The title for this project is entirely descriptive of the process it took to create my version of a replica costume of the space suit from the Science Fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke that was later made into the iconic 1968 film "2001 - A Space Odyssey." I had just gotten into 3D printing about 4 months before starting this project and I wanted a challenge to build my skills. This certainly was it! I started this just after New Years 2019 and did a little work each weekend, chipping away at learning the CAD software (SketchUp), printing very large duration prints, and the sewing - much of it by trial and error! Hundreds of hours later I have what you see here. I did a lot of research online about the movie and the original movie props were pretty much destroyed by Kubrick. Very few props survived as he never intended there to be a sequel nor did he want profiteering off the props, many were ordered to be destroyed.
So I found what information I could and ended up designing this suit from movie stills and watching the movie itself several times. I estimated the scale off the main actor's height and winged it from there. In the process, I also discovered in the movie stills and during the research on the suit, that there are "bugs" as some scenes have differing components on the suits than in others. Kind of a cool discovery along the way.
I decided to go with the blue suit just to be different than the two main characters in the movie, and to make this one uniquely mine. I even made the helmet a slightly different color blue than the suit to pay tribute to the scene in the movie where Bowman has a green helmet on a red suit! Also I like how the orange contrasts with the blue as a complimentary color.
Anyway...I hope you like it.
Let's get started.
This is a generic Materials List because by searching out each of the items listed below, what you find will help you decided what your project will look like. Meaning, there are so many options available to you. For example, I searched a long time thinking I really wanted a reflective ribbon and then settled in on a more metallic ribbon versus a true reflective type. I later felt I didn't want it looking like a construction suit, AND... in 1968, reflective ribbon didn't exist so I changed my idea and went back to the more original suit look.
2 - Industrial jumpsuits, one your size, and one at least a size larger to cut up and rob material from for the padding.
4 - 5 spools of 3D PLA Filament depending on how many print fails you might have.
Epoxy glue, sheet metal screws, hot melt glue (fastening), misc. hardware.
Spray Paint - Auto Primer (for filling in 3D prints), Finish coat (Rustoleum Brand is my favorite).
Sewing - Reflective Ribbon, zipper, quilt padding, thread, 1.5" Webbing for the harness.
Wiring - Assorted LEDs, 22AWG wire, solder, resistors, Battery sources, misc. switches. (See other instructables for determining resistor sizing as that depends on how many LEDs you place in a circuit, the voltage of your battery source etc.) 2 - 5vdc computer fans, 4-way toggle switch, and 6-pin electrical connectors.
Aluminum Sheet metal and 0.0080" Acrylic sheet, Rare Earth magnets, Custom Decal sheets, Bicycle helmet pad set, Foam.
A Few Helpful Links:
Collar Magnets - https://www.ebay.com/itm/3-4-x-1-8-Inch-Neodymium-...
Jump Suit (Need 2) - https://www.ebay.com/itm/Portwest-S999-Mens-Work-E...
Discovery Mission Patch - https://www.ebay.com/itm/2001-A-Space-Odyssey-Disc...
CHEST BOX / Jet Pack:
Side Button Switches - https://www.ebay.com/itm/7mm-Black-Locking-Latchi...
Filament - https://www.ebay.com/itm/254096454311
LED batteries -https://www.ebay.com/itm/2x-Cordless-Phone-Battery...
Helmet & Jet Pack Magnets - https://www.ebay.com/itm/50-100-Pcs-Round-Disc-Blo...
Free TinkerCAD - https://www.tinkercad.com/
Cura (3D Printer Driver) - https://ultimaker.com/software/ultimaker-cura
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Step 1: Research Step: Dig Around to Learn
When attempting to make a replica of something, try to find as much information as possible and the more the merrier if you are trying to be true to a full reproduction. However, due to limited budgets, sometimes your project makes adjustments because you do not have blockbuster movie budget nor a multi-talented crew of hundreds of skilled technicians to make your props in machine shops, and the like. I added a FEW reference photos that I pulled off the internet that I think you will like.
Step 2: Design Phase: Scale and CAD
CAD, CAD, and CAD some more... CAD = Computer Aided Design... I bought a software package called Sketchup for $50. It is easy to use, cheap, and a little clunky compared to other packages available. Another FREE option is to use TinkerCAD which is available online and can do a lot of the smaller parts. However if you don't think you will use a purchased software a whole lot, then SketchUp is easier to pick back up and get drawing again than something a bit too "industrial" with lots of commands to remember. In short it is fairly cheap and works.
