Iron Man costumes have been extremely popular lately and the number one question I am most often asked is "How can I add animatronics to my suit?" My friend Greg wanted to add animatronics to his MkIII fiberglass suit so he asked for my help and for this suit we went all out.

We wanted to add as many functions as seen in the movies as possible, which wasn't easy given that most of those sequences were not done using practical effects. The other issue was how should all of the functions be actuated? After considering several options we used RFID tags in the gloves to trigger the shoulder rocket pods, hip pods, forearm missile, back flaps and helmet. The helmet has wireless control via XBee radios. The boots light up and make sound while walking by using an infrared distance sensor in the boot to trigger the effect.

Here's a video that shows all of the suit functions-

This is certainly not an easy project but if you know your way around an Arduino and can wield a soldering iron this instructable will show you how to do it.

Be sure to click on any picture to get a larger version.

Update: I've also created an animatronics forum where people can go to get help with their costume and prop projects. I get so many messages for specific project help from people that I decided to create a dedicated forum where everyone can get help and share ideas!

Let's get started!

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That suit is sexy. I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

Thx again I'll check back with anymore ?s
Thx again I'll check back with anymore ?s
Did you use an Apple or Microsoft computer to program
Honus (author)  MARK FORTY TWO3 months ago
Both! Arduino is cross platform compatible with Mac, PC and Linux so you can use whichever you want.
Thanks so much I love electronics and I'm just getting started on arduino so thanks so much
Hi @Honus I was wondering if you could possibly add all the links for each one so they are separate and upgrade the links to the most currently available ones. For example
Shoulder rockets.....
Forearm missle.....
Back flaps.......
Thank you so much and this instructable is amazing I will definitely be building thx again this is amazing
Honus (author)  MARK FORTY TWO3 months ago
I believe all of the links are current. The RFID breakout board hasn't yet been replaced with a new part. For parts that show part numbers but no link the part was discontinued by the seller where I obtained it so you'll need to do a google search to find a current vendor that stocks it.

When I originally wrote this I thought about breaking it up so the individual parts were listed in each build section but it was even more confusing as so many similar parts are used across the build and then duplicate parts would show up in both the build sections as well as the electronic sections. What I did instead was list what the individual parts were used for in the materials list but I can see how it would be confusing. I'll go back and do some edits in each section as soon as I have a chance that list exactly which servo goes where, etc.
simplebotics3 months ago
I've always wanted to see a fully functional mark III. This is amazing! Love the arm prices and shoulder rockets. Helmet is awesome too!
Honus (author)  simplebotics3 months ago
TryChick3 months ago

Honus, would you check my wiring diagrams to see if I have these wired correctly. I went ahead and ordered a step up like you suggested, but am not sure which way I want to go with this--2 batteries or one. My surface mount LEDs haven't come in yet, so I am still working with my current eye set up, which are two 2" strips cut from an LED lighting strip with 6 LEDs and 2 150 ohm resistors on each strip. I did test the eyes with the 7.4V battery set up and they aren't very bright. Frustrated with Fritzing as I've never used it before and am just getting started with this electronics stuff. :0

Helmet 2 batteries.JPGHelmet with step up.JPG
Honus (author)  TryChick3 months ago
Everything looks fine as far as how the power is wired up. The LED wiring looks strange to me though. What are the specs/power ratings on your current LEDs?
TryChick Honus3 months ago

I think I had the LED schematics drawn incorrectly, so I redid one of the schematics. The LEDs are 2" strips cut from some OPOWAY Flexible Led Strip light 300 LED 3528 SMD White LED 12 Volt 24 Watt. 6 LEDs and 2 resistors per eye. The resistors have a #151 on them. I think they are 1/8 watt 150 ohm resistors...

