Operation Meteor: Part 3

Don’t be fooled – he’s wearing the armor, but it’s held together by tape right now – none of it is actually strapped and ready for paint yet. We still have quite a few kinks to work out. Wing has turned out to be the most difficult Gundam to work with in terms of its outrageous proportions – you’d think after we’d built more sophisticated suits like Quanta that this would be a walk in the park, but unfortunately that isn’t quite the case.

Part of our main objective this time is to get the feet squared away – we’ll be using the same revolutionary heel system that we used with our previous suit.

We had a four inch boost with the heels last year – this time we decided to get a little ambitious and increase the steepness of the slope a bit. Five inches will be livable, right?

The actual feet core that are made of wood are slightly more refined this year – our good buddy actually gave us access to his family’s machine shop so we could properly cut the angles needed to assemble the blocs, rather than having to Bondo/glue/nail them together at improper angles as we did before.

Even with five inches of extra height, we ultimately decided that it wasn’t enough – the Wing’s stupidly stretched lower body design demands more. We weren’t about to increase the slope of the heel any more – so of course we add height by just adding blocks underneath.

These weren’t fun to wear last year. They’ll be even less fun this year.

Securing every connection point with wood glue, Gorilla Glue, and screws because the last thing we need is these supports exploding during the ‘con and resulting in an actual self-destruct sequence for our Gundam.

We’re helpless and hopeless when we’re left on our own with no machine shop support because we only have the most basic and primitive of power tools at our ready disposal. The Dremel cutting wheel wasn’t cutting the wood we needed, so my partner (who really should switch to an engineering major after this feat) improvised and used the power drill to separate the pieces instead.

As always, we’ll be attaching an actual shoe to the wood platforms for my buddy to wear.

We normally just use whatever leftover beat-up shoes my partner has lying around and sacrifice them to the cosplay gods, but for once he didn’t have any of those on-hand, so a pair of dirt-cheap $15 Wal-Mart shoes would have to do.

Epoxied and screwed onto the platforms.

Grip tape (the kind used on the edges of staircases) added to the bottoms.

Test fitting armor fitment so far with the shoes in place. The lower legs are extraordinarily long because they have to be, so they sit a lot lower than we’re used to.

This is the sizing needed to fill the armor on the human body given our six inch height boost right now, but it doesn’t look right. The front skirts are too small compared to the torso, and with how low the legs sit, there’s no room to fit the feet at their proper size.

Ultimately, we decided that there was no way we could fit everything on the human form with just the height we had. This means the feet needed to get pushed even higher – more wood!

Adding two more blocks to boost the height ultimately means the feet are getting really heavy. We attempted to drill out some weight-saving holes, but it really doesn’t do much.

3.38 pounds per unit. Compared to our previous way of doing feet (without the heel method), this is really good, but compared to the lightweight heels we used last year that didn’t have the extra height-boosting blocks, these are excessive.

We’re dedicated to getting Wing’s proportions right, no matter how outlandish they may be, so that means extending the front skirts, even if we really have no room to put them.

They’re supposed to be as long or nearly as long as the torso unit. We got that wish.

New skirt size versus the old one.

We also decided that the center skirt section was too wide, so we took a strip out of it and reassembled it a bit more narrow.

Getting an idea for the suit’s look with the updated front skirts and higher standing position. We won’t really know how it comes together until all the other armor fills it out too though.

With the feet height and core units more or less finalized by now, we can move on to dealing with our main suit gimmick – for the first time ever in our cosplay, we’ll actually have motorized parts – the wings!

The key to success will be a standard four-foot linear actuator, mounted inside the backpack that will push and pull our Wing’s wings up and down.

We were concerned about finding a compact 12v power source at first, but thankfully through some lucky coincidence quickly realized that the rechargeable battery to my power drill happened to be 12 volts, and is smaller than the power bank we used to run Quanta’s chest lights last year.

So, the wing system won’t actually be very complicated – we won’t be using strings or pulleys as many other cosplayers do. