We’ve seen them before. The pixel-perfect Portal 2 replica, the Iron Man Arc Reactor, the Jedi Lightsaber. With the rise of shared knowledge via the internet, we can finally take a peek into a world hidden behind garage doors, basements, and commandeered coffee tables strewn with nuts, bolts, and other scraps. That world is prop-making. As fab equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters start to spill into the hands of more people, fellow DIY enthusiasts have developed effective workflows and corresponding software tools to lighten their loads. I figured I’d take a brief look at a few software tools that can open the possibilities for folks at home to don the respirator and goggles and start churning out props.
You won’t find all that many props or homemade replica builds here at Hackaday, but [Harrison Krix’s] work is second to none, and his Futurama Holophonor replica is worth drooling over. [Harrison] sourced an old (and apparently grimy) clarinet from a local thrift store, which he strips clean of its keys and attachments. The body itself receives some subtle modifications from the lathe and epoxy to plug some holes. Custom-spun plastic pieces complete the rest of the body, including the meticulously crafted bell which houses 54 LEDs.
[Harrison] also whips up a breakout board for a mini Arduino Pro with 4 fading and 4 blinking channels, and some custom power supply options for the Holophonor’s base: a scratch-built fiberglass AAA battery holder and optional AC adapter jack. As an added bonus, he’s fitted the Holophonor’s stand with a set of Robot Devil hands that hold it in place. The only video is an illumination test, but it sure is pretty. You can see it below! It looks perfect, but alas is unplayable which actually makes it even more authentic.
[James] builds all sorts of robots and superhero costume replicas at home, so he is always searching for a better way to get consistent results when using his vacuum table. A lot of people use their oven or exposed heating coils from electric frying pans to warm the plastic sheets, but [James] wasn’t really interested in going down that route. He cites that he would rather not heat plastic in the oven where he cooks his food, nor is he really keen on the idea of exposed heating elements.
Instead, he opted for a slightly pricier, though completely reasonable setup that produces consistent results every time. Most of the forming table was built using MDF sheeting, as you can see in the video below. His heating apparatus was the most expensive part of the rig, since it’s an off the shelf quartz-based room heater. He lays the heater on its back side, and directs the heat up through an MDF frame using aluminum foil as a reflector. The plastic sheeting mounted at the top heats evenly, and in no time, he has a perfectly vacuum formed prop that is ready to be painted.
Sure, it might cost a bit more than some other vacuum formers we’ve looked at before, but spending a bit more up front to get consistent results is well worth it if you ask us.