Helmet with step up.JPGphoto.JPG
Honus (author)  TryChick3 months ago

Without having a wiring schematic from the company that makes the LED strip it's hard to see how they're wired up in each segment. On your diagram it looks like your second set of LEDs is wired backwards- you have 12V out from your boost converter going to the cathode side of the LEDs and the anode side tied to ground.

andrea biffi4 months ago

Honus this is a masterpiece! So glad you won a price!

Honus (author)  andrea biffi4 months ago
Thanks so much!!
ironavenger4 months ago

sick build! did you use a mold to build the armor?

Honus (author)  ironavenger4 months ago
Thanks! I didn't make the armor. The suit belongs to my friend Greg and he acquired the armor from someone else who molded it. I believe it began as a pepakura build and then was shaped using Bondo. Then it was molded in silicone to produce molds for fiberglass duplicates.
ironavenger Honus4 months ago

Would you or your friend possibly have access to the mold I have been trying to make a good model for a few years with no success if I could possibly buy mold or set of armor or a mold that'd be pretty freaking awesome!

Honus (author)  ironavenger4 months ago

The guy who made it named Clinton no longer has the molds. I know he sold the original helmet mold to another guy a while back but I don't know what happened to the armor molds. I do know that he makes a newer version MkIII that was 3D printed- and it's absolutely perfect. I also imagine it's not cheap!

Clinton can be reached through Tundra Designs.

ironavenger Honus4 months ago

Thanks! That looks amazing I'll definitely look him up!

hadams74 months ago

Also I was wondering one of the things in the list of items for the helmet list is discontinued it is the

1- RFID tag reader breakout (to connect wires to the tag reader)

this is discontinued could you get me a link for a new one or a replacement link.

6- AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries (to power the helmet)

Could you send me a link for this one?

1- Surface mount proto board (only needed if you use surface mount LEDs for the eyes)
1- 9V transistor battery (used to power the Arduino/RFID tag reader)

Also a link for both of these two as well?

Honus (author)  hadams74 months ago

It looks like the RFID tag reader breakout was discontinued just a
couple of days ago and they are redesigning it. Right now there isn't a
replacement available that I am aware of- I did a Google search and I couldn't find any other company that produces a similar breakout board. If you need one right now it looks like you will have to make your own PCB. My guess is that Sparkfun will probably have the new version out in a couple of weeks.

The AAA NiMH batteries are available just about everywhere but have a look here-

Here's the link in the parts list for the surface mount proto board-

The 9V transistor battery is a standard grocery store item but have a look here-

hadams74 months ago

I am new to the whole electronic part of building costumes and was wondering if you could give me a exact list of what i would need to build the helmet electronics cause i was a little overwhelmed and confused on the list that you gave cause i wanna just start with one electronics piece at a time so if you could give me a list of the electronics i would need to do the helmet electronics you would really help out a lot :) I am so grateful for you guys for putting this up I have been searching for something like this for a year now you guys are amazing!!!!!!

Honus (author)  hadams74 months ago
So for the electronics for a wireless helmet you need these parts from the list:
2- XBee Series 1 modules (allows wireless communication)
2- Adafruit XBee adapters (to attach wires to the XBee radios)
1- Arduino Pro Mini 3.3V (for the helmet)
1- Arduino Pro Mini 5V (for the tag reader)
1- ID12 RFID tag reader (reads the finger tag)
1- RFID tag reader breakout (to connect wires to the tag reader)
1- 16mm RFID button tag (to activate the helmet)
6- AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries (to power the helmet)
1- Pololu 5V DC/DC converter D24V5F5 (provides regulated power to the helmet electronics)
1- Hitec HS-5087MH micro servo (helmet chin servo)
1- Hitec HS-7245MH mini servo (helmet faceplate servo)
1- TIP 120 transistor (turns on the helmet LEDs)
1- 1K Ohm resistor (connects the transistor to the Arduino)
3- JST RCY connectors (to make connectors for the battery packs)
1- Adafruit tactile on/off power switch (to turn helmet power on/off)
1- Straight Break Away Header (for making servo connectors)
10- 100 Ohm resistors (for the helmet LEDs- you can use standard or surface mount resistors)
10- White LEDs (for the helmet eyes- you can use standard or surface mount LEDs)
1- Surface mount proto board (only needed if you use surface mount LEDs for the eyes)
1- 9V transistor battery (used to power the Arduino/RFID tag reader)
1- Small power switch (turns on the RFID tag reader circuit)
hadams7 Honus4 months ago
Yeah could you send the push button helmet version list as well.
Also The RFID breakout was retired according to sparkfun on the link and also could you put a link for these 3 items as well.
1- RFID tag reader breakout (to connect wires to the tag reader)
1- Surface mount proto board (only needed if you use surface mount LEDs for the eyes)
1- 9V transistor battery (used to power the Arduino/RFID tag reader)
Honus (author)  hadams74 months ago

