Here is a unique element for you to add to your astronaut costume, bring to Burning Man, or wear to the next dance party!
**This Instructable is V2 of the original that was published in 2015.**
(Check out V1 here: https://www.instructables.com/id/LED-Space-Helmet/)
- New CAD files for the pivots, which can be downloaded direct from the Instructable!
- New pivot hardware parts list
- New collar design which has shoulder contours and an integrated holder for the LED controller, and can be downloaded from the Instructable
- Simplified LED installation
This space helmet has a visor that opens and closes all the way so you can talk to other people or say “brb, going into space.” LEDs are arranged around the inside back of the helmet so it glows from the inside.
The visor pivots (which hold the visor to the helmet) are a set that I custom-designed and can be printed on most any 3D printer. My favorite filament to use is a UV-reactive color so they fluoresce when the LEDs are blue. In celebration of 50 years since NASA's Apollo moon landing, I also offer a special edition NASA pivot. Check it out below!
The LEDs light up in 16 different colors. The set I bought includes a remote control to change LED color. It's all powered with a 12V battery pack that lasts for hours and hours (more than 8h in my experience).
Ready? Here's how to make your own glorious LED space helmet!
- 14" diameter clear acrylic sphere: 1000bulbs or Lighting Supply
- 5050 RGB LEDs: Amazon
- Remote & controller: Amazon
- 4-way splitter and 4-pin connectors: Amazon
- 12V 6800mAh battery: Amazon
- Power cord with barrel jacks: Amazon
- The following hardware in stainless steel:
- (2) 1/4-20 x 1" machine screw button head [Pivot bolt] https://www.mcmaster.com/92949a542
- (2) 1/4" ID x 5/8" OD washers [PIvot washers] https://www.mcmaster.com/98032a485
- (2) 1/4-20 capnuts [Pivot capnuts] https://www.mcmaster.com/98858a101
- (20) M3 capnuts [6x2 for helmet side, 4x2 for visor side] https://www.mcmaster.com/95514a101
- (8) M3 x 16mm hex drive flat head[Visor pivot screws] https://www.mcmaster.com/93395a210
- (12) M3 x 10mm hex drive flat head [Helmet pivot screws] https://www.mcmaster.com/93395a204
- (8) M5 washer [Visor pivot washers on inside of helmet] https://www.mcmaster.com/90965a160
- (12) M3 countersunk washer [Helmet pivot countersink washers on outside of helmet] https://www.mcmaster.com/98424a200
- RotoZip tool website
- Dremel and sandpaper bit
- Marker (wet-erase or similar)
- 3D printer
- drill and bits
- soldering iron and solder
- wire strippers
- Clear heat shrink tubing about 3/8" diameter
- Heat gun
- Tiny zip ties
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Step 1: Sketching Out the Visor and Neck Opening
Place the helmet on the 2-gallon bucket so the opening in the helmet is centered inside the bucket. Alternatively, cut a 9.5" hole in a piece of sturdy cardboard to use as a template for marking the opening. Use the dry-erase marker to trace a circle where the edges meet. This is where you’ll cut the hole for your head to go through and attach the collar. The blue tape prevents scratches when this part is cut out with the router.
Check for any scratches or imperfections that you don’t want on the visor, and turn the helmet so the best side is facing you. This will be where we cut the visor from.
First, draw the pivot locations. The acrylic spheres I use have a faint, horizontal “equator” line from the manufacturing process, and conveniently helps us place the visor. Make a mark at one point along the equator (let's call it Point A), where the left edge of the visor will be. Next, measure 22” along the equator (half the circumference) and make a second mark (Point B). This is where the second pivot will be. Center your 2” diameter glass over each mark and draw a circle. The circle will be cut out later for the helmet-side pivot.
Measure along the equator to halfway between the two marks you’ve made (11”) on the visor side and make a mark. Measure 9-1/2"inches up along the surface from this spot and make a small mark. Then measure 3-3/16" inches downwards and make another mark. These define the upper and lower edges of the visor. Using your flexible tape measure, connect the two pivot marks (A and B) and the upper visor mark in one continuous arc and trace it with your marker. Do the same for the lower visor edge. Now tape along the outside of all the edges that will be cut, and we're ready!
Step 2: Tape Edges and Start Routing
Acrylic scratches easily, so it’s a good idea to tape on either side of your cut line. Leave 1/8” in between for the router bit to travel.
Once everything is taped, start with the neck hole first, since it will be easier to cut with the rest of the helmet intact. It works best to have a second person hold the sphere, since it's a tricky shape to clamp. If you devise a better solution, share it here!
Once you’re done cutting, smooth out the edges with a file or a Dremel with a sanding bit. This is also a good time to check the fit of the collar opening with the 3D printed collar (found in step 5). Sand away the collar opening until it fits well in the groove.
- What I found works best is a Rotozip tool and the spiral cutting bit that it comes with. The Rotozip has more power than a Dremel, so can easily cut through the sphere even where the plastic gets a little thicker.
- A few practice cuts can be made around the original opening in the sphere. There is a bit of scrap material that is removed to make the hole big enough for the neck opening. With the Rotozip running, guide the bit sideways into the plastic, make a short curve, then exit the plastic again. Check out the 6th image for a sketched diagram.
- Cut the neck opening first. Then cut out the two 2” circles first on either side, and finally cut out the visor. As you go along the outside of the visor, stop occasionally to tape it to hold it in place.
- Some router bits cutting plastic seem to produce one good edge and one scrappy edge. You’ll want the scrappy edge to be on the visor, since it will be covered with the silver edging later.
