Introduction: Iron Man MkV Arc Reactor

Picture of Iron Man MkV Arc Reactor

This instructable will show you how to make your own arc reactor

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

The Materials
Resistors 180R and 330R
Polymorph plastic
4mm plywood
Red and black wire twisted into a length
Kynar Wire
9V battery clip
An old DVD case

The Tools
Hot Glue Gun
Soldering Iron
Wood Router
Needle nose pliers
Wire Cutters, side cutting

Step 2: Wooden Disks

Picture of Wooden Disks

The LED's for the arc reactor are hand soldered to a wooden disk. This forms the base for the whole reactor. I've looked at PCB's and other materials instead of the 4mm ply but this comes in at the cheapest base cost and with a bit of practice you can hand wire and solder the LED's in 45 minutes.

To make nice round disks I use a wood router. The routers tend to come with an attachement for making circles but these only work for larger type circles so some lateral thinking is required. Instead of holding the wood and turning the router we can hold the router and turn the wood.

Affix a flat piece of wood to the router plate.
Place a bolt through the wood at the desired radius from the router bit, this will be the centre of the circle.
Drill a hole through the ply at the centre of the desired circle, the same size as the bolt.
Slowly lower the wood down over the bolt until the router has cut a hole through the wood.
Rotate the wood through 360 degrees, being careful not to run your fingers through the router bit.
Repeat as many times as needed, I tend to do 10-20 in one sitting.

Photos to follow tomorrow when it become daylight outside again.

Step 3: Wiring the LED's

Picture of Wiring the LED's

Once you have the wooden disks it's time to begin wiring the LED's. You'll need some good pliers and cutters, one wooden disk, the LED's and resistors and a large blob
of blue tack.

Take the surface mount led's and cut the right number off the end of the packing. Turnthis upside down over the blue tack and slowly peel the cover off from under it.

This will leave your LED's all neatly lined up on the blue tack. Push the gently down before they all start to move.

Tin the pads of the surface mount LED's. Apply just a small amount of solder to each of the legs of the LED.

Next line the surface mount resistors up to the LED's, press them lightly into the blue tack too. Heat up the pad that you want to attach the LED to and gently push the
resistor towards it. This will ensure the resistors are attached firmly to the LED.
Using the template you'll read about in the next step, place it over the wooden disk and use it to mark the desired locations of all the LED's. The central LED will be
placed over the bolt hole.

Warm up the glue gun. Use a very small spot of glue to hold each LED in place on the disk. Don't worry too much about accuracy because when you solder the LED the
glue will melt and give you a chance to realign it.

Strip the end of the kynar wire while it is still on the roll. Hold it up to the desired gap on the board and cut a piece to the desired length. Hold the wire with the pliers
(usually a small length) and strip the other end of the wire.

Now when you dab the wire and LED pad with the soldering iron, the solder already on the pad should melt and the two will stick in the desired place, don't forget the glue
melts though so be careful not to nudge the LED before it sets again.

Imagine the wiring as a spiral, there are 8 LED pairs, each pair connected with a 180 Ohm resistor.
Apologies for the arc reactor with Green LED's, next time I make a white one I'll update the photos

Step 4: The Front Panel Details

Picture of The Front Panel Details

Start with a template for the desired shape of the details. This is a little easier for you as I have provided one in the images below. Print this detail and cut out the bits that are not required.

Take the DVD case, preferable black, and remove the cover. This should give you a nice flat surface from the front of the case.

Draw round the template, and mark the front of the case, with a pencil

I chose to cut the shape out roughly at this point so that the plastic would lie completely flat on the cutting board.

Using a very sharp scapel (new blade) cut the template details out from the plastic, until you are left with a circle of the deisred size. Make sure that it fits into your polymorph mould (see next step).

Step 5: Polymorph Moulding

Picture of Polymorph Moulding

The previous arc reactor had a mould that pretty much disintegrated when the polymorph was removed from it. This is obviously no good for making multiple disks so I needed a sturdier solution.

Using the 4mm ply I made the wooden disks from I fashioned new mold. The polymorph should be 12mm deep so the mould is made up of 4 layers (the bottom one doesnt have a hole in it).

