Animatronic Iron Man Mk III suit

Em Destaque Full Spectrum Laser Contest

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.

Let's get started!

Passo 1: Build design/details

The suit is basically broken down into three systems: left side, right side and boots.

The left hand has two RFID tags that trigger programmed sequences for the helmet, hip pods and back flaps. The right hand RFID tags trigger programmed sequences for the forearm missile and shoulder rockets. The boots have an infrared sensor that triggers the boot lights and sound effect as soon as the boot is lifted from the ground.

The single most difficult thing about this build is that the suit fits like a glove- there's no room in it! The helmet has less than 1/2" of space around the head, there's about 1" depth for the shoulder rocket pods and the hip pod area has less than 1" depth available so the packaging of the mechanics and electronics is really tight. Another issue is that there's almost no flat surfaces so mounting servos and hardware gets really interesting.

The system is Arduino based and uses four ProMinis- one for each side, one for the boots and one in the helmet. Since we wanted the helmet to be easy to take on and off we decided to make it wireless using XBee radios to send the control signals. For the point to point wiring running from the electronics mounted in the back to the arms and feet we used Ethernet cables and jacks so they could be easily disconnected. The sound effects for the boots are handled by a WaveShield that sits on a Arduino Pro.

If you are not familiar with Arduino and XBee radios then please read through this instructable. It will explain a lot of the basics and you'll be up and running in no time!

Another issue with systems like this are the different voltage and current requirements so we thought it best to power the servos separately using AA batteries, primarily for ease of availability if the suit is to be worn at conventions.

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MARK+FORTY+TWO diz: Jun 11, 2014. 10:14 PM
Thx again I'll check back with anymore ?s
MARK+FORTY+TWO diz: Jun 11, 2014. 10:14 PM
Thx again I'll check back with anymore ?s
MARK+FORTY+TWO diz: Jun 11, 2014. 7:15 AM
Did you use an Apple or Microsoft computer to program
Honus diz: Jun 11, 2014. 11:21 AM
Both! Arduino is cross platform compatible with Mac, PC and Linux so you can use whichever you want.
MARK+FORTY+TWO diz: Jun 10, 2014. 3:45 PM
Thanks so much I love electronics and I'm just getting started on arduino so thanks so much
MARK+FORTY+TWO diz: Jun 10, 2014. 8:50 AM
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 diz: Jun 10, 2014. 11:19 AM
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.
simplebotics diz: Jun 1, 2014. 3:30 PM
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 diz: Jun 5, 2014. 7:26 PM
TryChick diz: Mai 23, 2014. 3:17 PM

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

Honus diz: Mai 23, 2014. 6:06 PM
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 diz: Mai 23, 2014. 8:11 PM

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...

Honus diz: Mai 23, 2014. 10:22 PM

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+biffi diz: Mai 22, 2014. 10:51 AM

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

Honus diz: Mai 22, 2014. 8:49 PM
Thanks so much!!
ironavenger diz: Mai 21, 2014. 5:18 PM

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

Honus diz: Mai 21, 2014. 6:33 PM
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 diz: Mai 21, 2014. 7:23 PM

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 diz: Mai 21, 2014. 8:18 PM

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 diz: Mai 22, 2014. 5:01 PM

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

hadams7 diz: Mai 20, 2014. 7:49 PM

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 diz: Mai 21, 2014. 11:27 AM

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-

hadams7 diz: Mai 20, 2014. 4:59 PM

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?

hadams7 diz: Mai 19, 2014. 9:59 AM

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 diz: Mai 19, 2014. 11:49 AM

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 diz: Mai 19, 2014. 12:12 PM

wireless would be awesome

hadams7 diz: Mai 19, 2014. 12:17 PM

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 diz: Mai 19, 2014. 12:25 PM

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 diz: Mai 19, 2014. 1:07 PM

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

Honus diz: Mai 19, 2014. 8:15 PM
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 diz: Mai 20, 2014. 7:36 PM
Also should i get the 90 degree servos or the 180 degree servos
Honus diz: Mai 20, 2014. 8:06 PM

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.

hadams7 diz: Mai 20, 2014. 8:55 PM
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 diz: Mai 20, 2014. 9:16 PM

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.

