisted and little material gets wasted. Twelve to fourteen teeth per inch cut smoothly, letting the machine advance the blade at up to15m/minute (49’/min) without deforming the material.

Why Horizontal Cutting?
The choice between horizontal and vertical contour cutting depends on which is the most economical way of getting the shape out of the block. Sometimes the vertical cutter is more appropriate. The horizontal machine is often used for the first cutting operation, followed by cutting in the other plane.

Benefits of Horizontal Contour Cutting

  • Cut complex shapes from large blocks.
  • Smooth edges with no steps or jagged edges in curved surfaces.
  • Tight radii and even sharp corners.
  • Good accuracy and repeatability (little piece-to-piece variation.)
  • No tooling, so no up-front costs or extended lead times.

Merryweather Capabilities
Merryweather’s horizontal contour cutter handles polyethylene, polyurethane, EPE, EPS and convoluted foam in blocks as large as 2.3m (90″) by 2.3m (90″) by 1.3m (51″) and densities up to 10 pounds. Programming direct from CAD means the machine is as suitable for producing one-offs as high volume orders.

Flexible and Accurate
The horizontal contour cutter is a three axis bandknife machine able to produce complex foam shapes quickly and efficiently. With no tooling it’s suitable for cutting even one-off shapes and precise motion control leaves smooth, step-free edges. Learn more by contacting us with your questions.

Since 1948, we have been industry leaders in fabricating unique foam components for customers in the medical, sound absorption, automotive, and packaging industries. At Merryweather Foam, we pride ourselves on our ability to combine experience, innovation, and excellent customer service. We have the knowledge, manpower and equipment to help you get the job done.

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