Step 3: Attach the Pivots
The helmet and visor are held together with the pivots. The circular part attaches to the helmet side, while the wedge-shaped part bolts to the visor. I designed this pair in Solidworks, so I could match the mating surfaces of the pivots to the exact curve of the 14" sphere. They can be printed without support material on any 3D printer.
The original pivots can be downloaded below, or message me for the special-edition version with the NASA logo!
Pivots on helmet:
Once your pivots are printed, check the fit of the helmet-side circular pieces in the 2” diameter holes, and sand the helmet until they fit. Then, tape the piece in place and mark the location of each hole using a dry-erase marker. Drill the helmet-side holes with a 7/32” drill bit. At this point, you could cover the raw edges on the helmet using 1/2" black tape. Use the following hardware to attach them:
- (12) M3 capnuts
- (12) M3 x 10mm hex drive flat head
- (12) M3 countersunk washer
Pivots on visor:
Next, tape the visor-side pivots in place and test-assemble the visor to the helmet to make sure it can open and close fully (use the 1/4-20 x 1" bolts). Mark the hole locations and remove the tape and pivot before drilling into the visor. Attach the visor pivots using the following hardware:
- (8) M3 capnuts
- (8) M3 x 16mm hex drive flat head
- (8) M5 washer
Cut the silver edging to length to cover the top and bottom edges of the visor for a finished edge.
Step 4: Spraypainting
First, disassemble everything until you have just the acrylic helmet.
I used white paint on the inside of my helmet, but I think any color would look awesome as well. Gold worked well too. Just make sure your spraypaint is formulated for good adhesion to plastic.
When you go to spray it, spray the inside of the helmet, to keep the glossy finish of the acrylic on the outside. I taped around the outside edges and covered the outside surface in saran wrap to prevent overspray. The first 3 photos show my technique. Hold the globe up to the light to check for thin spots.
When the paint is completely cured, cover the visor opening with black 1/2" or 3/4" gaffer's tape and reattach the pivots.
Step 5: Adding the Collar
The previous version of the space helmet utilized the top part of a 2-gallon bucket as the collar. It worked reasonably well, but I wanted to design my own 3D printed version to make the following improvements:
- Shoulder contours
- Holder for LED controller
- More reliable adhesion to helmet
Download and print the .stl attached to this step. The collar is divided into quarters so it fits most printer beds. The shoulder contours print with support material which can be broken away and then sanded using your favorite techniques.
Check out the 2nd picture for the final assembly of the 4 collar quarters. The 4 pieces are held together with the tongue-and-groove ends. Arrange the 4 pieces in the right order (without assembling them yet), and then inject epoxy into the groove of the first quarter. Slide the tongue of the second quarter down into the groove, and wipe away excess epoxy from the bottom surface. Repeat to add the third quarter. For the final quarter, assemble both edges at the same time by injecting epoxy into both grooves and sliding the final piece down into place.
Dry fit the helmet to the collar and align the controller holder with the back center of the helmet. Mark a couple alignment locations with pieces of tape. Prep the acrylic surface by sanding lightly with a high-grit sandpaper where the acrylic will contact the epoxy on the collar. This helps with adhesion to the shiny acrylic surface.
Inject epoxy all around the top circular groove of the collar. Make a large enough bead that the acrylic will be well-embedded, but not so much that the epoxy drips down the sides. Keep a paper towel handy just in case.
Step 6: Lights!
Time for LEDs!
The ones I used are 5050 RGB LEDs in a silicone-encased waterproof strip. The flexibility makes them easy to install in the helmet. An added controller and remote mean you can change the color while you’re wearing it and no pre-programming is necessary. There are a number of additions you could make to them -- Arduino audio controller, anyone?
Prep the strips:
Cut 4 lengths of 8 segments each (one segment is 3 LEDs between the copper solder pads). The cut lines will intersect the copper solder pads, splitting them in half. Solder a 4-pin connector onto one end of each length. An excellent Instructable by glowtime shows how to solder wires to LED strips; a similar technique works well for the 4-pin connectors.
Once soldered, slide a segment of clear heat-shrink tubing over the connection. Make sure the lower set of pins are still accessible, and shrink using heat gun.
Prep the connector:
The connector can be arranged any shape as long as it fits inside the helmet and doesn't snag on anything. I created a sort of candelabra shape using tiny zip ties. The important part is making sure the imprinted arrows always line up with the (+) terminal on the LED strip, otherwise the lights won't work. Plug the 4-pins into each output connector, and plug the controller into the input one.
Finally, plug the controller into the power supply and try it out! I like cycling the colors to R then G then B; since all other colors are combinations of these 3 it's easiest this way to see if there is a short.
If everything looks right, then stick double sided tape to the backs of all connectors on the splitter and on the controller. Leave the backing on for now.
Attach to helmet:
Peel the backing off the double-sided tape on the LED controller, align it in its holder in the collar, and adhere. Before sticking anything else on, evenly distribute and hold the 4 strips of LEDs inside the helmet and make small registration marks with tape. Then peel the backing off all the rest of the tape (on the connector and the strips) and stick everything on. Trim a segment of LEDs off the ends if the strips are too long and overlap at the top.
Explore other options too! In a commissioned space helmet, I arranged the lights around the opening of the visor (last photos) for a modern clean look.
Step 7: Attach the Visor
Slide a #10-24 bolt through each hole in the visor pivots. Add 2 washers to each. Then slide the bolts inwards through the round helmet pivots. Secure each with a capnut. Try opening and closing the visor a few times and re-tighten the capnuts until the visor holds itself open. and can still be closed. I eventually use loctite on mine since they loosen over time.
Step 8: Ready for Adventure!
And that's it! Enjoy your adventures in space!
V1 of this Instructable can be found here: https://www.instructables.com/id/LED-Space-Helmet/
Happy building! Share your progress pics and finished space helmets in the comments below!