Introduction: Cheap Iron Man (Mark 3) Costume With Working Faceplate, Lights, Electronics

Displayed here is my halloween 2012 project. After tinkering with Arduino for a few months and needing a costume for Halloween, I decided to mix the two. I didn't just want to make any Iron Man suit though. I wanted this suit to be as technologically functional as possible.

I tried to make this project as cheap and easy for the beginning DIY hobbyist/hacker as possible (being one)!!! The tools required are a hot glue gun, soldering iron, and a dremel tool (and a hole punch lol). Basic electronics knowledge will be required, like knowledge of resistors, servos, circuits, Ohm's Law, and how they all work together to make the unified circuit that powers the suit.

The method for making all the armor parts is the usual pepakura method. My modifications were the use of foamcore as a material, and papier mache as a finish (dont use a papier mache finish! it really doesn't work well!) and then spraypaint in metallic gold and red. 

Electronics wise, I used an Arduino Uno R3 as the controller, along with a few servos (~$2 each), LEDs (~$5 for 50), resistors, microswitches and some wire. Basic soldering skills will be needed to put all of these together. (It's really not hard to solder I promise. Just read up online, start with a cheap iron and upgrade once you start loving this hobby, because you will).

This project took me about three months due to its simplicity, but could've been shorter if I hadn't started from scratch regarding the wiring and programming.

Good luck and happy building!

Step 1: General Framework of the Suit Using Foamcore

Materials required:
- Foamcore board (you could use rolls of plastazote foam)
- Pepakura print outs

- Hot glue gun
- Scissors
- Masking tape
- X-acto knife
- Dremel tool (optional in this step)

OUTLINE (should not be used as a substitute for reading actual steps)
1) Download software and files
2) Cut out pieces for the parts
3) Hot glue together
4) Use dremel to smooth down

1. Download Pepakura Designer, a useful piece of software that allows you to convert 3D models into pages of 2D shapes that can be cut out and glued together to recreate the 3D models. The free alternative is Pepakura Viewer, which allows you to view conversions done by others. This is our starting point. Download all the .pdo files from this forum and open them in the viewer.
(credit goes to Dancin_Fool for creating these AMAZING files for everyone to use. thanks!)
NOTE: You can also find files for other versions of the Iron Man suit.

These files work well when you're about 6' tall, but if you want to resize them, use the scale function in Designer to change their sizes. You might need to try a few parts to find the right scale.

2. Cut out a shape from the page, use the masking tape to hold it on the foamcore (buy them 2-3 at a time as you go), and then cut it out with the X-Acto knife. Do this for all the pieces on each part. Curve and bend the parts to the required 3D shape and then, use masking tape to tape on each part to the previous one. You will  see the general shape of the part begin to form and this will prevent confusion later on.
Work on one part at a time. I find it easier to work on mirrored parts simultaneously (like the becep, forearm, shoulder, thigh, shin). Basically, after cutting each part from the foamcore, flip the piece over and trace it out again to make the mirror image. Cut out the mirror image and use it to make the mirrored version of the part for the other side. This is very efficient to quickly make right and left side parts at the same time.

3. After you are satisfied with the shape that your part has taken on, you can hot glue it together. Add a continuous and thick line of hot glue along the edge of the foamcore piece. The pieces will hold their shape because of the masking tape. Try not to agitate the glue while it is cooling because this really does affect the strength of the bond. After you are done gluing it all together, let it sit for a solid 2 minutes or so before touching it again.
DO NOT TOUCH THE PART UNTIL THE GLUE HAS COOLED AND SET! I cannot emphasize how important this is!

4. After step 3, the joints between pieces should have some hot glue that has oozed out of the joints between pieces. Use a disposable cutting wheel on a rotary tool and gently run it along the edges to smooth down the glue. This will probably mess up the cutting wheel, but you should need only 1-2 cutting wheels for the whole build.


If this entire step was done well, you will have a good foundation to work off of. Try not to keep test-fitting the pieces until they're done as this will wear them down. Foamcore parts are not very flexible, so they represent rigid armor better, but decrease the amount of allowed movement. Go with plastazote foam, found in rolls at places like Home Depot, if you would like a more flexible material.

I will also cover some of the parts individually in more detail, as far as wiring, fasteners, and painting go.

Step 2: The Arc Reactor

1) Wood circle of 3" diameter (get at Michael's)
2) An old/unused CD
3) (10) foamcore squares 11cm on a side
4) (20) Wooden rectangles 13cm x 5cm. (From a 1/16" thickness piece of wood from Michael's)
5) Bare Copper wire (get at Michael's or JoAnn's)
6) (11) 14000 mcd white LEDs
7) (11) 220 Ohm Resistor
8) Wire 22AWG
9) Solder
10) 9V Battery clip
11) 4 battery holder (holds four AAs at 1.5V each)
12) Some paper
13) Duct tape and electrical tape

1) Soldering Iron (with holder, sponge etc)
2) Hot glue gun
3) Dremel tool used with a drillbit (I find this to be the most efficient and accurate for its purpose)
4) Permanent Black Sharpie
5) Protractor
6) Wire stripper
7) Sandpaper (optional)

1) Draw out the circuit on a circular piece of wood
2) Drill out holes, place components, and test them
3) Solder all parts in according to the diagram
4) Connect the battery holder
5) Make the ten electromagnet pieces and paper pieces in-between
6) Make the inner ring and place it on the reactor

The steps are shown in the pictures. Use them as a reference to avoid getting confused!
1. Find the center of the circle using a pencil and a ruler. Try to be accurate. Then use the protractor to mark off lines at 18 degree intervals going outward from the center. This helps you position the LEDs. Draw in LED terminals close to the edge of the disk, then draw in resistor terminals close to each LED, so that each LED has one terminal connected to a resistor.
A suggested layout picture is attached.
Remember that LEDs are diodes, so they can only operate on current moving in one direction. Make sure you know where your positive terminal is (the longer lead) and keep this consistent as you draw out the board plan.

