Friday, October 26, 2012

Sci-Fi Body Armor

My buddy Mike sent me a link on youtube a few days ago about this guy that made body armor out of foam floor tiles.  I was blown away! In all my web searches for new and interesting ways to make props, I was surprised I never ran into Indy Mogul before.  So, this posting will be about my attempts at making similar body armor.  If making body armor like this is something you'd be interested in doing, I strongly suggest you look at their youtube webpage by clicking here.

My first step was to purchase the materials.  Luckily for me, I had pretty much everything I needed except the floor tiles.  These interlocking foam floor tiles can be found at Lowes for $20 for a pack of 4 - 24 "x 24" tiles.  Another tool you might want to get is a soldering iron which has a knife attachment.  This can also be found at Lowes for around $16.

Next I drew my templates for the front and back of the chest armor.
I purposely did not make mine exactly like theirs - but it is very similar. The basic shapes are about the same though.  Next, I printed my templates onto large card stock and cut them out.

Luckily for me, I have access to a printer that can print 12x18 size pages.  I realize that most people don't, so you can print several 8x11 size sheets and tape them together.

For both the front and back I only cut out half of the shapes.  I did this because both sides will by symmetrical, so once I trace one side of the template, all I need to do is flip it and trace the other side.
Next, I marked out the templates onto my foam sheets.

And then cut everything out.

I put the pieces together to see how everything fits - but didn't glue anything in place yet.

To cut these I used my soldering iron with the knife attachment.  If you don't have one of these, an X-acto knife will work just takes a little longer.

I also made a 'spine' out of the interlocking ends of the tiles.

Keep the usable scrap pieces.  These will probably make interesting elements on the armor later. 

Next, I cut out the armor details from my original templates.

I did this so that I can trace the exact positioning onto the foam.  With the traces on the foam, I can then glue the proper pieces in place.

Once the positioning was marked, I laid my pieces in place to make sure everything fit.

The next step was to start shaping the foam.  I used a heat gun and slowly moved it up and down on the parts of the armor that I wanted bent.  To best see how this is done, watch the Indy Mogul video by clicking the link at the beginning of this blog entry.

Once the armor had the shape I wanted, I used the same method of using the heat gun, this time with the elements for the armor.  

When everything was shaped correctly I hot glued it all together.

I repeated this process for the back of the armor.

For fun, I placed my armor with one of my helmets to see how it looked.

The styles don't match, but it none the less looks cool.
Next, I folded some card stock and cut out some shapes for shoulder armor templates.

And did the same for my forearm.

Here is the template on my arm.

I drew out the new templates on some more foam.

I also made shapes to connect my armor from both sides, which would be connected by velcro.
I did not take pictures of this part, and I am kind of glad I didn't.  My connectors did not work well at all. 

In the end I scrapped the connectors, and I also wound up doing some trimming on my armor.
I'm also having trouble deciding if I like the Armor upside-down, or right-side-up.

Decisions, decisions...

With the failure of the Velcro and side connectors, I decided to build shoulder straps instead and have them fastened with nuts and bolts instead of Velcro.

I bought various sized Bolts, Nuts and Washers from Home Depot.
I also found some Velcro Straps, which have to work better than the little patches of Velcro I originally bought.

Before I go on cutting more foam that may or may not work, I decided to remake my templates out of card stock and test how my shoulder templates will fit with the front & back.

I tried this on and it worked reasonably well, so then I proceeded.
Not wanting to waste my supply of foam, I reused the failed pieces of foam that I had glued to the sides of the armor.  I trimmed them down with my new shoulder templates.  You can see where the velcro once was, and may I say - they were tough to rip off.  Ample amounts of hot glue works well with this foam.

But despite how well hot glue works, I decided to fasten the pieces together with my assortment of nuts and bolts. First I drilled a hole using my screwdriver and a machine screw.  I would imaging any screw would do.

Next I inserted the bolt with a washer through the front, and screwed in another washer and a nut on the back.  Unfortunately my bolts are too long, so they will have to do until I get shorter ones.

I assembled both shoulders to the front and back.
The nuts and bolts hold up very well.  

I wore it for a while to test how well they would hold up.  I'm pleased to say they did a pretty good job.

After a while, I added the second set of shoulder armor that I made a template for earlier.  I bolted these in as well.  My girlfriend then threw it on, with a helmet too!
It's a bit big on her, but cool nonetheless!

And speaking of big - this armor is a bit on the large side.  I am glad that it is pieced together with nuts and bolts because I am having trouble storing this somewhere where it won't get damaged.

Next, I added new sides to the armor and bolted them in.
I threw on a helmet and the armor and had my girlfriend take a picture.

Getting better!
I'll have to make the sides a little tighter on me.  Again, I'm happy I went with bolts, so it will be easy to resize.  After the resize, I cut more of the interlocking pieces and added them to the shoulders and middle connectors.

I also took a bunch of screws and screwed them into the front.

I still have a ways to go before I have a full body of armor, but this blog entry definitely shows the versatility of the materials at use here.  I definitely plan on using the interlocking foam tiles on future projects.
And when I get around to adding more to this armor, I will definitely post it on this blog.

Be sure to go to and check out Indy Mogul's many tutorials.

1 comment:

  1. Timbo - great stuff! Marvellous build as always. And a girlfriend who's into props! Keep her!