Thursday, July 24, 2014

Creating Life-Size and Large-Scale Props

Fun Creating Large-Scale Foam Props

We love creating custom foam prop for any type of industry. 

We fabricate theaters and movie sets props, theme parks props and decor, parade floats,
Prop for Las Vegas Gun Show 
trade show props, museum displays, foam sculptures, props for weddings and other events, miniature golf props, paintball and laser tags facilities props - only naming a few. 

Penguin Props for a theater show
Sculpture Prop - Foam & fiberglass

Most of our customers prefer the use of foam for the props, however, we also use other types of materials, such as acrylics, wood, light metals and more.

LEGO Prop for restaurant chain


We machine our props using our 3 and 4 axis routers, then we sand them, coat them and paint over them. We also carve them manually if needed to facilitate aesthetic and attractive appearance and to make it look "alive". 
Since we create very large scale props, we can machine them in sections and glue the pieces together to create the full scale end version. Our props can be 100 feet wide and more. 

Here is an example of the Berkeley Art Museum Exhibit that we have created in 2009 - We created over 50 modern wave-like seats by machining high density EPS foam, covering it with plywood and painting it. 

As you can see, the result was an interactive exhibit where the students and guests can relax, read, and do their homework. 

In 2010 we created this 1937 Renault Truck replica prop for a museum. We began by scanning a small truck in our 3D printer to create a 3D CAD file, machined it in sections with our CNC router, glued the parts together and sanded it. Then we sprayed it with our polyurea hard coat and painted it. Lastly, we glued all the small parts such as the wheel, headlights, etc.

Here is another example of very large scale props that we have created in 2013 for a celebrity wedding. 
We fabricated a 60ft wide castle ruins made of 6 walls sections, a 12ft tall Celtic hand-carved cross,
Roman sculptures, dragons, planters and different types of setting, all large scale.

Here are some additional pictures of props we created:

TAZ Loony Toon Prop for a movie set

Snake Head Prop for a show

Dragon Head Prop

AVATAR Robot Prop for a movie set

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Using Polyurea coating over foam

Using Polyurea Coating to Protect Foam Creations

You created a dimensional foam logo sign, a beautiful foam sculpture, or a magnificent EPS prop. Now, how do you protect it so that it will not break or be ruined after all your hard work? Easy answered – you coat it.

You can spray the coating or hand brush it using different types of materials, such as epoxy, resin, polyurethane or Polyurea. Which one you will end up using depends on many factors, such as – Is it for indoor or outdoor use, will people touch it? Do you need to move it from one place to another? Is this a one time project or is it for multiple uses? Do you need it to last a life time? 

I want to go over some details here pertaining to a hard-shell coat called Polyurea, a coating that we like to use on our foam creations.

Polyurea is a coating that can be used on any foam props, signs and projects. It protects the foam shape from weather, water, sun, and humidity, age and break damage.

1937 Renault Truck Prop before coating

The Truck all coated and painted
TED Sign coated and painted
Graco-100 Coating Spray System

The Polyurea coating combines high flexibility and durability with high hardness and is fast drying. It can be sanded to a smooth finish and can then be painted with any type of paint – water-base paint, including latex or any oil-based paint, as well as automotive paint. It dries in minutes, providing a tough chemical and abrasion resistant coating.
Polyurea will not provoke blistering and blistering will not occur even at extreme temperatures or in humid environment. 
It will also resist yellowing from ultra violet light exposure. Since the Polyurea dries very fast, it requires fast and efficient mixing and spraying techniques, thus, spraying a large foam piece with a spray gun is the smartest application method.

Since the Polyurea dries very fast, it requires fast and efficient mixing and spraying techniques, thus, spraying a large foam piece with a spray gun is the smartest application method. 
Without coating, any foam is exposed to dangers of being damaged by sun, wind, humidity and corrosion or being broken

A foam sign, for example, can break anywhere between the packaging, the shipping, the handling and the installation 
phase. However, with Polyurea coating, the sign thrown to the ground or tossed from one place to another will not break.
The Polyurea coating is non-toxic and is completely safe for use. Any type of foam can be sprayed, from rigid foam to soft polyurethane foam. When spraying the foam with this coating, a smooth or a textured finish can be applied – according to the customer needs. 

The Polyurea coating has many advantages, some of them include:
High curing speed, protection from conditions of humidity, heat, cold and sun, extreme abrasion resistance, chemical resistance, good adhesion to the material it is sprayed on and unlimited application thickness.  

