“3D printing has found a home in the world of superheroes – the technology has been used to make superhero prosthetics, costumes, Legos, and models. One of the more popular choices is Iron Man, who’s something of a maker himself. We’ve seen 3D printed Iron Man prosthetic hands and arms, an action figure, a boot prototype, Iron Man’s helmet, and even his Arc Reactor, but the coolest 3D printable Iron Man projects have to be the full 3D printed suits themselves. Last year, we told you about military veteran Tim O’Sullivan, who was looking for a therapeutic task to take on after returning home when he was wounded in combat. He took on a pretty daunting project for his first time experimenting with 3D printing technology – he spent about eight months printing and building a full-body Iron Man suit.
He bought the STL files for the suit from Do3D.com and got to work on the suit, breaking in his new desktop Robo3D R1+. The completed Iron Man suit was truly something to behold – it even featured glowing eyes and a glowing chest. He told 3DPrint.com that the Iron Man suit would likely not be his last big project, and we’ve been eagerly anticipating his next work. Good things come to those who wait; we’ve just learned from O’Sullivan that he has finished his latest 3D printing project – the War Machine Mark III suit from Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War movie.
He explained that he learned a lot during his first build, and that these 3D printed superhero projects have been the “best therapy” for him when he couldn’t sit still. But the suits aren’t just for cosplay competitions, costume parties, or hanging out at home.
O’Sullivan told 3DPrint.com, “The original plan was to wear my first suit (red one) to visit childrens hospitals, but unfortunately the first build just wasnt strong enough for continuous wear. I needed to find a way to improve on the process.”
He said that he started the War Machine Mark III suit back in December, and just finished last week. O’Sullivan needed a build volume that was a little taller than the Robo3D R1+ offered, so he purchased a Rostock Max V3 desktop 3D printer kit from SeeMeCNC and put together the printer first. He got the model for the suit from Do3D.com again, but also used Autodesk Fusion 360 and SolidWorks to make some additional features.
As he mentioned, O’Sullivan learned quite a lot from his first build – this time, he made some custom modifications to the shoes of the suit, which brought his height of 5’8″ up to nearly 6’2″, and while he’s used PLA in the past, he learned after wearing his Iron Man suit a few times that it wasn’t strong enough for his purposes, and used PETG for the entire War Machine Mark III suit. He also worked to make the interior of the suit stronger by adding fiberglass to each part once it was printed. As the War Machine Mark III has a lot of parts, you can imagine the vast amount of work this took.
O’Sullivan told us, “I would basically divide the suit into sections and work on them one at a time.”
O’Sullivan used 3D software like Meshmixer and Autodesk Netfabb to separate the various shells of the parts and slice them, as many of the pieces for the suit were larger than the Rostock Max V3’s print volume. Then he would assemble the 3D printed parts, using a soldering gun to weld them all together.
“I picked up most of the various post finishing techniques such as the painting and the custom electronics by scouring through numerous video tutorials via the Stan Winston School of Character Arts and reading through a web forum for prop making known as the Replica Prop Forum,” O’Sullivan told us.
If you thought O’Sullivan’s 3D printed Iron Man suit was cool, then you’ll really be impressed by the War Machine Mark III. It features operating servos, which make the shoulder guns rise and fire, has several of the sound effects from the movie, and is voice-activated using the open source electronics platform Arduino. It even plays music!
Last week, O’Sullivan made his first of many visits in his 3D printed War Machine Mark III suit to a children’s hospital. He’s from my neck of the woods in Ohio, and visited the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which he called a “heartwarming experience.”