Intro: LED Space Helmet
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 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 back of the helmet is painted solid white.
The visor pivots (they hold the visor to the helmet) are a set that I custom-designed and can be printed on most any 3D printer. My favorite is to use a UV-reactive color so they fluoresce when the LEDs are blue. The acrylic helmet is lightweight, but I recommend adding a bit of padding for contact points on your shoulders and the back of your head.
The LEDs I use on the inside 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!
Step 1: Parts and Tools Needed
Space helmet parts list:
- 14" diameter clear acrylic sphere: 1000bulbs
- 5050 RGB LED kit (LEDs + remote): eBay
- 12V 6800mAh battery: eBay
- Power cord with barrel jacks: eBay
- The following hardware in stainless steel:
- (2) Button head socket cap screws: ¼”-20 thread x 1” length (McMaster # 92949A542)
- (8) Flat-head socket cap screws: 10-24 thread x ¾” length (McMaster # 92210A245)
- (12) Button-head socket cap screws: 10-24 thread x 3/8” length (McMaster # 92949A240)
- (20) Acorn Nuts: 10-24 thread x 3/8” width, 5/16” height (McMaster # 90532A150)
- (2) Acorn Nuts: ¼”-20 thread x 7/16” width, 3/8” height (McMaster # 90532A200)
- (2) Flat washers: ¼” screw size (McMaster # 92141A029)
2 gallon pail (for helmet collar): Tap Plastics
Silver edge-guard 5/16”: Tap Plastics
Spraypaint: Montana colors in shock white
Insulated wire (4 colors)
Blue painter’s tape
3/4” black tape (gaffers)
2” white tape (gaffers or duct)
1/8” craft foam
- Wet-erase marker
- Cutoff router
- Dremel and sandpaper bit
- 3D printer
- drill and bits
- soldering iron and solder
hot glue gun
Step 2: Sketching Out the Visor and Neck Opening
Place the helmet on the 5-gallon bucket so the opening in the helmet is centered inside the bucket. Using your dry-erase marker, 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. Make sure this hole will be the same diameter as the inside of the collar, so it can’t slide into the helmet. 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 3: 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. I fount it helpful to have a friend hold it while I cut. If you have 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.
Tip (after cutting out the neck opening): Cut out the two 2” circles first on either side, then cut out the visor. As you go along the outside of the visor, stop occasionally to tape it to hold it in place.
Another tip: 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.
Picture 3 shows the back piece already spraypainted (but we have more on that later).
Step 4: Drill Holes for the Pivots
The pivots are the parts that attach the visor to the helmet and allow it to rotate up and down. The circular piece attaches to the helmet side, while the wedge-shaped piece bolts to the visor. I designed this pair in Solidworks, where I could match the mating surfaces of the pivots to the exact curve of the 14" sphere. I also made sure they could be printed without any support material so they can be made on any 3D printer. Contact me for the .stl files of my pivots, or feel free to design your own!
Pivots on helmet:
Once your pivots are printed, check the fit of the helmet-side circular pieces in the 2” diameter holes, and file away any unevennes. 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 #10-24 x 3/8” machine head bolts and cap-nuts to attach the round pivots.
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 pivot with #10-24 x 3/4” countersunk bolts and cap-nuts.
Cut the silver edging to length to cover the top and bottom edges of the visor. Boom, finished edges!
Step 5: Spraypaint
It works best to leave the spraypainting until this step, since the paint can chip during all the drilling.
I used white on the inside of my helmet, but I think a neon color would look awesome as well. Just make sure your spraypaint is formulated for good adhesion to plastic. When you go to spray it, spray the inside instead of the outside of the helmet, to keep the glossy shine of the acrylic on the outside. I taped around the outside edges (see picture) to prevent overspray.
1/2" gaffer's tape in black covers the unfinshed edges nicely.
Bolt on the pivots to the helmet and visor.
Step 6: Making the Collar
The space helmet collar is actually the top edge of a 5-gallon bucket. Remove the bucket’s metal handle. Using an Exacto blade or box cutter (carefully!) cut around the entire bucket as close to the lip as possible. Now you have both the collar for the helmet, and a handy container to keep small parts in.
Now affix the collar with white duct tape, or the attachment method of your choice. The color tape you choose can be used to blend or contrast with your chosen helmet colors. Tear off a long strip of tape and start sticking it to the inside of the collar, so half of the width sticks out over the cut edge. Cut the overhanging part of the tape into tabs so it can fit to the inner surface of the helmet. Fit all the tape tabs through the neck opening, then start pressing them down into the inside of the helmet. Now it’s really starting to take shape! This is a good point to try the helmet on and admire how well it’s coming along!
Step 7: Electronics!
Time for LEDs!
The LEDs I used are 5050 RGB LEDs in a silicone-encased waterproof strip. The adhesive backing makes them easy to install in the helmet. They come with a controller, remote, and IR receiver so 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?
I installed my LEDs in 4 strands that are equally spaced across the back of the helmet. Thin insulated wires connect the 4 strips to each other. Make sure to connect 5V to 5V, R to R, G to G, and B to B. I used white duct tape to hold down the connector wires inside the helmet. One final set of wires is run through a hole I made in the back of the collar, to the outside where I attached the controller. Periodically check to make sure everything’s working with the LEDs as you're wiring, soldering, and taping.
In 2 steps we'll talk about the black square at the back of the helmet...
Step 8: Attach the Visor
You’re almost there!
Cut 2 1.25”-diameter circles from the 1/8” craft foam. These will help give the visor some grip when it is open. Slide a #10-24 x 1” bolts through the visor-side pivot, slide on 1 foam circle, and then push the bold through the helmet-side pivot. Do the same with the other side, and add a washer and the #10-24 cap-nuts. Open and close the visor a few times, and if it needs more grip, add a second set of foam circles.
Step 9: Step 8: a Few Last Additions, And...
The last step is to add some foam padding to make sure the helmet is comfortable to wear. I added some where the collar rested on my shoulders, and another piece where the helmet rested on the back of my head. You’ll want to be able to wear it for a long time!