The Polyurea can be coated on any foam project; from signs, letters, logos and props, to prototypes, crown moldings, concrete molds and more. For smaller foam shapes you can hand-brush it or use a small spray gun with cartridges. 

For large projects it is recommended to use a large spray system, such as Graco-100.It is the same spray gun you would use to spray insulation in roofs. It is a heavy-duty gun which you will have to clean right after you finish using it, or else the material will be clogged inside preventing you from using it again.

This spray system is also very useful for coating garage floors and even hangar floors for airplanes.  

There are other types of coatings that can be sprayed or coated on foam, such as adhesive
glue, epoxy coating and polystyrene; 
However, the Polyurea spray coating is about 100 times stronger. 

After applying the Polyurea coating, the coated foam can then be sanded to any desirable finish, painted and even bonded to a surface, such as plywood.

Painting Dragon Prop over Polyurea

Sun Prop coated with Polyurea then painted

Foamlinx and WeCutFoam Fabricating the Whispering Dishes Exhibit

Foamlinx and WeCutFoam Fabricating the Whispering Dishes” LIZ Exhibit in San Francisco

Here is an exhibit that we have created for the Exploratorium Museum and the City of San Francisco. It is called “Whispering Dishes”, San Francisco’s first Living Innovation Zone, also known as LIZ.
Mayor Lee launches nation's first Living Innovation Zone
This exhibit is one of ten new Living Innovation Zones Exhibits that the City of San Francisco is planning on placing on the sidewalks, to serve as new dynamic and interactive public spaces. Those exhibits will connect visitors, innovators and the City of San Francisco to facilitate visitor’s exploration and hands on science and technology, while revitalizing the city. This first LIZ exhibit, which we took part in its fabrication, was placed on Market Street, next to Yerba Buena, and was launched October 29, 2013.
One of the styrofoam dishes after being milled
We machined the “dishes” from high density Expanded Polystyrene foam (EPS) using our CNC router.
Each dish was 9ft tall.
The project was made in five layers.
Each layer was 7” thick.
We machined (milled) both the top and the bottom of the dishes.

To finalize the foam cutting and machining stage, all layers were glued to one another to create the full display.

We made 3" holes to secure the two sides of the concrete that was to be put on top of the foam.

Applying 3" thick concrete over foam
The foam was then sent to Concrete Concepts & Design, in Richmond, CA owned by Mr. Heriberto Esquivel.

Heriberto sprayed concrete on top of the foam, making each layer of concrete 3" thick.

Once the concrete hardened and dried - the exhibit design was ready to be transported to the display site on Market street

Polishing the concrete overlay

The end product is two 9 foot tall dishes facing each other, being 50 feet apart, with standing geometric layers between them. 

The structure is made so that people standing on each side of the dishes, whispering will be able to hear each other, even with the heavy street noise.

This was a very interesting and unique project for us and we were thrilled to be part of something so modern and innovative. This was one of the more fun projects we have had the pleasure of creating. It was also great working with Mr. Jesse Marsh from the Exploratorium and with Mr. Heriberto Esquivel to see how it all came together in a collaborated effort.

The Story of Foamlinx - How it all began

The story of Foamlinx – How it all began

The early days: Working on a prototype from the garage
In the summer of 2001 Tal, a Silicon Valley resident, was working as an application engineer, creating one of the first chips for MP3 music player devices. He loved his job but was looking for an opportunity to share his creativity and skills with others. He's always had the “entrepreneur rush” in him - His dad has been developing medical 3D printers and other devices for over 50 years and Tal was always on his side learning from him and assisting him. Tal started working as a company employee since his 20’s, but always wanted to be his own boss working on his own ideas.

RC Foam Plane
One of his hobbies was flying RC planes and so he used to go to local parks flying RC planes and helicopters with his boys. Tal was thinking of ways he could cut those wings of the planes smoothly and accurately, as these were not straight shapes, they were tapered. 
Tapered Wings

He went home and started researching. He found out that all these RC models were made of foam, a material that enables the models to be lighter yet stronger.

He started working in the garage developing his first foam cutter. It was a very simple user-friendly machine that would be able to cut various types of foam. He basically worked around the clock, keeping his engineering day job and working enthusiastically on his new “invention” over nights and weekends.
One of the 1st prototype machine

The machine he developed was a CNC hot wire foam cutter, meaning it was controlled by a computer fed with a drawing file of the shape to be cut and using a wire that melts the foam in advance of contact. Upon completion of his first foam cutter prototype he put it for sale on eBay. He did not expect much as he was yet to learn about this market, only to find out that there was a great demand for this product. The machine was sold as a prototype within hours.

