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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TryChick3 days ago

Honus, I have my helmet operational, but my servo gets really hot. The battery packs I made (just like yours) were giving it almost 8 volts and I thought that might be the problem, but if I cut the batteries to only 5, there isn't enough juice to lift the faceplate. I'm wondering if the servo load is too much for it while it is holding it open and perhaps if I move my pivot point back and make the arm longer it will take some of the load off. Your thoughts?

Honus (author)  TryChick3 days ago
Most high voltage servos can safely handle an unregulated 2S LiPo, which can put out 8.4V so I doubt the voltage issue is your problem (provided you are using a high voltage servo.)

Is the servo stalling? If so then that would definitely explain it. You might try adjusting the throw of the servo arm in the code. If the servo arm is still trying to move when the faceplate is all the way up then that would certainly cause your problem.

What model servo are you using and how much does your faceplate weigh? Is there a lot of friction in the hinge mechanism? Making the servo arm longer would increase the load on the servo.

If you could post a photo showing the length of your servo arm and how the linkage is set up that would be a big help in troubleshooting it.
TryChick Honus3 days ago
I'm using the same servo you did (Hitec HS-7245MH). The servo arm is about 2.5" long from the servo screw to the "hinge." It's set up pretty much like the one you did for Greg. I have the HFP-25 servo programmer and used it to find what I thought were good settings for the open and closed positions, but the servo does occasionally chatter at both open and closed positions. You can hear it on the video I when the faceplate is closed. It seems to move smoothly when I open and close it manually, though the industrial strength velcro doesn't always keep the servo attached. Not sure why some of the images are sideways.
IMG_8608.MOV(516x290) 17 KB
Honus (author)  TryChick2 days ago

Since you have the servo programmer try reducing the dead band width to the minimum amount. I think what may be happening is the servo is trying to hold that exact position while under load and that is what is causing the extra power consumption.

TryChick Honus2 days ago

OK. I'll try that. I've never messed with the overload protection rate but wonder if I need to to that as well? If so, what would you suggest as a value in that 10-50% range? As of now it is off.

Honus (author)  TryChickyesterday

It's certainly not a bad idea as it can prevent the servo burning out if you were to stall it. You can play around with the values but I'd probably start at around 20%.

Himers2 months ago

This is sick!!! Nice job man!!!

AndreiL32 months ago

How much did it cost?

Honus (author)  AndreiL32 months ago
I honestly never added up the cost of all of the parts for the animatronic system. The cost could range from several hundred to over $1000, depending on what materials and tools you have on hand.

Totally epic. I love that you made this animatronic.

Honus (author)  sellers.nathan2 months ago


kitisg2 months ago

Hi Honus,

I forgot to put this on here, but I manage to finish the helmet in time for Halloween. Here's the wireless helmet working: . Thanks for the awesome instructable!

Honus (author)  kitisg2 months ago


buffy.irwin.72 months ago

Is there any chance that you could up load video of the suit in action while being worn? Looks great on the bench but can it be done and controlled while wearing it on stage?

Honus (author)  buffy.irwin.72 months ago
Once my friend has finished repainting the suit there will be a new video of him wearing it and operating all of the suit functions. The animatronic system was designed so everything can be operated while he is wearing the suit- we had multiple test fitting sessions in order to make sure everything would fit and operate properly.
Eddie cruz3 months ago
Hi there
How much would it cost me to get you to constuct a suit for me please ?
Eddie Cruz from the UK
Honus (author)  Eddie cruz3 months ago
Sorry but I don't sell them!
BuckmasterAR3 months ago

do you think that the designs from will be able to work just like your suit , like if I make the pieces from this other instructable, could I take the electronics from your instructable to make one just like yours?

Honus (author)  BuckmasterAR3 months ago
I think most of it would work but honestly it's hard to say just by looking at the photos. I think the hip pods would be tough to do since there's not a lot of support material around them from what I can see. The real trick is making the suit and helmet rigid enough so you need to reinforce the inside of the suit and helmet with woven fiberglass cloth.

