Monday, 4 November 2013

Daft Punk Helmet

If you haven't ever seen Volpin's excellent Daft Punk Helmet build, I recommend you check it out. His impressive work has inspired and continues to inspire many people to attempt to build their own helmets. Back in May, I decided to give myself the challenge of building a similar, albeit much more budget, Guy-Manuel Daft Punk Helmet. For the short version, enjoy the video below:

You can find the CAD files and Arduino code for the helmet here.

2015-06-02: I have now published an Instrucable which describes the build process in full detail, available here.

Keep reading for the long version.

As a starting point, I found a great CAD model of the helmet on Ivan Spasic's blog here. After importing into SketchUp and a fair bit of tidying, I had a great initial model.

Unfortunately, printing the helmet as a single piece wasn't going to work; it was too big. I split the helmet into sections, and added flanges so that it could be joined together once printed.

The earpieces were missing some detail, so I added it based on some a picture from Volpin's blog.

Printing, Assembly
I printed the parts on the Prusa i3.

Parts were joined with M3 nuts and bolts and a generous helping of hot-melt glue.

Once the whole helmet was assembled, I used modelling clay to fill the cracks between parts, and sanded it down once dried.

The next step was to prepare the helmet for painting. Unless you have a really high quality printer, printed parts have a tell-tale appearance, retaining the layers where individual layers of material were laid down during printing. I wanted my helmet to be shiny, like the real thing, so I coated the majority of it with car body filler.

Next the helmet needed to be sanded. A lot. I bought myself a Black & Decker Mouse Sander, and I'm sure it saved me a lot of time. During sanding, I gradually used finer and finer papers to get maximum smoothness. Once I felt the helmet was sufficiently smooth, I spray painted it, first with a coat of surface primer, and then with metallic gold.

I needed the back plate for the helmet, so I quickly made a curved plate which would fit the current design in SketchUp. I printed this curved surface with support material, painted it black, and glued on strips of thick wire to match photos of the real helmet.

By a stroke of luck, the back plated snap-fitted inside the current helmet. I added plenty of hot-melt glue anyway.

I had already decided I would use an Arduino to control the lighting of the helmet. I wanted to use PWM, so that limited me to 6 channels. I chose the colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue and pink. Since I wanted 3 LEDs per side, each channel would be powering 6 LEDs, which would exceed the current requirements of an Arduino pin, so I used some 2N2222 transistors to switch the LEDs on and off. As usual, my designs are works of art.

I assembled the required components on a small piece of veroboard.

The electronics and power (8 AA batteries) needed a case, so I whipped one together on SketchUp and printed. I also included an SPDT on/off switch and potentiometer to control the speed of animation.

I needed a surface upon which to mount the LEDs, so altered Ivan's design to make thick mountable diffusers, which I printed in translucent PLA with support material.

To mount the lights, I designed some small blocks with holes for three 5 mm LEDs. Each set of three LEDs was wired in series; resistors on the aforementioned circuit board ensured they were delivered the correct current.

The LED blocks were attached to the diffusers with hot-melt glue. Hot-melt was also used to mount the diffusers to the helmet, and for cable routing.

Probably the trickiest bit of the whole build was the visor. I had a CAD file for the required shape from Ivan's design, so I converted this surface into a mould.

Ideally, I would have simply created this mould from a block of wood with a CNC mill, however all I had access to was a laser cutter. As a solution, I sliced the required mould into nineteen 6 mm slices, and cut in MDF.

I assembled these slices with a couple of wooden dowels, glued with wood glue and left to dry, adding pressure with a few dumbbells.

I then sanded the mould for a very very long time. I was extremely thankful for the B&D Mouse.

I vacuum formed thin (0.5 mm I believe) PETG over the mould to create my visor, and tinted the inside with a few coats of VHT Niteshades.

The visor was attached to the helmet with... you guessed it! Lots of hot-melt glue. I added some sticky foam roll to the inside of the helmet to improve comfort. I finished the helmet just in time for Glastonbury 2013!