But Tal was still not ready to make this his entire world. He decided at this point that he wanted to share his creation and his knowledge with other RC flyers enthusiasts and so he created 8Linx – a free and friendly website helping visitors create their own CNC hot wire foam cutting machines, using simple parts found in any hardware store. He even put his idea on “Instractables” – DIY How to Make website.

CNC Hot Wire Sign Cutter
FC5539 medium-size foam cutter

Tal continued developing and improving his foam cutters, manufacturing different sizes, creating specific machines to cut 2D and also 3D shapes. His wife says the garage as well as parts of the house were filled with foam pieces and bids, but she came to terms with it understanding that he found his passion and was infatuated by the foam world.

Tal collaborated with his dad who was working in China at that time and together they have designed a new line of foam cutters.
The garage, which was a great starting point, was now becoming too small to accommodate the machines. Tal rented a small warehouse in Sunnyvale and created Foamlinx.
FCX448 Full Block Foam Cutter

He discovered that almost endless numbers of industries were buying his machines; architects, sign shops, construction and building companies, museums, packaging companies, research facilities, universities and academic institutes, to name only a few. Turns out that there are so many products around us that are made of foam, and the demand for Foamlinx’s foam cutters grew bigger every day.
Large CNC Router Table for 3D machining

In summer 2006, as the space became too small for the company, Tal decided to take a leap. At a stage where the economy was not doing so great he took a risk and quit his paying engineering job. He then decided to move again, this time to an even larger facility in Sunnyvale to be a home for his large foam cutters and routers, some a large as 10ft and more, occupying a room of its own.

Custom made CNC hot wire foam cutter

With his wife joining him at the company, Foamlinx became an LLC, employing personnel with engineering background as well as artistic abilities. Tal then noticed that apart from a need for the machines there is a vast demand for foam cutting services; and so, WeCutFoam, a subsidiary of Foamlinx was born. 

Custom made CNC hot wire foam cutter

Taz Loony Toon Prop

Under WeCutFoam he started creating anything from foam - custom props for amusement parks, weddings, events, museum exhibits and trade shows, packaging and tooling cases, dimensional signs, letters, logos, prototypes, foam sculptures, art work and any project made of foam; all using Foamlinx machinery. 

Avatar 3D Movie Prop

Prop coated with polyurea painted metallic paint
Tal keeps “feeling the market and its needs” and so he is constantly adding more services and products, including coating, carving, artistic painting, 3D printing and scanning, machining and laser cutting.

Some of the company’s larger projects included the creation of BAMScape – Berkeley Art Museum interactive exhibit,props, sets and background created for Sean Parker’s Wedding, fabricating the Whispering Dishes Live Zone exhibit for the Exploratorium and the City of San Francisco, creating logo signs for Disney stores, Pixar, DreamWorks, CBS, Ted Conferences, eBay and many more.

60ft wide castle ruins props we created for a wedding
Greek Gods sculpture props for a wedding

Berkeley Art Museum Exhibit 

Some of the largest most successful companies today have made their humble small start in their garages. Amazon, founded as a book store by Jeff Bezos operating from a garage in Washington. Apple, started by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak sold their first computers from a garage in Cupertino, CA. Disney started in his house garage in Anaheim. Google, Harley Davidson, Hewlett-Packard and many more all started at a small garage. 

A company is not built to succeed in one day. It is a long, gradual and patient process. As one might say “It is not where you start, it’s where you end up and the road that took you there."

The company has come a long way from a prototype made in a garage to a company selling its products world-wide. Foamlinx machines are currently used in construction, architecture, fine arts, packaging, sign shops, museums, universities, research, UAV, aerospace, aeronautics, hobby shops, movie sets, theaters and more.

Tal and the members of his team are dedicated to keep expanding and developing new tools and services, not for a greed of money, but because at Foamlinx we truly enjoy and love what we do and we also believe in giving back to our community. We often participate in sponsoring events such as Formula SAE Competition, ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition, school events and more.
SJ State Formula SAE Race Car
we assisted fabricating

Tal and his team will continue to put every effort and their innate abilities into manufacturing high quality machinery and foam props and helping companies world-wide build a better tomorrow.