To build my CAD skills and get better at 3D printing... I started with the easy parts first. The knobs and plates and all the "accessories" you see on the suit and the chest box, and jet pack. Once I got the hang of doing this well, then I felt I could design the larger pieces like the chest box itself ( 2- parts seamed together), and the jet pack (4 parts seamed). I found it easier to CAD the parts to be applied as if they were truly functional as it made it easier to finish, paint and assemble. If I broke it, easily replaced versus putting too much into a larger piece and then waiting a long time again for another print.
A Few Design Tips:
1. Scale - Scaling from a photo is quite difficult to get the size correct, or near correct. Look at as many photos of the object as possible from various angles and calculate a dimension for one item or measurement several times. If your numbers are reasonably close than go with it, if not try to get to that dimension another way. Meaning, scale something else that is easier to determine its size and then work back to the other dimension. I did this a few times on the chest box and was a challenge to get the thickness of it. I think I am a bit too thick on it but not by much.
2. Robust / Sturdy Design - Keep thicknesses thinner than what you think you really need. 3D printed parts are far more durable than you would think. If it is a glued on part for example it will get strength from what it is adhered to so you can go fairly light on the infill percentage (like <20% or even less). However if it is the corner of the jetpack where a screw will fasten, for example, a webbing harness, then you need strength and possibly a 70% or 100% infill component. This may actually be stronger design than having a really thick wall for the entire piece. Thickness means weight, and more print time and more cost.
3. Plan Assembly & Design It In - On some of the pieces I designed in locating pins to assure alignment of pieces as exactly as possible. See the pin holes for the helmet in the photos. Design more attributes for assembly than you really think you need. You do not have to use them but if so they will be there. I missed the design of the visor assembly thinking I would do it after as the helmet top was very hard to get the surfaces shaped right, so I left off the visor ledge. I should have taken more time and designed it integral to the top helmet piece and it would have saved a ton of headaches in assembly. Possibly a groove on the top and bottom of the helmet for it to slide into.
See photo comments for more visual examples of the above.
Step 3: Sewing Phase: Suit & Harness
Buy TWO mechanics jumpsuits, one for your size and the largest size available to pirate material from to make the padding. The space suit needs to be entered in from the rear to get your head into the ring. So the front snap panel was sewn shut and then the suit was cut open from the rear of the neck, down the centerline of the back. Cut through the centerline of the crotch and up to the front of the waist.
Zipper - Purchase a ribbon of heavy duty zipper and sew the zipper in so that the zipper pull (when fully zipped together) ends up in the front by your belly button. That way you wont need help to go to the bathroom or get out of the suit.
Applique the metallic reflective stripping directly onto the leg panels and shoulders as seen in the movie stills.
Padded Panels- Use the extra suit you purchased to fashion padded panels for the arms, legs, side torso, and the back. The padding is standard quilting batting available at any fabric store. Choose the thickness you want as it comes in a variety of thicknesses. I bought it too thin and had to double it up to get the puffiness I wanted. To get the leg and sleeve panels sewn on the sleeves, I had to open up the seams of the sleeves to get it into the sewing machine's throat, sew on the padded panel, then resew the sleeve or leg back together.
The rear back panel is sewn as a hinged panel so you can step into the suit and then close it back up with Velcro to hold it in place. The back padding helps make the jet pack more comfortable to wear so more padding is better here. I would add more if I did this again.
Sleeve and Leg Rings - This is a two part component - an inner ring that the leg or sleeve slides over it, and an outer ring. Their diameters are highly dependent on the diameter of the sleeve or leg opening. The leg ring is also larger than the sleeve to get your ankle through it.
Slip the outer ring onto the sleeve and slide it way up and out of the way for the time being. Apply glue to the outer surface of the INNER ring and pull the sleeve onto the inner ring. Hold the sleeve onto the ring with rubber bands until dry. Apply more glue to the outside of the sleeve at the INNER ring and now you can slide the outer ring down over the entire assembly. See the picture. Use a small screw from the inside of the ring, through the material and then into the outer ring just to secure it one last time. Two screws are enough 180 deg from each other.