The parts are pretty much identical for a push button version except
you don't need the 5V Pro Mini, Xbee radios, XBee adapter boards, or
RFID reader or tag. You can use any momentary push button switch you
like. It looks like the RFID tag reader breakout was discontinued just a
couple of days ago and they are redesigning it. Right now there isn't a
replacement available. There is a link above for the SMD proto board.
The 9V transistor battery is a standard grocery store item.

hadams7 Honus4 months ago
Also should i get the 90 degree servos or the 180 degree servos
Honus (author)  hadams74 months ago

Get the stock 90 degree servos. With the Arduino sending the signal to the servos they will be able to rotate up to 180 degrees.

Honus (author)  hadams74 months ago

Sure, I can do that! Do you want the helmet to be wireless or do you want it to be activated by a push button? The reason I ask is the wireless version has a fair bit more hardware.

hadams7 Honus4 months ago

wireless would be awesome

hadams7 hadams74 months ago

also i was reading and you said you used servos that you wish you would have used some other type of servo could you add that to the list that way i can buy all the best stuff and then get started on this and get ready to build :) thanks

Honus (author)  hadams74 months ago

No, for the helmet I used the two high voltage digital servos listed- one for the faceplate and one for the chin. Those were the best servos I could find.

hadams7 Honus4 months ago

Sweet ok the list of what i need is all i need then thank you :)

hadams74 months ago

So 4 of the items i am confused about are these four on the helmet list

1. RFID tag reader breakout I clicked on the link you have above on that item and i called spark fun and they told me they discontinued that product so I am wondering if there is somewhere else i can get it and could you send the link.

2. 6 AAA NiMh rechargeable battries could you send me a link of where i could get those or what they look like?

3. Surface mount proto board could you send me the link for this one?

4.9V transistor battery link for that one as well?

And my last question is could you send me a schematic of the whole system for the helmet that way i can get a visual of where each piece goes?

nbenson14 months ago
Nice. Now we need to work on a JARVIS system and video overlay. I have several ideas on both :)
Honus (author)  nbenson14 months ago

Cool! I'd be curious to see what you come up with. I've seen a couple voice recognition JARVIS systems other builders have done but I was always a bit turned off by the latency of the systems.

nbenson1 Honus4 months ago

ok sat and thought more about it, going to be awesome, have also started dev etc. check

TryChick4 months ago

Honus, could you give me some more guidance on the white SMT LEDs. I'm going to redo the eyes lights so they can work off the same 7.4V battery source instead of using a step up regulator. You said any small LEDs will work, but there are about a billion places to source these and I have no idea which ones would be appropriate. I don't want to get some that are too dim.

Honus (author)  TryChick4 months ago
The ones I use are called PLCC-2 bright white LEDs. I bought a bunch on eBay in bulk a few years ago. After doing a quick search I'm pretty sure this is the seller I bought them from-

The board I used to solder them into a circuit is this one- just a cut a piece that is the size you need.

One thing I will tell you is that it is actually easy to make the eyes too bright- you have to do a really good job blacking them out inside the helmet or you won't be able to see out. :)

Let me know if you have any other questions!
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