Making and selling Star Wars costumes ruled to be legal


[Andrew Ainsworth] has been making and selling costumes based on Star Wars character (some original, and some of his own creation) for several years. Lucasfilm sued him for $20 million back in 2004 claiming infringement of intellectual property rights. He stopped selling them in the US (as it was a US copyright) but now the UK Supreme Court has ruled in his favor, siding with his claim that the costumes are functional items and not works of art.

Good for him, but copyright issues aren’t what interests us here. The BBC clip showing him using a vacuum former to make the Stormtrooper helmet really caught our attention. A bit of further searching led us to find the thirteen minute video after the break showing the entire process, from sculpting the mold by hand, to forming the components, and the final assembly seen above. It’s a fascinating process that makes use want to build our own vacuum former (preferably on a larger scale than this one). It would come in handy whether it’s Star Wars, Daft Punk, or any number of other projects you’ve got in mind.

[Read more...]

We’ve got a real bone to pick with this mouse

Finally, there’s a way you can feel like a real bad-ass while you’re formatting those TPS reports. It’s all thanks to this computer mouse built inside the skull of a dog. [Shannon Larratt] dug through his collection of skulls and came up with this one because it fits nicely in the palm of your hand.

Before you get too grossed out, this is not actually part of an animal’s body like another notable mouse hack that comes to mind. [Shannon] started with the skull of a small dog, making a mold for the pieces used in the finished version above. He was quite creative when fitting the electronic parts inside of his reproduction. He pulled the PCB from a $10 Logitech mouse and had no trouble getting it to fit into the base of the skull. But when it came to the buttons he ended up engineering a couple of rockers and used a belt to reposition the scroll-wheel. Not wanting to lose the middle-click feature there’s an additional lever for that functionality. We’d also like to compliment him on the quality of his write-up. Fantastic!

Molded parts: Prusa Mendel in 30 minutes

This set of white RepRap parts were created in molds, instead of being printed by another RepRap. [Mark A. Ganter] of the University of Washington admits that this breaks the idea of a 3D printer that is self-replicating. But the molds – which were created by tweaking Prusa Mendel parts to be mold friendly – have the ability to produce every plastic part necessary to build your own RepRap and they can do it much faster. Once the molds were completed [Mark] and his students were able to produce a full set of parts in just 30 minutes, cutting as much as 14 hours off of the time it would have taken to print the parts. Still not convinced? How about this: the molds can be created by a 3D printer or by using a high-resolution power printing method like they have here.

The process starts by printing master parts, then creating a silicone RTV mold from them. Once the molds are ready, [Mark's] team pours polyurethane into them and waits for it to harden. They plan to share the STL files in less than a week so that you can make your own molds to use to build your RepRap army.

Carbon fiber part fabrication guide

If you’re thinking of working with carbon fiber this guide should be a big help. The example is aimed at the automotive crowd but the principles transfer quite easily. Carbon fiber parts are constructed in a similar manner as fiberglass parts. A mold is covered in a release agent, the fibers are put in place and covered in epoxy. With fiberglass the fibers are often sprayed on but carbon fiber components use woven mats of the material to build up multiple layers. Vacuum bags are used to hold the layers together, removing air and impregnating the fibers with the epoxy. This guide even outlines the construction of a vacuum pump needed for that step.

The benefits of carbon fiber are many, including strength and weight reduction. This makes it a great material for adding parts to weight-sensitive hacks such as quadcopters. But the mesh also has an interesting look which is why it shows up in custom electronics cases. The one real drawback is that when this material fails it is a catastrophic failure, tending to crumble across the entire structure rather than limiting damage to a small area. That means that a rough landing might be the end of your new parts.

[Thanks MS3FGX]

Oogoo, a home-made Sugru substitute

If you follow, it might seem like every third article lately is about Sugru, the nifty air-drying silicone putty that’s good for all manner of repairs and custom parts. It’s fantastic stuff (and we love their slogan, “Hack things better”), but one can’t (yet!) just drop in on any local hardware store to buy a quick fix…so [mikey77] has cooked up a recipe for a basic Sugru work-alike. His “Oogoo” (a name likely inspired by oobleck) is a simple mix of corn starch and silicone caulk.

A two-ingredient recipe would hardly seem adequate material for an article, but [mikey77]’s left no stone unturned, providing an extensive tutorial not only on mixing the compound, but how to add colors, cast and carve custom shapes, and how his home-made recipe compares to the name brand product. As a bonus, the article then drifts into a little Halloween project where he demonstrates etching conductive cloth, how to make conductive glue, and other hands-on shenanigans.

Sugru – moldable silicone adhesive

Reader [James] told us about a new product developed with hackers in mind. Sugru is a silicone-based adhesive that cures at room temperature. It is moldable and once hardened it remains slightly flexible. You can see in the picture above that it has been used to create a hook but the inventor shows off a slew of other uses such as replacing missing feet on a chair, molding hand grips, and waterproofing. One of the most enticing aspects is that Sugru will create a chemical bond with smooth metal.

The product reminds us of the two-part earplug material used to ruggedize electronics from a while back. The difference is that Sugru is one part and is an adhesive. It comes as a satchel full of individually-sized packets. To use it, choose how much you need, cut open the package to reveal the product, then knead and mold the chewing-gum-looking substance to fit your needs. Check out the demonstration video after the break.

Want to try some out? Yeah, so do we but it seems they’ve already sold out of their initial supply (good for them, bad for us) and we haven’t seen word on pricing. We’d love to use this to mold enclosures, and for about a billion other things.

[Read more...]

Daft Punk replica helmet


For all their varied and entertaining uses, circuits and code comprise only part of the complete hacking experience. To really put your project over the top, sooner or later you’ll want to possess some physical fabrication skills. Consider the works of [Ben Heckendorn]: He’s always done a fantastic job with the electronics, but it’s the fit and finish of the enclosures that make him a legend.

“Fabrication” usually conjures images of shop tools — saws and sanders and drills — all tremendously useful skills worth learning, and easily within reach of most home shops or garages. Recently, the techniques of mold making and casting have seen something of a DIY renaissance. Mold making is nothing new, the basic concepts go back millennia, but in just the past few years the materials for extremely high-quality molds have become safer, simpler to use, and easier to acquire.

This being Halloween month, what better example of the medium than this impeccable replica helmet styled after half of the musical duo Daft Punk (a recurring theme among Hack a Day contributors), created by prop maker [Harrison Krix]. After sculpting an original master part (from common hardware store and art store materials, we might add), a one-piece flexible mold is built up from silicone, which captures every minute detail, and later the helmet form is cast from a thin layer of resin. The visor is vacuum formed. A follow-up with the internal electronics build is yet to be posted, but even at this stage the shell alone is so refined it looks straight off a showroom floor. If mold making can do this for someone’s noggin, imagine what it can do for your next creative hardware project. Smooth-On, a major supplier of these materials, has a free PDF introduction and a set of tutorials on their web site.

[thanks Wolf]