Neck Ring - See the CAD shot of the ring upper and lower that sandwiches in the neck material between the two. The key here is that I mimicked the draw string design from sweatpants. I failed at the first attempt trying to sandwich and glue "petals" inbetween some rings. Too messy and inexact assembly. So I scrapped that idea and cut off the petals, and ran a heavy wire through the top sewn row, then pulled it around the circular channel and twisted the ends together until tightly around the upper ring. Like a bread twisty. then the lower section was screwed up and into the top ring.
Knob panels & Hose Fittings - This is pretty easy. Make a piece of acrylic backing plate to be the same size as the knob plate or hose connection plate and locate holes for sheet metal screws to be able to tap into the knobs. Locate the knob plate on the suit on the outside and the backing plate on the inside and screw them together.
To get INTO the suit, fashion a "helper wire" about 12" long, and pass it through the loop of the zipper pull to function as an extension to grab the zipper as it hangs between your shoulder blades. Or get someone to help get the zipper pulled around to the front. To enter the suit you step into the legs first, then the arms, then stick your head in and through the ring. Then reach around to the back and grab your "helper wire" and pull it down and to the front.
Step 4: 3D Printing Phase: Print to a Finished Part
Start the design with the easiest parts first to gain the experience before tackling the more complex forms. Knobs and plates are easily done on simple software like the free domain software TinkerCAD to get started.
Once the parts are designed, then print them out on a 3D printer. I use a Creality CR10s which is a good size to get the larger helmet pieces and jet pack in one shot printing versus glueing smaller pieces up. Large prints forgoes gluing up several pieces and risk of mis-alignment of parts that will require more finishing time. The software that drives the printer is CURA and is easy to learn the basics. Again, print the smaller pieces first to learn the settings and then move up to larger prints that can take up to 30+ hours like the helmet top.
Parts Trimming / Sanding - Once off the 3D printer, use a sharp hobby knife to trim off the brim or stringing. I usually hit the pieces with some fine sandpaper and / or a sanding board after trimming. Often scraping the edges with the knife edge held perpendicular to the edge is easier than trying to cut strings or brims off. Needle files, sanding boards, and sand paper work best for cleaning up the parts versus anything powered because you run the risk of frictional heat distorting the part. Less is more in the sanding step. Once sanded, I rinse and then wash the parts off of the dust and let them completely dry before priming.
Priming & Puttying - Sometimes a piece will need to be really smoothed out to look good on large surface areas like the helmet top or to align up mated edges that were glued together and are slightly off. I used automotive bondo and spot putty. After the bondo is dry, then sand as usual until smooth. I prime with Automotive primer that has a lot of filler in the paint to help hide the printing layers. On the large pieces like the jet pack, it is easier to print it fast and then use bondo verusus trying too smooth of a print layer. It simply takes too long to print and the bondo does a really good job to result in a smooth finish.
Painting - Prime and sand, prime and sand again until you cannot feel imperfections with your fingertips. Your fingertips are very sensitive to imperfections more so that seeing them with your eye. The defects and variations are hard to see until there is a uniform color to the surface, so priming in one overall color is important to see the quality of the surface before you put a finish color on your work. You may need to repeat this 2 - 3 times.
Step 5: Assembly Phase: Jet Pack
A PRIME idea in building the main Jet Pack and Chest Box is to take time to align the seams as best as you can because the slightest mis-alignment will be hard to hide if you do not run a coat of bondo over it. If it is off too much and you try to sand it down, you run the risk of sanding through the wall layers of the 3D print and into the infill. Align, clamp, epoxy and if possible screw pieces together to hold until the epoxy sets.
The Threaded inserts are a critical piece that will take a lot of stress so I designed those corners to be quite strong in the 3D print. HOWEVER, in spite of this the inserts put a lot of stress when installed and some cracking occurred so I had to add some fiberglass reinforced epoxy bond into the threaded insert hole and then thread the insert into it while it was still curing. It worked and is quite strong.
I made the decals with a custom decal sheet material you run through a standard computer printer. You create the design on your PC and then print it out. Follow the directions that comes with that decal sheet and that it how I got the Discovery logo on the equipment. I backed up the decals with white paint so it pops the colors better.
I wired the Jet Pack with a number of LEDs to make it realistic and took some design liberties away from the movie. Back in 1968 there were no LEDs lights on their equipment but it still was cool to add these in. The power from the LEDs comes from the Chestbox and through a multiconductor cable through a connector. The 4 way hand switch actuates the respective LED to thrust Up, Down, Left or Right.
