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Elysium Max Exoskeleton

Exoskeleton suit replica from the movie Elysium in Autodesk Inventor, 3D printed and investment cast out of Aluminum

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I wanted to create several exoskeletons for band members of my next (industrial metal) music project. I like the "hacked together" look of the exoskeleton worn in Elysium (2013) by Max Da Costa, so I chose to replicate that one.

I am hoping to get the exoskeleton ready for Wasteland Weekend 2019.

I designed and printed all of the parts, machined pistons on a metal lathe, and sewed a harness. Now I am working on casting all of the plastic parts out of Aluminum using the investment casting process.

The printable STLs are available here and on GitHub. See the assembly instructions if you want to put together one of your own. 

I often post videos of the metal casting process. Here's the latest one, shot with a virtual reality camera:

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 45.85 MB - 02/11/2017 at 18:56

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Standard Tesselated Geometry - 222.93 kB - 02/11/2017 at 18:53

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Standard Tesselated Geometry - 225.86 kB - 02/11/2017 at 18:53

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Standard Tesselated Geometry - 220.59 kB - 02/11/2017 at 18:53

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Standard Tesselated Geometry - 161.51 kB - 02/11/2017 at 18:53

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  • Assembly happening now!

    Valeriy Novytskyy09/25/2019 at 15:56 4 comments

  • Painting

    Valeriy Novytskyy09/20/2019 at 06:36 0 comments

    This is the last week of painting, next I have assembly and tuning.

  • Done casting parts, onto finishing

    Valeriy Novytskyy08/09/2019 at 19:01 0 comments

    I finished casting all the required parts mid-July and moving onto finishing & painting. So far it's been a month of finishing all the cast parts by using metal filler and modeling primer to sand over imperfections, as well as using a rotary tool to clean up tiny details. I expect much less effort to be required for machined parts. No idea how much time painting will actually take after all the parts are primed & polished.

    In other news, I presented this project to high school students at the Pacific Northwest College of Arts:

    3D Printing to Metal Casting: Making of Elysium Exoskeleton Prop

  • Casting chest & shin plates

    Valeriy Novytskyy07/01/2019 at 15:03 0 comments

    This weekend I made a second attempt at casting chest & shin plates. For the next one I will use thin sprues in addition to thick sprues to prevent parts of the model from breaking off with the sprues.

    Wax parts before dipping to build shells around them:

    First attempt:

    Second attempt:

    Both put together, before cleanup:

    I will make another attempt at casting the chest plate to see if I can get it even cleaner, and then redo one of the shin plates before there wasn't 100% fill.

  • Exoskeleton chest plate 2-part mold

    Valeriy Novytskyy05/20/2019 at 22:21 0 comments

    The last mold required to finish this project! There are some optional parts left to make molds for that I might do if I have time left before the Wasteland Weekend.

  • 3D-printed shin guards re-cast out of rubber

    Valeriy Novytskyy05/14/2019 at 02:30 0 comments

    The past three weeks have been a living hell of trying to cast two large plastic parts with complex geometry and thin edges out of rubber. Today it ends!

    I used SmoothOn Brush-On 40 to make the mold and shore 70 hardness rubber along with a black pigment to cast the parts.

  • More parts cast, sheet metal order complete

    Valeriy Novytskyy04/19/2019 at 23:20 0 comments

    In the past 3 weeks I cast the remaining parts for the spine as well as shock plates/armor that will be attached to boots:

    Just before that I cast two extra parts I was missing before, a shoulder connector with some extreme detail and an unsightly hip connector. One of the parts here is repeated above.

    My sheet metal order of bent spine connectors and arm bracelets came in:

    I decided I might as well make those in 2mm stainless steel after prototyping with paper and cardboard:

  • Last few molds

    Valeriy Novytskyy04/18/2019 at 15:35 0 comments

    Last week I finished two more molds for shin shockplates. The only other "required" part left is the chest plate, one of the biggest and coolest-looking parts of the exoskeleton. There are a bunch of optional parts I would like to cast as a stretch goal, notably the tiny details placed on the hands, the vacuum tube holders with light-up tubes, and some tech gribble for the face to complete the cyber ninja look.

    Fig. 1: Finished making the first part of a two-part mold with 3D-printed model suspended in clay

    Fig 2: Preparing to pour the second part of both two-part molds

    Fig 3: Resulting two-part molds I will use for casting wax positives

    Fig. 4: Resulting wax positives that will be shell-cast by adding 10 layers of ceramic shell and melting the wax out before pouring metal

  • Box Casting & Sheet Metal parts

    Valeriy Novytskyy03/21/2019 at 21:00 0 comments

    I successfully cast the chest plates this fall (see Shell Casting Success), but after many casting attempts on hip bones this winter, I finally ran out of slurry. I can't order more because it would arrive frozen, resulting in permanent chemical damage.

