Taking cosplay to a whole new level with lights, sounds and robotics using engineering and all forms of armour construction
Who am I?
Hello, I’m Lee Houlgate, a cosplayer and cosplay constructor living in the UK. I have been making cosplays for about 4 years now, and my Iron Man cosplay won Best Newcomer at the Euro Cosplay qualifiers. I love building prop weaponry; armour and robotics as there are always new challenges to face and over come and it keeps me busy in my spare time. This kickstarter project is designed to help me raise enough funds to help me finish building my 8 foot tall fully functional Terran Marine mech suit. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, it has weapons. Yes, it has robotics. We’ll come to all of that later on!
Why should I care?
Well, when my mech suit is finished, I hope to enter this into the Euro cosplay competition as well, and represent the UK on an international scale. If I make my full Kickstarter target, it would also give me the chance to take the finished cosplay to some of the US cons like Blizzcon, Teslacon and the San Diego Comic Con and show people how UK cosplayers do it! Plus we hope to use the suit for charity fundrasiers, by appearing in the suit to cheer up kids in hospital, for example, or as a promoter of an event. And let’s face it, you all want to see an 8 foot tall robot stomping around London, am I right?
What has been done so far:
Having made a previous attempt at this I feel confident I have planned to overcome the previous failures. For example on the previous attempt, the armour panels were very inaccurate, lumpy and extremely heavy. I also made the mistake of choosing to use the armour to house the moving robotic parts, meaning they were grinding together as I moved and damaged the robotics and the in internals of the armour. If funded I will be attaching the lightweight cast armour panels to the steel/aluminium chassis to combat this, as well as housing the robotics separately.
The last attempt using plastic and wood for the moving robotic elements will be overcome using steel and aluminium, not only for a weight saving but also give it the added strength that was missing last time.
The picture above shows my first attempt at a mech suit using a plastic and wood chassis as well as the very heavy (and not very good looking) armour panels using fibreglass and car body filler
Visibility is another issue as the suit has limited mobility around the head and I have no peripheral vision when I am in the suit. However, I thought a solution to this could be a car reversing system; it would be lightweight and run off the 12 volt battery that is already in the suit.
I have made all the armour mold plugs needed to finish the suit, so the next stage is to mold them and make them using the lightweight material so it is actually wearable. The molds you see in the images are extremely heavy and for the most part solid. As its 8 ft tall 5 ft wide and 4 ft deep that's a lot of molding silicone and also a lot of casting resin to create the armour panels.
These heavy mold plugs seen below were all made by myself carved from insulation foam, fibreglassed and then smoothed with car body filler. Already you can see the improvement and after moulding these plugs I know that the castings will look exactly the same as the plugs making all panels uniform and symmetrical.
Mechanical chassis:Using cardboard and plastic I have worked out the dimensions of the mechanised chassis and where all the motors and other electronics need to be placed. I have drawn up plans for the parts to be cnc'd / machined. I have also built and programmed a robotic hand from scratch including constructing the controlling circuit. The arms will be controlled with a similar system.The mechanical chassis will also house all the electronics such as batteries, lighting, cooling, speakers and amplifier, car reversing camera, turbines, control circuits, image projector (H.U.D), motors and all the switches and batteries. I have worked out a way which will enable me to put the chest and arms on like a backpack with even weight distribution for stability.
Batteries :The batteries I am currently working with are affordable and last quite a few hours, however if I got fully funded, it would give me the chance to buy smaller and more powerful batteries meaning, again, I am saving weight and also can spend more time in the suit with all the electronic features working.
Weaponry :The Terran marine rifle has been made from eva foam for two reasons, Firstly, it makes it “con friendly”, as the gun itself is over 5 foot long, making it from wood, metal or any other material would make it extremely dangerous to wield. Also, the suit needs to be as perfectly balanced as possible to stop me toppling over, if I had any sort of significant weight on one side, I would have to balance it out or I would struggle to move. Inside the rifle will be a strobe light and a nerf gun which will simulate ejecting shells and gun fire. I have fitted an optical sensor so that when a nerf round is on its way out of the ejection port, a signal is sent to the sound board I made to make a "bang”. So with a press of a button inside the chest section I will be able to have a bang, a flash of bright light and an ejecting shell simultaneously. I'm not stopping there though; I also have a pop out bayonette to add for even more accuracy.
Electronics: As well as the circuits already mentioned I have the robotic hand programmed to copy my hand movements using a flex sensor glove. The turbines with a control circuit to change strips of L.E.D lighting at different speeds . A power amplifier and speakers for all sound effects . Obviously powerful linear actuators for arm shoulder and wrist movement . Cooling fans and lighting . Reversing camera and display so i don't accidentally step on anyone behind me .
Height issues: How is the suit 8 ft tall ? I'm going to be wearing plasterers stilts with modified soles for a larger tread pattern . I am 6 ft tall and the plasterers stilts give me a 24 inch lift as seen briefly in the video as well as improved stability .
So there we have it, I have the knowledge required, the mold plugs are ready and robotics worked out and even the gadgets all working as they should!
£2000 worth of pledges would be enough to buy the molding compound to mold the entirety of the armour, a further £3000 means I can cast the armour panels and another £2000 allows me to CNC the required parts needed for the robotics, and then we have together built a fully functioning 8 ft tall mech suit . The rest of your pledges pays for the rewards for every level, travelling to and from cons and events and maybe even a well deserved cup of tea.
If we exceed our target, this would allow us to improve rewards at every level, meaning you guys get even cooler stuff for helping us out. We can also upgrade all the parts of the suit mentioned in the techy notes (more expensive but better performing batteries, for instance, or stronger engines or servos), should there be any cash left over.
And who knows, maybe when it's built, I could appear at your game store for the launch of a new expansion pack or game, or at your kid's birthday party, or your sci fi con?
I hope you are as excited about this project as I am, any donations would be gratefully received and we are rewarding people at every level, from a heartfelt thank you to your own set of armour!
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
RISKS AND CHALLENGES
As I have previously mentioned, I have tried making this suit before as a sort of practise run, and found many mistakes to learn from. My biggest challenges this time around are time and money. I know how to overcome the build issues, but I need your help in funding this project so I can get this finished by May so I can hopefully represent the UK in the Euro Cosplay championships.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.