*** If you want to use different voltage, resistance or LED****
Subtract the forwarding voltage (found on datasheet) of your LED from the voltage you want to use. Using the known voltage and LED forwarding current, you can calculate the required resistance (using ohm's law). Pick the nearest resistor higher than this resistance to protect against fluctuations that may fry the LEDs.

2. Use a small drill bit (just a little larger than the terminals on LED and resistors) to drill out all holes in the board. Populate the board with all resistors and LEDs and allow connecting terminals on each component to touch. Connect the 9V terminal to the battery case and put 4 AAs (6V) in it. Individually apply this voltage to all 11 LED-resistor pairs and ensure that they work and are in the correct orientation.

3. Crack out the soldering iron! Solder all connecting terminals together and clip off the excess using the wire stripper. Remember to tin the iron before each use to prolong its life. Connect all positive terminals in an outer ring and all negative in the inner ring using just the leads of the components. Add some of your waste trimmed off leads or opened paperclips if you need.

4. Do one more test with the battery to make sure all LEDs lights up. When you are satisfied, solder the 9V connector to the inner and outer rails of the reactor through about 3 feet of 22AWG wire. Lengthening this connection from reactor to battery allows you to slip the battery in your pocket and wear the reactor as its own costume under your shirt. (I did that on the day of Halloween and wore the whole suit that night). Plug in the battery to make sure it still works. Lightly sand LEDs to diffuse the light better. Clean up with electrical tape. Make sure the circuit is fully funcitonal!

5. Wrap the foamcore squares in bare copper wire. Place the black wooden rectangles on each side, as shown in the picture. This makes each electromagnet piece. Make 10 of these and hot glue them on top of the resistor. Lightly sand the LEDs to make  them diffuse light better (this increases their apparent brightness). Then hot glue pieces of paper on top of the LEDs. Use more hot glue under the paper to stabilize the pieces. Check that it lights up correctly.

6. Use the picture of the inner ring to make one off an old CD. You can eyeball the dimensions on this part as long as it fits within the model. Cover the ring in duct tape and cut out all empty spaces. Draw in the design using the permanent marker and then hot glue the ring down to the base.

This should give you a fairly detailed representation of the arc reactor that is thin and easy to work with. Check my instructable on the arc reactor (coming soon) for a more detailed prop.

Step 3: Helmet

1) Popsicle sticks (Michael's)
2) 2g Servo (cheap from HobbyKing, other)
3) Foamcore helmet, made from files
4) Pop buttons (JoAnn's)
5) Thin sheet of wood (cut with scissors)
6) LEDs (same as previous)
7) Resistors (100 Ohm)
8) Solder
9) Paper
10) Electrical tape
11) Masking tape
12) Spray paint
   - Krylon Metallic Gold
13) Machine screws, nuts

1) Dremel with drill bit
2) Soldering supplies
3) Hot glue gun and hot glue
4) Scissors
5) Screwdriver

Use pictures as a reference
1. Use the layout shown to put in all electronic components and solder them in. Be mindful of the polarity of the LEDs, so it is suggested that you use my circuit as a guide to preparing your own. Cut the sheet of wood into roughly the presented shape, so that it fits into the brow of the faceplate.

2. Make sure to test all of the parts for polarity before soldering them in. Dremel out holes, place all components, and solder them in. Follow the solder guide in the previous step. The reason for 100 Ohm resistors here is that the Aruduino outputs 5V on its high rail which is less than the Arc's 6V power supply. This allows a smaller resistor to be used, if you do the calculations. After soldering

3. Cut out strips of paper to place in front of the LEDs. Use hot glue to secure the paper down. Don't place the paper too close to the LEDs, or it won't light up uniformly. Use electrical tape all around the sides and back of the paper implants so that the light only shines through the front and out the eyehole. Leave some room under this assembly to see out of! It will obviously be difficult to see out of the faceplate, but that's why it will be motorized. Hot glue this piece into the faceplate.

4. Spray paint the faceplate in gold, after covering the eyeholes with spare paper. Spray paint the helmet jaw in gold, then cover it with paper/masking tape and spray paint the rest in red.

This part requires patience!
5. Put in supports using the popsicle sticks, as per the picture of the unpainted helmet. These supports are made of popsicle sticks of different lengths (requires lots of trial and error) with dremel holes at either end for machine screws. Screw both side supports in, so that the helmet can open and close.

6. Hot glue the servo into the underside of the forehead part of the helmet. Hot glue one more "support" to the servo arm. Cut a few small square pieces of popsicle sticks. Dremel a hole in one and bolt it to the support. Hot glue this square's edge onto the inside of the faceplate, so you have a hinge. This support goes from the servo to the faceplate and is the actuating arm. Put in one more support to the other side of the servo just like this one, to provide symmetry and stability.

7. To minimize the amount of wires coming out, you can solder the GND leads on lights and servo together. This way you have four wires coming from the helmet, which are for GND, 5V, Servo signal, Light power. The reason the light power is separate is so you can attach it to an Arduino digital pin and control its on or off state.

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