Thank God for Books. I promise you I'd've gone stark raving mad if I didn't have books or movies to keep me sane. Cheap Vacations to Better Places. While I'm currently thumbing my way through Deke! the autobiography of Donald K Slayton, a pivotal member of NASA since it's foundation, the one book I find myself returning two or three times a year is Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. Ready Player One is a novel about a boy and his quest to find Halliday's Easter Egg inside the Ultra-HD Virtual Reality Simulator called the OASIS. There are other people hunting for the egg and the media has dubbed them "Gunters" (Egg Hunters - eg G [h]unters). I'm planning on going to my first ever "Nerd" convention dressed as my interpretation of my avatar at the Final Battle as if this universe was one we lived now. (I say "nerd" convention because I have yet to decide which convention I'm going to... probably wondercon) 

if you haven't read the book, stop reading this and GO GET IT. Wil Wheaton (of The Last Starfighter fame) reads the Audible version. Audible has that free-30-days-and-keep-the-book thing. Go.

Gearing up for the Major Battle, most Gunters are armed to the teeth. Therefore, so will I. I recently acquired a 3d printer and wanted to dig in, but where do I start? I've downloaded maybe a hundred models since I got into 3d printing, but most of those are "Spock's Cooker Knob" and "Raspberry Pi Zero PCB/Board Reference" Useful things, but not weaponry. I got around to the idea of making a Shoulder Cannon from Predator (1987). I have only seen two of the predator movies. Predator and Alien vs Predator. I had gotten my hands on the entire alien franchise through AVPR (the latest movie, at the time) and was bingeing them all. I was about halfway through AVP and realized I had not a single one of the Predator movies made before this one. I sat through the movie like a good boy (Loved it, but had some questions that turned out to be fairly commonplace) and ran out to get Predator. As I finished the movie, I had solidified the knowledge that one day I would own a shoulder cannon.

So where do I start? By the time I decided to make the cannon, I had seen two different designs. After some comparison I decided to go with what hooked me and I went with The AvP Cannon design. Canon or not, and it's definitely a cannon, I went digging for source material,  and went to my 3rd most visited site (behind YouTube and Amazon, coming in first and second, respectively.) The Replica Prop Forum. (hereby the RPF) Whenever I get into the idea of making something from a movie that's not clearly started it's life out as a real gun/car/airplane of some kind, I go to the RPF first. (If it is one of those three, I start on, F/D/P respectively) I think I've found... maybe, maybe two really esoteric movie props/details that had no threads on the RPF; but that kinda thing is really obscure, like... what brand of tires were on the Spinners from Blade Runner (1982)? I fault nobody for not knowing or obsessing over that kinda stuff... Anyways, I ran to the RPF for info, and began perusing the Genreal Categories, then I discovered The Predatorium. Like The 405th and The Dented Helmet, The Predatorium is a Predator-specific (but not exclusive) forum built by/for fans of the series. i immediately began digging for any resources I could on the cannon; and one of the threads mentioned a Thingiverse model. Lo and behold, that was a great starting point. This "Predator Shoulder Cannon" from 'makerslabscz' is an excellent platform that for sure saved me hours of modeling, but will need some additional, fairly minor work. I got a little overzealous and printed the cannon at 100% scale:

Nice. What's next? While perusing the site, I found a thread for a "Barebones Head Tracking" setup by user PredatoRay31 (His username makes me happier than it should. Goddammit Barb.) He used little more than an Arduino Uno, MPU6050, and some servos. I used the canon I had previously printed out and used it as a test unit. I hopped on and ordered two 6050's for $5.06 a piece along with some micro servo motors. I wired everything up according to this guide on and got things running. I only soldered the included right angle male header onto one of the sensors, as the other will be hard wired into the final system or used for testing if I let the smoke out.  Here's the testing mess:

Here's what's in the testing mess:
Arduino Uno
MPU 6050
Laser Diodes
Colored LEDs
Servo Motors

