With Halloween coming fast, I needed a quick and cheap costume. Luckily, as I was cleaning my garage and moving around cardboard boxes, I realized I had a goldmine. I must have had over 200 cardboard boxes, which got me thinking: I could use them to create a costume. I'm not much of a Halloween enthusiast, but I had a replica Stormtrooper helmet until I lost it this year, so I thought I could create a new helmet out of cardboard.
My last helmet contained a lot of detail, so I knew that my cardboard helmet needed to be detailed as well. Additionally, I didn't want to go with the Stormtrooper helmet again, so I went with the last cool and detailed helmet that I saw in a movie: Ant-Man's helmet. This helmet looked like a combination of a gasmask and an antenna, so I decided that maybe I could use my Geiger counter with it and pull off a decent Halloween costume.
While I ultimately succeeded in building my helmet, there were a few things that I would alter if I had to do it again. This instructable will first walk you through the way I did made the Ant-Man helmet, then it will share with you the few things that I forgot to do. Finally, I also included a section in which I discussed the further application of the technique that I used in creating the helmet. If only I had more cardboard...
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Step 1: Supplies and Equipment
- 1/8 inch thick cardboard (usually single corrugation). You need at least 50 sheets of cardboard, but it took me 100 because I often lost track of which layer I was on.
- Toothpicks or paperclips. You need them for lining up the layers, one or two should be enough.
- Glue. I used clear Elmer's glue, but any glue that is strong and light would work. I would advise against hot glue because it is messy (unless you are very neat).
- Patience. While not technically part of supplies, this is a big one because the repetitive nature of this project will be a challenge.
- Laser cutter. Don't even try doing this with scissors, trust me.
- Computer. You need something to run tinkercad and blender on.
Step 2: Acquiring a 3d Model
Disclaimer: (Steps 2-7 of the instructable are optional to do, as I included the files necessary for making the helmet in step 6. However, the technique that I used could be useful for other applications.)
To start designing the files for laser cutting the parts of the helmet, I needed a 3d model of the Ant-Man helmet. To get one I scoured the internet for a model that was detailed, but also free. I searched Tinkercad, Myminifactory, and Thingiverse for a model of an Ant-Man helmet. Thingiverse had one that was designed for 3d printing by HappyMoon. I downloaded this one and was ready to move on to begin creating the files necessary for this project.
Step 3: Importing Into Tinkercad
While I am almost certain that other more sophisticated programs can more easily do what I have done using tinkercad, I wanted to make the technique that I used accessible to everyone, so I went with tinkercad, which is free. First, I tried importing the Ant-Man helmet model from Thingiverse directly, but tinkercad has a 300,000 polygon limit to its model. So, I imported the model into Blender, a free 3d modeling software (if you do not already have Blender you. can get it here https://www.blender.org/download/), and added a decimate modifier to reduce its polygons. The initial model had 1 million polygons, so I reduced it by 75 % to get just under 300,000 polygons. Lastly, I exported the model as a .stl and reimported it into Tinkercad.
Step 4: Setting Up Tinkercad
Once I had my model in Tinkercad, I needed to set up my workspace. First, I changed the grid into the imperial system because I knew that cardboard had a thickness of 1/8 inches and this would be easier to work with because Tinkercad has a snap setting for that measurement. Then I made the grid 20 inches by 20 inches because the mask is about 12 inches by 12 inches and I needed space on the plane to work with. I then centered the model and put the bottom of the model just on the top of the grid.
Step 5: Setting Up the Model
Now, to make the model easier to build I added guiding holes. These holes were made so that each layer (nearly) had one and could be lined up with the top and bottom cardboard layer to easily create the helmet. To make the holes I used a 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch cylinder hole object and placed them in a line from the front of the model to the back. I then combined all the objects in the scene with the helmet.
Step 6: Creating the SVGs
This part is one of the most repetitive parts of the project. First, I exported the model as an SVG at its current position (anything touching the grid will become an SVG). Then I put that file in a safe place (like a new folder) and pulled the model down through the grid 1/8 of an inch using the snap option. Then I exported the model as an SVG and put the file in the same place as the last one. I repeated this process 97 times, once for each layer (cardboard is 1/8 inches thick so each SVG represents one layer of cardboard).
Step 7: Recreating the Project Virtually
As any experienced DIYer knows, a project can go awry even though you plan and design everything. For this reason, before building the helmet, I wanted to know what I would look like. To do this I opened a new tinkercad project. Then I imported the first SVG, made it 1/8 inches tall, and placed it in the center of the grid. Next, I imported the second SVG, made it 1/8 inches tall, raised its location on the Z-axis by 1/8 inch, and aligned it with the first piece using the hole that I made earlier. I once again repeated this 97 times until I got a rendering of what the cardboard one will look like.
Step 8: Laser Cutting
I used my Glowforge to cut out each layer of the helmet. I first imported the SVG into the laser cutting application, made sure it was the right size, and if possible, tried to fit as many pieces onto one sheet of cardboard as possible (in the beginning it may be possible to do this, but not towards the end). Then I cut the pieces out using 170 speed and 60 power (as suggested here https://community.glowforge.com/t/cardboard-cutting-solved/27144/6) and I had success not lighting any unintentional fires. Lastly, I labeled each piece as to not get confused.
Step 9: Building
With all the parts cut out, I used a toothpick (in the pictures it is a nail because I lost the toothpick after the second layer) to align the parts and clear Elmer's glue to glue them together. For most of the helmet, I aligned the holes of the layers using the toothpick, added the glue, and waited for the glue to dry. While most of the build is straight forward, the eyes and antennas get tricky, so I used the rendering I built on tinkercad for reference. Once you finish the tedious hours of building, you have an awesome and cheap Halloween costume.
Step 10: Possible Improvements
The helmet build was successful; however, there were a couple of unanticipated difficulties that I ran into that could be subject to further improvement.
- More guide holes. Several times during the process of gluing the layers, I got lost because the antenna parts did not have guide holes. A possible improvement would be to add guide holes to both sides of the antennas.
- While not a problem, I built my helmet layering upwards. Another possible way is to do it going from the front to the back instead of the bottom to the top to make it easier to paint (if that is what you wanted).
- Using non-corrugated cardboard would have brought out even more features of the design.
Step 11: Further Application
The technique used in designing and building this helmet could be useful for other applications. By using layers of cardboard and stacking them, you can create an inexpensive yet detailed model. While I used it to create a wearable Halloween helmet, you could use it to create decorations, prototypes, or sculptures. Additionally, wood and other materials work with this method as well.
Second Prize in the
Cardboard Speed Challenge