Cut 4 pieces of ply all the same size. Line them up one on top of the other and drill holes in all 4 corners, put a bolt through the top 3 pieces to hold them all in place. Using a hole saw, or the router again, cut a hole through those three pieces. This ensures that all the holes line up with each other.

Assemble the mould and place the plastic details in the bottom. Calculate the amount of plastic needed by filling the mould up with granules. be sure to pile the mould high to account for the gaps between the granules.

Heat up the polymorph using hot water from the kettle, you need to work the polymorph a little to ensure all the grains are stuck together and there are no fold lines left in the plastic.
Squeeze the polymorph over a sink because there will still be water left between the granules (which will be hot too)

Push the polymorph into the mould working it right down onto the detail. and once it is looking smooth and is right up to the edges then place the LED disk down on top of it.

Slowly depress the LED disk into the polymorph, it will give but it is a slow process. As the polymorph cools you can release it from the mold and take the opportunity to gently fold the edges over the disk. this holds the disk firmly in place.


007619Ali (author)2014-04-19

What Kind Of LEDs Did You Use??

Robine007hawk (author)2013-08-31

can you tell me how you cutted it??? thanks

Scalpel, but now I laser cut them.

EdisonGuo (author)2013-07-11

Could u please tell me how u wired the LEDs?u stuck them on the wood and then used solder iron right?

cheesecurd1899 (author)2013-05-12

How the heck did you cut that thing out. I have tried with the exact same dvd case and a brand new exacto knife blade. I have also tried a dremmel, but I couldn't get the same accuracy. If you have any tips of cut the template out of the plastic please respond

Cut slowly with multiple passes and a scalpel will get through it eventually. Also note the difference between a scalpel and an exacto knife. Scalpel blades are uber sharp, go careful or lose a finger.

buick88 (author)2012-09-28

How do I determine the anode and cathode on the SMD LEDs?

msraynsford (author)buick882012-09-28

The cathode has a notch off one of the corners

buick88 (author)msraynsford2012-09-28

Oof, thank you so much. You wouldn't believe what a hard piece of information that was to track down.

PaulioAwesome (author)2012-08-23

3 Questions:
1 Why do you need two types of resistors and 2: where did you get that twisted wire and finally 3: what do u do with the heat shrink?

1. Because the middle LED is on it's own, all the others are in pairs.
2. Take red and black wire and twist it (you can use a drill to twist it really quickly)
3. The heatshrink covers the electrical joins in the wire join and stops your battery shorting out


TheSweetRevenge (author)2012-07-24

This is probably going to seem like a derp question, but is polymorph plastic the same as friendly plastic? I've been looking it up and have seen people saying it's the same thing or it's completely different. Is InstaMorph the same thing?


DemonKing97 (author)2012-05-26

Nice Reactor. But i kinda lack of the wood to hold the LEDs. Can anybody tell me other materials that can hold the Leds in place. I thought of foam but if solder, it will give out some Chemical thing........

msraynsford (author)DemonKing972012-05-27

Wood is handy because it doesnt melt and it's easy to get hold of.

The much better option is a PCB (like the ones I include in my kits) 

luseylottay (author)2012-05-15

This is an awesome tutorial! Any chance of finishing it?

msraynsford (author)luseylottay2012-05-15

This one has kinda had it's day now, I keep meaning to write one based solely upon the kit. Now that there is a PCB for the electronics and a laser cutter to make the details the standard has improved quite a lot and things are quite different

luseylottay (author)msraynsford2012-05-16

Aww, okay then.

preeceindustries (author)2012-04-27

sweet arc reactor. you know what I going to make it

Titanium Rainbow (author)2012-04-04

Awesome arc reactor

elemastur (author)2011-09-25

where can i find the leds you used and how do i circuit them?

jcordova3 (author)2011-08-09

someone can help me? would you translate me the materials and tools thank you

AlexJ08 (author)2010-05-15

what if your a child


patriots8888 (author)AlexJ082011-07-16

what if your a bean


Onay91 (author)2010-10-25

How do you suggest going about attaching this thing to your chest? I was thinking a necklace, sown onto a shirt, or possibly some sort of body glue. What do you think?