Once I got this working I set about making it smaller and lighter. I opted for an Arduino Pro Mini variant. the one i bought has the headers already installed, so that makes prototyping easier. Again, I bought two for $4/unit at my local MicroCenter, both to have a backup, and to have a dedicated prototyping option. Here's the same setup with the Mini:


Now, I could have gone with an Adafruit Flora Style programmer, but I don't sew well, and they were more expensive. And I had these on hand from an earlier project that I ended up using an Adafruit Trinket for.  The only major differences between an Uno and a Pro Mini are size, number of I/O, and the fact that the Mini requires an FTDI adapter to connect it to your computer. I don't know how far back they go, but I know the Arduino IDE has had the option for at least a year now. 

Everything works wonderfully. Time to hard-wire things. for me, Step 1 is always designing and testing the mounting options. i'm going to be placing this inside of a hat, so I started by designing the direct mounts for the Micro and 6050:

Next i measured myself for my hat, and ordered one. This was easier said than done. I'm one of those "half-perfectionists" where certain things can be bright purple, but as long as they get the job done, fine by me. This is not one of those. A quick peruse on told me this wasn't about to be an easy product to source. After watching Last Crusade a couple of times (I'd settled on the Crusade version over Raiders because I'm building a lot of this costume on "Firsts.") and looking into the Adventurebilt Hat Company,  then waking up from my dreaming and future planning, I found They seemed to serve a higher quality hat in general. After perusing their stock I settled on this one. It appears to have the correct overall everything. My only current (yet-to-be-delivered) grief is the "official licensing" tag on the side of the bow. not a huge deal, but not in the movie.


I can't continue modeling the controller mounts without the actual piece, so I moved to the cannon:

First thing I did was scale the original file up to 120% and cut the sucker in half. I printed a bare shell of this for size reference:

Happy with the results, I cut off the Side-Turret-light-thing, printed that as-is in black ABS at 0.1mm layer height and 20% infill. I exported the other parts to an Inventor-editable file format to begin mining away at it. I needed to mount the pan and tilt motors in the right place, so cavities were made available for those, along with the necessary mounts for some internal gearing. I also cut out the holes for the Turret to plug into. I have a feeling Convention centers don't like lasers coming out of people's costumes, so I'm making two turrets with some registration marks for hot-swapping. Laser/led power will come from a DC power jack and plug nestled into the model, there's probably a better way to do this, but I digress... the parts were printed out and assembled carefully. I modeled some screw bosses to make future service easier. The caps will be painted a slightly different gray to make them simpler to find.  I haven't printed this version yet, as I've already printed out the stock halves for this project. I'm not as thrilled about these as I would like to be, but they work well for this specific project, plus that means i can modify the updated model with real world testing. This is more or less all I can do with the electronics right now, so Stick Around for an update on that; for now, let's continue testing

Fun fact: I left my testing rig assembled for a couple of trips back and forth to work to save time and just jump into programming and somehow fried both servos... but only the servos. 

I honestly have no idea how this happened. there was no "loose" power supplies of any kind in the briefcase, so how? I guess we'll never know. How about we mount the shoulder mount? How I was going to attach this thing was an interesting mental road to travel, so I figured I'd start doing something else I hadn't done before: Foamsmithing. 

My go to A/V dictionary for this was none other than Punished Props and Evil Ted Smith. Both parties have extensive YouTube channels and are exceptionally versed in foamsmithing, Bill tends to do a little extra with the non-foam fabrication as well. Bill Doran, CEO of Punished Props, has a portion of his website dedicated to free blueprints. i hopped on there knowing he had a full set of Skyrim Steel armor available for download, and found a lone Shoulder template available. i decided to start here and then make the steel armor portion later. 

Step the first was printing out the template, then a trip to the local Harbor-for-Eight for a pack of floor mats and a heat gun. Back at home base I laid out the template and rough-cut the foam to size. Utilizing the power of smaller pieces, I followed the template as closely as I could, two glue ups later: I had my rough shoulder. 