Thank you, i'll try it. I'm doing this for a school project

kitisg3 months ago

Hi Honus,

I wanted to share the code with you for the 3v arduino. This code allows the user to swipe their rfid once to get their helmet to open, then swipe it again to close it. Credit goes to Wildbill from Arduino's forum for the help :):

#include "Servo.h" // include the servo library

Servo faceplateServo;

Servo chinServo;

int ledPin1 = 4; // control pin for LED eyes

int servoPin1 = 2; // control pin for face plate servo

int servoPin2 = 3; // control pin for chin

bool FacePlateOpen=false;

void setup()


faceplateServo.attach(servoPin1); // attaches the servo on pin 2 to the servo object

chinServo.attach(servoPin2); // attaches the servo on pin 3 to the servo object

faceplateServo.write(30); // rotate face plate servo to 30 degrees

chinServo.write(95); // rotate chin servo to 95 degrees

pinMode(ledPin1, OUTPUT); // sets the LED pin as output

digitalWrite(ledPin1, HIGH); // turn on LED eyes



void loop()


// look for a capital A over the serial port and turn off LED

if (Serial.available() > 0)


if( == 'A')

{ // reads tag over XBee

digitalWrite(ledPin1, LOW); // turn off LED eyes

delay(500); // wait half a second




chinServo.write(20); // rotate the chin servo to 20 degrees

faceplateServo.write(95); // rotate the face plate servo to 95 degrees




chinServo.write(95); // rotate the chin servo to 95 degrees

faceplateServo.write(30); // rotate the face plate servo to 30 degrees


digitalWrite(ledPin1, HIGH); // turn on LED eyes




Honus (author)  kitisg3 months ago

Awesome! Be sure to post a video of your helmet working!

kitisg4 months ago

Hi Honus,

I have a question regarding the face servos. I've created the left side and helmet set up. When I place my rfid chip to the reader, I see a red light turn on on my helmet xbee yet none of my helmet servos seem to move. Would you have any ideas why that might be? Thanks!

Honus (author)  kitisg4 months ago
Have you tried operating the servos outside of the helmet? Do the servos make any noise or chattering sound?
kitisg Honus4 months ago

I have the servo programmer, and the servos work with that. When I connect them to the pins they do make a little noise. It's almost like they are constantly making tiny adjustments. When I stick my rfid to the reader, it's hard to tell if the movement is tiny, or if it's just noise.

Honus (author)  kitisg4 months ago

It sounds like the servos don't share a common ground with your Arduino. Is the RFID reader working- can you see the reader working if you connect the Arduino to a computer and open the serial monitor?

kitisg Honus4 months ago

When I turn on the serial port I see the first 7 numbers of my RFID tag ID pop up when I put my RFID near the reader. The ground to my servo is connected to the ground of the battery. My Arduino is also connected to that same ground slot on my breadboard. The batteries are 6 AAA connected in a circuit.

Honus (author)  kitisg4 months ago

That's strange. When viewing the serial monitor you should see the letter 'A' every time you swipe the RFID tag- that's what is in the code. The serial output is sent over the XBee radios and the letter 'A' is received on the helmet side and then the helmet code is run.

kitisg Honus4 months ago

I reconnected all my wires and I manage to make the servo move when I place my tag by the reader. The only issue it has now is that it repeats the open close cycle about 3 times lol. Any suggestions for that? Thanks again for all the help Honus!

Honus (author)  kitisg4 months ago

Are you keeping the tag near the reader or only swiping it once? If you're only swiping it once then check through your code again as it would appear it is repeating the loop. Sometimes when you copy and paste code strange things happen and it doesn't get copied exactly line for line.

kitisg Honus3 months ago

Hi Honus I found out the problem. I left the tag on the reader for a couple seconds, which sent the code over multiple times. If I do a quick swipe it goes through the cycle only once. Out of curiosity is it possible to have the same tag open it and keep it open, and another swipe to close it?

Honus (author)  kitisg3 months ago

Cool- glad you figured it out! I believe you could do that as it essentially would work the same as the push button example where you push it once to open it and then push again to close it. Unfortunately I haven't done anything like that with RFID tags.

kitisg Honus4 months ago

I turned on the serial monitor from the Arduino again and this popped up. I don't see my ID tag like last time, just commas every time I put my tag by it. The red led turns on still though on the xbee connected to the other arduino.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 12.29.26 PM.png
BuckmasterAR4 months ago

how much would all of this cost to make, and what would be the cost for you to make it for me and shipping? just a thought I would really like to have one.

Honus (author)  BuckmasterAR4 months ago

I honestly don't know the exact cost to make this suit. My friend brought me his suit to add the animatronics. Unfortunately I don't see myself making another one as I already have too many other projects waiting in the wings.

BlueDragon924 months ago

Ok this is super cool :D. I really wish I was able to make something like this. Let me just say this You are a GENUS and I bow before you lol

nerd974 months ago



kitisg4 months ago

Hi Honus, I wanted to say what an awesome build this is! I'm currently trying to use the left side schematic on my IDE and I keep getting the error "NewSoftSerial" does not name a type. Do you know why this may be?

Honus (author)  kitisg4 months ago
Which Arduino version are you using? I think I was still on version 0022 when I wrote this.
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