TryChick diz: Mai 18, 2014. 12:46 PM

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 diz: Mai 18, 2014. 1:23 PM
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!
TryChick diz: Mai 19, 2014. 2:52 PM

Awesome. Thanks for the links. Already ordered my stuff...while I wait for it to arrive I'll be watching surface mounting videos.

nbenson1 diz: Mai 18, 2014. 12:31 AM
@Honus. It will be hard to strip that out but will see. Will try overlaying VR as well into the video display.
nbenson1 diz: Mai 17, 2014. 3:54 AM
Nice. Now we need to work on a JARVIS system and video overlay. I have several ideas on both :)
Honus diz: Mai 17, 2014. 11:17 PM

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 diz: Mai 19, 2014. 4:39 PM

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

stretch2545 diz: Mai 15, 2014. 9 PM

looks awesome, yet very complicated.

Honus diz: Mai 17, 2014. 11:22 PM

Thanks! As a whole it is pretty complicated but when you break it down into the separate sub systems it's really not that complex. The mechanical systems are designed to be as simple to build as possible as I wanted to make it as easy as possible for other suit builders to be able to add these features to their own suits.

TryChick diz: Mai 4, 2014. 6:15 AM

Honus, this may seem like an obvious question, but where the heck did you get the brass that you used on the helmet pivot arm and the piece that is glassed to the top of the helmet? I can find brass tubes at Hobby Lobby, but not the plate you used on the arms (looks like it may be 1/8" thick) or the brass plate glassed to the top (looks thinner than the arm...?). Also, the plastic tubing you used to mold the pro poxy around to make the channels, where did you get it? I know the tubing diameter will depend on the bearing size, and think perhaps clear vinyl tubing I can get at Lowes might work, but am not sure I can get the right diameter. I'm thinking bicycle wheel bearings could be used on the ends of the rods, and I know they come in a couple of different sizes.

Honus diz: Mai 4, 2014. 8:44 AM
I got the materials from my scrap box but all sizes of brass and plastic are sold at a local hardware store I frequent. The brass material is made by K&S Metals. The plastic rod is make by Plastruct.

I just ran out in the garage and measured some of my brass material and all of the sheet I used is 1/16" (.063" thick) and the two sizes I have on hand are 1" wide for the helmet top pivot and 1/4" wide, which was used for the servo rod mounting bracket in the helmet as well as the shoulder panel angle brackets for the shoulder rocket pods. I think I made the helmet pivot arm that connects to the faceplate servo from 1/2" wide material.

I did use standard ball bearings on the ends of the rods, but they are tricky to solder on. That's why I recommended people try using the plastic balls instead. The rods are 1/6" diameter stainless steel and ball is 3/16" diameter. If anything it's ideal to have your plastic rod slightly larger than the bearing- that way the finished track will be a bit larger than the ball link and it'll slide easier.

If you have any other questions just let me know!

TryChick diz: Mai 4, 2014. 11:47 AM

Thanks, that helps. The pics don't really show how big the ball bearing
is in relation to the width of the track the rod follows, but I would
guess the ball diameter is a bit bigger than the track width so it doesn't pop out. Is this correct? Soldering the ball bearing to the rod was easy. Drilled a hole in a piece of wood to hold the
rod up off the ground a bit and used my trusty vice to hold the ball.
Sanded the tip of the rod and part of the ball a bit to rough them up a

Honus diz: Mai 4, 2014. 6:28 PM

Yep- you got it. You want the ball link to slide in the track and not pop out so the slot cut in the top of the helmet is slightly smaller than the width of the track. Be sure to post pics of your helmet when it's done! I read through your build thread on the RPF- it's awesome. :)

TryChick diz: Mai 6, 2014. 11:16 AM

Thanks! It is folks like you sharing their knowledge that allows others to build such great costumes. Here are a couple of other options for doing the ball on the rod. Hobby stores have circular nylon/plastic beads of all sizes you can check size before you actually buy some. Plus it is easier to enlarge an already existing hole. I'm using the beads and coat hanger wire to test the bend and length of my silver soldered rods before I bend the ones I'm actually going to use. Also. I found that mini glue sticks are the perfect size for the 1/4" ball bearings I'm using on the ends of mine. The glue sticks have a slick enough surface that you don't have to use vaseline to remove them. I was able to twist the stick out by hand. My tracks look bigger than yours, and I'm guessing you used a smaller bearing. Another option for creating grooves for smaller bearings might be to use a straw with sand or beads packed loosely in it to give it a bit of rigidity when the propoxy is pressed around it, but still allow the straw to flex and follow the helmet curve.

Honus diz: Mai 6, 2014. 11:26 AM

Awesome- looks like you're well on your way! Those are really great ideas too. One thing I found really helpful was to attach my rods to the faceplate with superglue (use an accelerator spray- baking soda also works) and slide the faceplate back to make sure it has a smooth motion. Once you get the positioning right then use the epoxy putty to secure them.

interestedturtle diz: Mai 3, 2014. 12:43 PM
AWESOME. I Definetly voted and I hope you win. Good luck.
Honus diz: Mai 3, 2014. 7:11 PM

Thanks so much!!

hatman33 diz: Mai 2, 2014. 1:03 AM

Thank you Jerome for making my boyhood dream a reality. When everyone else laughed and said it can't be done, Jerome was always there to say what else can we add in.