This was a great learning experience and a wonderful way to start learning how to work with foam. The template isn't quite as fantasy as i'd like, but it's also highly unfinished. I've been thinking about my costume and instead of the kinda-generic "hammered metal" pauldron I'm going to attempt to replicate Aech's (honest, I'm assuming it's Aech's avatar we see shooting Freddy Kruger with a Halo Assault Rifle) shoulder we see in the teaser trailer from July. 

On a short side note, I may have seen the trailer shortly before a doctors appointment and he was curious as to why my blood pressure was so high... He's not as excited for the movie as I am... My god... the detail...

Anyways. I'm planning on having a bandolier to hold several of my other references, (ooh... dammit brain now I want a properly-sized Chewie one...) Who's design is coming later, and I figure what better way to hide the buckle than with some shoulder armor? This -initially- seems like a simple task which means it will take six months.

So they released a new poster a few hours ago. I'm now sold that the bald-headed Darth-Maul-Gut-halving giant is Aech:


Yeah... whole new level of excitement. oh my god. did i ,iss tat the wholetime.?>QQQ i need to re-watch the trailers...  I'm planning a 

UPDATE: 2-27-18

So the hat doesn't fit right... Disappointing as hell, but what can I do? And it doesn't fit for the dumbest reason: the dent in the top of the hat, hits my head before it seats right. It's also more brown than I initially expected. I'm running a little sidewards with this project as it is, so we're changing it up a bit. I'm returning the hat and buying a denim jacket instead. I'm not going for a whole "Parzival" costume, but maybe, someone that he may "routinely" (at least for Wade's definition of routinely) go to for help on a quest or arena fight when Art3mis or Aech aren't available. I can dream at least. Regardless, we're swapping out the Indy Hat for my Wayne's World baseball cap. the parts are slim enough, I just have some fancier modeling work for the brackets, and I have to re-locate the battery pack into the shoulder or the bandolier. 

Speaking of battery packs, I modeled two so far, and which one I use all depends on which mounting location I go with. I save almost every lithium battery I come across, knowing I'll use them for one project or another, and I have two sets of cell phone batteries that I've selected for this project. The first set came from a E-waste recycling dump that a friend of mine gave to me to take care of, as there;s a drop off location not far from my house. I enjoy them as i get to raid whatever I please out of them. These batteries fit a ______ cell phone, and are nice and small. the other set were an ebay impulse buy from a while ago. they fit a Samsung Admire SCH-R720 cell phone. and are sold as a set of 2 batteries and the wall charger for $2.99 USD. I bought a couple sets because you can almost fit them anywhere. I modeled a couple of holders for them.

The holes will need to be enlarged at some point, but they are modeled for use with short sections of guitar strings. The specific one I'm using is an acoustic, no-name bag, bronze wound B string. I have some old nickel wound electric strings, but they don't like to solder all that well. the bronze solders a little worse than your run of the mill brass, but is perfectly suitable for this kind of application, and is more than capable of pulling decent current out of the battery. plus the guitar string's steel core is essentially a spring. so it can be flexed enough to ensure proper electrical contact. 

UPDATE: 04-03-2018

So... Ready Player One is a Great movie and you would be a damn fool not to see it in theaters. At least once... I went about half as dressed up as I wanted to be because Life got in the way. Regardless, We press onward!

Once I gathered all of the parts back together I worked on re-modeling the connecting linkage all the way down to the base. I needed to have a solid method of moving the arm back and forth. I didn't have any servos small enough to fit into the arm, and I couldn't figure out how to control the angle from the inside of the arm, so i decided to modify the entire setup:

Those four pieces got turned into this:

Most of these pieces are split in order to allow for a pair of bicycle shift cables to operate inside them. I have to lift very little weight so I could probably get away with some fishing line, and maybe we'll take a look at that in the future, as the modifications necessary would be relatively simple. The only major issue I can see is I use the cable to push the model as well as pull it. I was able to get all of these parts printed up within a single 12 hour printing session. Some of these pieces would be far better suited to an SLA printing style, but I don't have that at the moment, although there are a couple in the sub-$1k range that I may acquire in the near future.