Aug 14, 2012

Building an Iron Man Suit - Part 2

Given that I've had a ton of hits on the rather unsubstantive original post, I thought I'd post an update on what I've learned so far to save other folks the time I've spent figuring out how to approach this. Note: This post provides all the resources you need to build a full replica fiberglass Mark III Iron Man suit

As I mentioned in the previous post, there is an existing Iron Man Suit Builders community called Stark Industries Weapons, Data and Armor Technology (SIWDAT).  The site is largely driven by a gentleman named TMP (Timeless Movie Prop) who is a professional sculptor and prop builder. Its a great site and has a good forum where one can see some of the existing suits folks have built, but unfortunately has lost a lot of its content due to some forum crash in 2011. Users are slowly re-adding the content. I personally didn't find it super useful in how to build suits other than discovering what people use for full size blueprints for the various Iron Man Suits (War Machine, Mark I, Mark III, etc.), which is called Pepakura.

Pepakura is essentially a 3D Model comprised of a number of parts, whereby you can print out the parts and it tells you how to attach the tabs of the various parts together to recreate the 3D model. The cliff note version is that you print the templates on cardstock paper, Xacto Knife the templates out, glue the tabs on the templates together to build the model, resin the model, glue on fiberglass cloth, resin the cloth, apply a finishing product, sand it and paint it and you end up with amazing replica Iron Man Suits like the one to the right.

Pepkakura is actually pretty simple. It uses free software and you just need to find the templates, which are PDO files, and figure out what to do with them. If you watch all seven of the pepakura tutorials below, you'll learn everything you need to see how Pepakura is used to build an Iron Man Suit from start to finish. The link to the next tutorial appears at the end of each video. Plus, Stealth, their creator is pretty funny.
Another gentleman that goes by the handle Dancin_Fools, has one of the most popular and detailed Mark III pepakura suit designs built using 3D Studio Max.This is the link to the thread where you can see some of the models and the outcome.  You can download the templates (PDO) files directly here.

I'm actually attempting to build an aluminum suit since I'm having some fun exploring how far my son and I can get trying to build a real suit and not a costume. Aluminum is a much harder medium to work with than paper, so at this point, I've decided to first go/think through the process with paper to make sure I have the scale correctly identified. I'm currently working on the chest piece from the PDO files provided above.

Do not understimate the huge amount of time it takes to cut the pepakura templates out using the xacto knife, it is taking me days (in my spare time) to cut out just the chest peices. Someone should start a business selling pre-cut templates at a scale specified by the customer.

I was pretty encouraged to find that other people have actually built Aluminum suits. I have decided that Welding is going to really complicate things, so my current plan has changed to using steel rivets to join the pieces. Check out this really cool fully aluminum Mark VI suit below. The builders thread for this is available here. Granted, there's not a whole lot out there that I've found (yet) on how to build aluminum suits. I'll post more as I find it.

UPDATE: Samurai169 over at RPF has an awesome welded 20 gauge steel suit he is building.


The next step is to actually build your Arc Reactor replica. I've at least got this bit accomplished already. To begin with, here's a refresher of what an actual Mark I Arc Reactor looks like:

Now, unless you've got a 3 inch hole in your solar plexus, or you've already made the suit and it sits an inch or two off of your chest, you're not going to be able to wear a true replica. Instructables has a great section on how to build your own Iron Man Arc Reactor. I got all that I needed from Radioshack, Hobby Lobby and Lowes. The images below are some examples of Arc Reactors that can be built.


Lastly, if you want to start wiring the suit for functionality such as automating the face plate opening and closing, then the XRobots web site has a lot of tutorials and likely what you're looking for.

Also, dont forget about the ability to use the Arduino platform, as it provides a platform to start building out the suits motorized functions.

Another option is to use a 3D Printer as it possible to print some of the components in their entirety. For example, MakerBot has a 3D Printer that can print components the size of a loaf of bread. Some folks are using it to print entire helmets.

Happy Making !

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