Honus diz: Mai 2, 2014. 6:35 AM

You are very welcome my friend. Thank you for having the patience and determination needed to make this happen.

Now about that Falcon costume... :)

TuckerFife diz: Abr 30, 2014. 10:06 PM
Just straight up awesome! Nice work
Honus diz: Mai 1, 2014. 8:13 PM

Thanks so much- glad you like it!

acobrapilot diz: Abr 30, 2014. 10:55 AM

Awesome job! I've been checking your page for months waiting for this one! Very educational. Now I need to pick up a servo programmer and checkout digital servos!

Honus diz: Mai 1, 2014. 8:13 PM

Thanks! If you ever need any help just let me know!

acobrapilot diz: Mai 16, 2014. 8:05 PM

Thanks for the offer! I used to build RC planes with my grandfather so I'm pretty familiar with the old school analog way of doing things. Digital servos are a whole new paradigm for me. Looks very promising!

Zackem diz: Abr 30, 2014. 8:28 AM

Watch out Hollywood..! Some day Instructables Urban Tech Kno's will put you all to shame....

angelleah1981 diz: Abr 29, 2014. 9:21 PM

Very very cool. I was a little disappointed to not see the suit functioning on a person. ? Is this possible?

Honus diz: Abr 29, 2014. 9:38 PM
We'll have a new video as soon as my friend finishes up making adjustments to the suit (fitting these is a nightmare) and after it gets a new paint job. He was never happy with the paint and we messed it up pretty bad doing all of the animatronic work.

The pics of him in the suit were taken right after I finished the animatronics so we could do a test fitting and he could take it back home.
hatman33 diz: Mai 2, 2014. 12:55 AM

Yeah that guy needs to get on the ball and do his part.

Honus diz: Mai 2, 2014. 6:31 AM


rcookman diz: Abr 29, 2014. 2:26 PM
This a work of art.
Honus diz: Abr 29, 2014. 5:55 PM


jessyratfink diz: Abr 29, 2014. 2:02 PM

You finally posted it! This is amazing. You keep one-upping yourself. :O

Honus diz: Abr 29, 2014. 8:57 PM

Thanks so much- building it was quite an adventure!

I hope all the Iron Man costume builders can put it to use. I'm also kind of excited to see if some other costume builders can adapt the work to their projects. :)

dsirotic diz: Abr 29, 2014. 1:27 PM

Great project! I would like to do this, the problem is that I don't have a suit(and I am ashamed as I am a big fan of iron man and movie props in general)
Have you built your own suit or bought one? I would like to do just the torso and the helmet, where can I buy them off? If I can't, i will build my own, but its easier to buy ones..

Honus diz: Abr 29, 2014. 5:55 PM

This suit belongs to my friend and was custom made to fit him. The fit of the suit and helmet is very important if you want the proportions to look right. I don't know where to buy a suit but I did post a link in the FAQ section as to where you should look if you want to buy a complete suit. It's certainly easier to buy one but from my understanding they are pretty expensive so most people make their own.

hwilcox7789 diz: Abr 29, 2014. 1:01 PM

Your a fricken genius man! Arduino sevant

Blaise_Gauba diz: Abr 29, 2014. 7:29 AM

Really, really nice work. Very impressive.

Honus diz: Abr 29, 2014. 11:57 AM


laffinm diz: Abr 28, 2014. 7:13 PM
Were you on featured on the Inventern?
Honus diz: Abr 28, 2014. 10:21 PM


rishichavda diz: Abr 28, 2014. 2:36 PM

Pretty nice project. Next thing to do; build an army. Amazing and interesting, 10/10.

Honus diz: Abr 28, 2014. 10:24 PM

Thanks! Building one was enough for me. :)

Morgantao diz: Abr 28, 2014. 2:06 PM

Way too cool!

Honus diz: Abr 28, 2014. 10:22 PM


matson23 diz: Abr 28, 2014. 9:34 AM
Wow! I'm speechless! Awesome isn't strong enough a word ! Superb work!
Honus diz: Abr 28, 2014. 10:22 PM

Thanks- glad you like it!

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Abr 28, 2014


Bio: I'm a former bicycle industry designer turned professional jeweler. I like working with my hands and am happiest when I'm in the shop ... Mais »

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