tobyscool (author)Onay912010-11-18

I found on other instructables they stick it on belts

Jo-dan (author)2010-10-27

Would glass work for the light to shine through on the front because i have a piece of glass that is the perfect size and shape.

uvesh (author)2010-09-01

interested in this thing give more details about it

msraynsford (author)uvesh2010-09-02

Lots more details can be found here

benha94 (author)2010-07-08

ok, couple of questions. they look to be wired in series, do you need the resistors to keep them all the same brightness or can you wire them in series without any resistors and have them all the same brightness? would mounting them on balsa wood work? thats all, thanks

Warmachine11 (author)2010-06-10

just kinda cool but mine is better

msraynsford (author)Warmachine112010-06-10

Sounds like a good challenge to me, I look forward to reading your instructable then.

MITisNOTHINGtoME (author)2010-05-28

Where's the rest of the instructable?

Actually, you are right it does seem like a short instructable. It's currently more of a "How to improve the Mk1 process" instructable than a "How to build a MkV". Stay Tuned, will be improving shortly which will be of special interest to the people who've just bought MkV kits

trauma-d (author)2010-05-13

Do you have to use surface mount leds or would regular ones work?

afreeland (author)trauma-d2010-06-02

You can use standard LED's but as msraynsford said they have a lot more depth than the surface mount led's....I made a couple of arc reactors using some white water clear led's and just made sure to sand them down so that the light was properly diffused and they looked pretty decent....if you would like to see how a sanded led looks in comparison here is how mine turned out ...hopefully this helps

I also must say that this is an amazing tutorial and must admit that your work is amazing!!!! Keep the great LED content coming =)

trauma-d (author)afreeland2010-06-04

thanks, looks awesome.

msraynsford (author)trauma-d2010-05-23

Surface mount LED's generally have a wider field for the light it outputs and are only 2mm thick meaning the whole thing can be thinner

ITAstallion13 (author)2010-05-13

ok great, when will the pay pal link be up for the mkV kit? you did a really excellent job putting these together

The MkV kits are now available, sorry for not getting them sorted faster but had some issue with getting the parts laser cut (yes, laser cut for much better accuracy than my Mk1's)

lonewolfkliq (author)2010-05-18


I seriously want to make this one.

I may buy the kit from you or even just buy a completed one as soon as I have some extra cash.

Awesome stuff.

And your stuff is especially great cause your reactors aren't like 4 inches thick which completely ruins the movie realism.

1000 thumbs up!

blaqkout (author)2010-05-13

 where did you get your leds?

death2602 (author)blaqkout2010-05-14

Guessing he got them here 

trauma-d (author)2010-05-12

this thing is awesome! Great Work! Do you have like a video to show how to make it?

msraynsford (author)trauma-d2010-05-12

Nope, fraid not.
Is there one particular thing you wanted to see in a video? Perhaps I could elaborate on it.

trauma-d (author)msraynsford2010-05-13

Never mind about the design i over looked the design you already provided.

reoga13 (author)msraynsford2010-05-13

 i like it it is a much sleaker disign but it just seems like a led array behind som wax or acrilys and a template on front to block some light...i personaly like the older disigns where the is a challacnge presented in constructing it

trauma-d (author)msraynsford2010-05-13

Not really anything in particular. I was just wondering a few things like details on leds and resistors and how they are wired. I've never really wired multiple leds i have made a few projects here and there but never really done anything quite so extravagant but REALLY like this so I wanna give it a try. also did you get the design off the Internet somewhere or something I could print off or look at from a birds eye view?

mettaurlover (author)2010-05-11

As for the outer triangle, you could try relocating the LEDs to the corners and double the LEDS in the center-then those would light up the middle of the sides while the relocated ones at the corners would light up the rest.

msraynsford (author)mettaurlover2010-05-12

Indeed it is my plan to put 2 led's in each of the outer segments, I'm now just waiting on the local laser cutter to get back to me with a price for the triangular details before I can make the next one but I will be posting photos up once it's completed (should have better wiring too, this one is a bit of a birdsnest)

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