Full Speed, A Head!

 Posted by at 18:49  No Responses »
Jan 102017

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

Hey, remember this project? This project that I haven’t much talked about in the last, oh, nine months or so? Guess what! I just finished assembling the high-detail paper model for the base mold!

Full-resolution paper model mold base, front 3/4 Full-resolution paper model mold base, rear 3/4

I did indeed switch to using hot glue after my last update, to excellent effect. Rather than applying it via a hot glue gun, I instead used the glue gun to keep the glue in a liquid state and spot-applied it with toothpicks. This worked out really well, with one giant downside that I didn’t recognize until the damage had been done: leaving hot glue to just sit there with heat on it results in some of it vaporizing. My office, where I’ve been assembling this, is not well-ventilated. As a result, once I realized why I had started coughing and feeling miserable, I shelved the project for a bit. Also, finishing Embers and running a D&D game for some friends took over my life for a little while, but Embers is now out1 and I’m finally getting a handle on balancing my prep work for the D&D game, which means time to work on this has materialized once more!

Full-resolution paper model mold base, front 3/4 No doubt spurred into action by seeing Rogue One, I dove head-first back to work. This time, I kept a fan running at all times and wore a simple dust mask, which prevented most of the fumes from getting anywhere near me. I also purchased the fellow pictured here on clearance at Target to keep me company while I worked.

Everything has come together exceedingly well, as far as I’m concerned. I hit on the idea of creating small little cardboard cross-section supports, hearkening back to my original design approach to this whole project. I noticed some structural deformation happening to the cardstock due to the growing weight of the model. Given that forestalling this kind of warping with the resin and fiberglass step is the next part of the plan, I didn’t want to go into that step with an already-warped model!

Cross section printout glued to flat cardboard
Cardboard cross-section supports on the face Cardboard cross-section supports on the scalp and brim

I looked over the major distortion points and created simple planes intersecting the helmet model in Blender, then printed these out with the paper model plugin the same way I had everything else so far. I rummaged around in the basement for a cardboard box of the approximate right dimensions and sturdiness and then got to work slicing these up and gluing them into place. I used a green marker to identify the vertex attachment points on the physical model that corresponded with the origin locations for the planes on the 3D model. Turned out as well as I hoped!

Here’s the completed helmet beside its prototype ancestors. The massive size of the original prototype doesn’t really come across in this picture due to perspective, but it dwarfs both the small sizing prototype and the full-resolution model.

Full-resolution paper model alongside low-resolution prototypes.

With ventilation now prominent in my mind and knowing that my next step involves resin and fiberglass, I need to resolve the workspace air quality issue. It’s the middle of winter, so working outside just isn’t an option. Fortunately, I have a solution that’s been waiting for me to realize it exists for over seven years: the small, unused, vaguely creepy basement side room beneath the sun room. I can’t realistically ventilate the entire house-length basement to the degree I’d need to for working with resin, but that little room is its own space with its own window. Getting enough airflow to keep it well-circulated is easily within reach of a hardware store ventilation fan and some dryer vent tubing to direct the fan’s airflow out the window.

Making those modifications to this proto-workshop is my next step. I’ve also started formulating concrete plans for the vacuform table I want to build to manufacture the rest of the armor, which I’ll try to post more about in the coming days and weeks.

  1. And the next book’s word count is increasing day by day, don’t worry! []

The Sizing Prototype

 Posted by at 21:31  No Responses »
Oct 152015

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

Satisfied with my revised model and with scale issues now addressed, I decided to make one more prototype before printing out a high-resolution paper model that will go on to form the basis of my helmet mold. This one would be very low resolution, its only purpose to validate that it was big enough for my head and that my proportions were vaguely correct.

The smaller sizing prototype next to the first prototype The smaller sizing prototype next to the first prototype

As it turned out, this actually went a little too small, due in part to compensating for the size correction in the 3D model, but not the printout. Fortunately, it means the next round should be bang-on. I also acquired some fiberglass mat and resin with which to reinforce the paper model prior to slathering it with Bondo, which is heavy. I don’t want the paper to deform under the weight, so the fiberglass-and-resin step aims to give it enough rigidity to prevent that. The original large prototype is shiny in these pictures because it’s been given an initial outer coat of resin. The fiberglass will go inside for structural strength.

I, uh, also couldn’t resist checking the sizing prototype’s fit…

Imperial Derptrooper

Toying with ideas

 Posted by at 15:07  No Responses »
Sep 292010

A friend planted an idea in my head that has already started to germinate, though it may not bear this year. He made mention that if he were to make cool costumes of the kind I mentioned, rather than using vacuformed plastic, he would use carbon fiber. I didn’t even realize carbon fiber parts manufacture was something hobbyists could do. I really need to stop thinking hobbyists are so limited.

Turns out, making parts out of carbon fiber isn’t all that difficult. It involves resin, which makes me a little sad, but it can achieve results at least as nice as HIPS1. On top of that, it’s substantially stronger as a result of being a composite and, oh yeah, carbon freaking fiber. It may also end up being lighter, though even if it’s heavier, it’s strength-to-weight ratio will be leaps and bounds beyond that of a plastic part.

Evidently, you can use carbon fiber to make all sorts of stuff: aerospace parts, automotive parts, cellos, or pretty much anything else you have a mold to put it in…like a costume. The process is straight-forward, if more time-consuming than vacuforming: make a mold, apply release agent, apply resin coat, lay down first layer of carbon fiber and press into mold, lay down additional resin/carbon fiber layers as desired for added strength/thickness, allow to set, release from mold. Trim, sand, polish, and so forth to taste. Done and done.

The obvious up side is that it doesn’t require nearly as much infrastructure (i.e. building a vacuform table). The downsides are working with resin and the cost. Low-grade carbon fiber2 costs around $20/yd2. HIPS, by comparison, costs $3/yd2. What you spend in infrastructure—I figure building a vacuform table with integrated plastic heating elements will cost me $150-$200—you quickly recoup in materials costs. I’m also not factoring in the resin costs into the carbon-fiber estimate.

I like the idea, though, so I may visit it in the future for a particularly special costume3. We shall see.

  1. High-Impact Polystyrene, or the plastic one would likely use for vacuforming []
  2. I don’t need ultra-fine supermesh stuff; I’m not making airplanes. []
  3. I’m looking at you, Iron Man. []