    Issues included areas that cooled too fast, porous surface, and pieces of the mold breaking off prematurely:

    So, I am switching back to box casting. Here's the breakdown of the parts I have left to cast:

    Shell casting with SuspendaSlurry

    • Hip Left
    • Hip Right
    • Chest Base
    • Shin Snockplate Left
    • Shin Shockplate Right

    Box casting with UltraVest

    • Hip Bottom Connector
    • Spine Top
    • Spine Bottom
    • Spine Middle Left
    • Spine Middle Right
    • Foot Upper Shock Plate (2)
    • Foot Shock Plate (2)

    I also started working on polished sheet metal bracelets to attach arm bones without using elastic belts or gauze (like in the movie).

    The prototyping session:

    The parts I uploaded to RSM RapidQuote:

  • Logging temperature and more casting attempts

    Valeriy Novytskyy10/25/2018 at 05:48 0 comments

    I have some mixed news from my attempt this weekend. I got all the data, but the act of observing the temperature and filming combined with more trouble from my regulator caused a decline in casting quality. I suspect it mostly came down to metal that got too hot, thus absorbing more gas from the atmosphere. I also had to move the camera and take laser temp readings, so I didn't remove the mold from the kiln as quickly as last time, and didn't pour as quickly.

    First three attempts on the graph was me messing with camera and lights to try and raise "production values" so I left the crucible in the kiln for too long. The last attempt the crucible was in the kiln for about the right amount of time, but the kiln was over-fed by propane.

    This week I am sick, so next week I will retry all of this and hopefully have some video worth publishing. I took some time to setup lights, and the video quality was significantly better - next time I will already have that experience so I can setup lighting quickly and before doing anything important to the casting process.

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Dan DWRobotics wrote 07/29/2017 at 22:22 point

Very interesting project. I really enjoyed that film. Interesting to see that you are casting your own parts from aluminium. The actual casting part is really difficult, I know because I have tried it. Since you are putting in so much effort into making it from metal, are you not tempted to make some of mechanisms function like a real robotic exoskeleton? With assistive actuation and motors? great project, will follow with interest.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Liam Mason wrote 07/12/2017 at 14:16 point

What grade Aluminium did you cast it from? I'm intending to make my own exoskeleton design. However, I'm not sure on the best choice of Aluminium from the extensive variety available.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Valeriy Novytskyy wrote 07/12/2017 at 14:42 point

I am using this right here (closest to 356 alloy):

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ALUMINUM-INGOTS-43-lbs-26-to-30-ingots-Casting-alloy/182166261652

The quality is a lot better than you would expect - I originally bought this as practice stock, but then realized it's actually top-shelf casting stock sold cheaply :) I get as-cast surfaces that are literally polished with no further work required.

Lastly, I did consult with two mechanical engineers here at the hackerspace (one who works at Intel and one who works in a local machine shop), and they both pointed me to 356.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Liam Mason wrote 07/12/2017 at 14:47 point

Thank you for the help :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Valeriy Novytskyy wrote 07/12/2017 at 19:20 point

You are casting, right? The alloy is completely different for CNC/machining, 6061.

See https://www.metalsupermarkets.com/7-things-consider-choosing-aluminum-grade/

  Are you sure? yes | no

Liam Mason wrote 07/13/2017 at 00:45 point

Ah right. No I haven't decided yet on whether I would cast or CNC/machine it out, while CNC is much more expensive I don't really have the appropriate tools/location to cast. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Liam Mason wrote 07/13/2017 at 01:12 point

I've also been looking around for months but can't seem to find those type of pistons/hydraulics used in the joins of your exoskeleton. Is there a specific name or site I've missed? Or did you get those custom manufactured? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Valeriy Novytskyy wrote 07/13/2017 at 03:53 point

I manufactured the pistons, see page 6 of my RPF build thread:

https://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=212832&page=6

...through middle of page 7:

https://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=212832&page=7

I don't regret learning how to use a metal lathe, but in retrospect this was the wrong decision for the project. Lathe was $500, tube stock I ordered was around $500 as well, and I spent 2.5 months, about 45 hours per week, machining until late night and coming home each day looking like a coal miner. Then I spent another $100 taking them to a painting plant not to mention I had to wake up in the middle of the night to make it back in time for work.

Knowing what I know now, I would say either low-tech them if you are going for appearance and use a convenient size of pipe (2 diff. diameters cut & inserted into each other), or post for help on a CAD forum to learn how to make drawings and submit them to a machine shop (and have them do high-detail matte/gloss indoor electro-coating). Price will likely be the same for machine shop as doing it yourself, BUT you get to spend all that time hanging out with friends instead of machining and crying :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

joe wrote 04/04/2017 at 15:10 point

So with these files being online.   I want to ask first.  Is this design an open source design.  I think it is amazing looking and would like to make one myself.  I  don't think i can come close to getting this level of detail.  Also this suit looks amazing!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Valeriy Novytskyy wrote 04/08/2017 at 15:22 point

Prop replicas are never completely open source, since Sony owns the right to the movie and all props (you are always a voicemail away from Cease and Desist). However, all the files have been created from scratch and a few parts differ from on-screen appearance (thus it's not an exact copy) so as long as nobody's crazy enough to sell it they will likely let it slide.

  Are you sure? yes | no

ConsultingJoe.com wrote 02/26/2017 at 14:50 point

what 3D printer did you use

  Are you sure? yes | no

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