Step 6: Assembly Phase: Helmet & Visor
Helmet Design for locating pins helped tremendously here and gave it a lot of strength. I knew the helmet was going to glue into the ring so I kept the bottom of the helmet thinner to mate well (large contact surface) with the ring. This overlap and epoxy turned out to be quite strong.
Be sure to test fit all the parts before gluing them up. I made a few adjustments and thought through a plan on how to clamp / duct tape the seams together when curing. Doing this preplanning helped make the process go smoothly. The pins were epoxied in their respective pilot holes and cured first then test fitted again with some clean up of glue ooze so the joints would fit tightly before the final glue up.
The rear of the helmet had a compound angle and the pieces were fairly thin for a diagonal pin to align up well. So I purposefully chose not to force an interior pin but a "staple" of a copper wire melted into the two pieces, then bondo over it. This held surprisingly well and with the epoxy on the seam I have no reservations for this method.
The CAD had too much segmentation effects in the rear of the helmet that was very obvious once I bondo the first time and sanded, so I had to fix this and took 3 layers to get it right to not see the segments but a smooth curved surface.
I cut holes in the rear for fans and ventilation and after test fitting it I am glad I added this feature. the fans are quiet and move a lot of air around the visor and leep it from fogging up. After glueing the helmet together and into the ring I painted it all up and added the decals, trim elements and tried on the worst part of the project... the visor.
THE VISOR !!! This was clearly the hardest part of the project. I spent no less than 40 hours doing this 4 times before giving up on a single curved visor. I missed that the curve for the top of the visor and the bottom needed to be a pure conical shape so the material could bend through that circular plane. The top has a hard "crease" and the bottom is more circular. I knew this but didn't realize how difficult the material was going to be to form to this inflection. I tried using a 3D printed form to bend the visor around, but no luck. I eventually decided to go ahead and seam the visor as the visor was going to get tint film anyway to make the suit more mysterious as to who is inside it. So I dodged a bullet here. I feel I might be able to rework it one more time, but hey... Halloween is in 12 days!
I used 1 mm acrylic sheet and templated it with cardboard. I made holes along the edge using a heated nail and melted holes through the sheet. This eliminated the risk of cracking during drilling and also fused the perimeter of the hole to be more stress relieving than a hard edge there. Worked excellent! Then the visor was aligned to the visor stops on the helmet and small nails were driven into hold it in place until glued along the perimeter with E6000 glue.
The film was installed by cleaning the visor carefully and following the instructions of the film material carefully. I cut the film slightly smaller than the visor because I knew the rubber striping would help hold down the edge. I glued the rubber in place with super glue and it held very well after testing several glues for this rubber. In fact the rubber will tear before it peals off the glue!
Step 7: Assembly Phase: Chest Box
The chest box assembly is basically the same as the techniques used on the jet pack. Only comments here are that I learned about the importance of the threaded inserts and globbed on some fiberglass reinforced bondo under the corner tabs "just to be sure" I had enough material for the insert to hold into.
The piece parts were fabbed individually and epoxied onto the box. The decals were per the custom decal sheet process with prepainted white paint under the decal for best resolution.
See notes in the photos for more details.
Step 8: Electronics Phase: Design and Wire It Up!
Helmet wiring - The helmet is wired for UV LED face lighting (3.7vdc powered) and for 2 circulation fans (4.5vdc). The fans are for a computer and run very quiet and move a lot of air. These are individually turned on by the rear helmet buttons on each side of the "antenna" above the black module packs. The very top switch controls the face lights. Wires are held in place with hot melt glue and the batteries have plenty of room because of the padding offsets the helmet from my head.
The Chestbox wiring looks more complicated than it is. It simply is a 5 vdc battery usb supply for a phone that powers the terminal strip. Each pushbutton on the side of the box just lights up the LEDs on the camera/sensor array. The same is true for the other LEDs in the system. See the wiring diagram I provided. I noticed I am missing the white LED to show "Power ON" the chest box. Just add this right after the main switch. I'll let you think about how this is done … just remember to add a resistor just before the LED!
I hope you liked the project and it inspires you to try something from this Instructable - be it CAD, Sewing, 3D printing or electronics! Maybe your next Halloween costume will incorporate some of the skills noted here!
Second Prize in the
Halloween Contest 2019