The total cost of the helmet was probably around £100, not including the tools I bought to help build it.

Hope you enjoyed reading about this. If you'd like to make one of your own, please check out the design on my Thingiverse!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Poké Ball

I love fancy dress. I'll use almost any excuse to spend an excessive amount of time on a costume. I once built a giant cardboard shell for a snail costume which I took to Bestival. Not only was it vibrantly coloured, making it very easy for my friends to find me when we found ourselves separated, but it also provided a large amount of storage space for our group to sneak alcohol into the arenas.

A dear friend of mine named Rob recently had a great fancy dress birthday party - the theme: dress geeky. My kind of party. I had already decided that this would be a great excuse to put some miles on the Wearable Arc Reactor I made in February, however I took it upon myself to make something extra for Rob's Ash Ketchum costume. An item most critical to the quest of a budding Pokémon Trainer: The Poké Ball.

Some good designs already existed on Thingiverse, however I wanted mine to be big enough to hold in hand for the classic Ash Ketchum pose. SketchUp isn't the most ideal tool for playing with curved surfaces, but spheres are just about doable.

Rather than use a selection of filament colours, I chose to print the whole thing in white and paint it afterwards. A bit of internet research informed me that acrylic paints are the best bet for painting PLA. I picked up a set on Amazon for around £10. I painted each differently coloured part separately, and then glued the whole thing together.

Apparently it's the best birthday present Rob's ever received.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Electroluminescent Wire Jacket

Finally, it's time. I've been looking forward to writing this particular post since I started this blog. I hope you enjoy it.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon one of the coolest pieces of technology I had ever seen. Electroluminescent wire, or EL wire for short, is essentially wire covered in a thin layer of phosphor with a coloured or translucent PVC sleeve. Passing an alternating current through the wire causes it to glow. I immediately ordered some from a Chinese eBay seller (I forget the name), along with a driver, which takes DC power from batteries and converts it to AC power to illuminate the wire. I waited impatiently for it to arrive.

When it did arrive, I was thrilled, and plans for its use flew through my head like angry wasps. Unfortunately, I couldn't settle on one. I found an old tattered hat and set about attaching the wire to it, but it was messy, and the driver made the hat heavy, and I didn't have any real idea of what I wanted it to look like or do. When I had finished, I had an illuminated bird's-nest. It didn't look cool at all.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when I met someone in a club who had threaded some blue EL wire through a hoodie, along with the addition of some awesome Sonic the Hedgehog spikes up the back. He looked very cool. Thank-you, cool and friendly stranger, for pushing me to have a second attempt.

To begin with, I needed a more appropriate garment. An afternoon spent wandering the charity shops of Cotham Hill provided me with a nice looking leather jacket. It was a ladies large, but it seemed to fit me well enough, and it wasn't too inflexible or heavy to be uncomfortable to dance in. I'm sure the girl behind the counter enjoyed me testing that particular aspect of it. I also needed more EL-wire and drivers, which I bought from EL Wire Craft's eBay store.

First of all, I removed the front pockets by taking out the stitching to reveal the seams that ran from waist to shoulder. Some basic research had shown me that when adding EL wire to a garment, following pre-existing seams is a good way to ensure it looks good. If you'd like to make your own EL wire garment, I recommend you check out this excellent Instructable. I then began planning the routes of the wire.

I planned the routes such that the drivers could be stored inside the pockets, with the wire running inside the lining of the jacket when it wasn't visible. I used a pair of sewing scissors to make small cuts to allow the wire out or back into the interior of the jacket. To attach the wire to the jacket, I used 10 lb fishing line, ordered from Amazon. You'd be surprised at how much you get through, so be sure to order enough. All told, it took me a couple of afternoons of sewing to finish the jacket.

The finished jacket didn't disappoint. The wire was bright, and my tactic of following the seams seemed to have payed off. It was time for a dry run. That's my flatmate Ben laughing at me. I can't decide whether my dancing is improved or hampered by a lack of inebriation, but the addition of illuminated wire definitely helps.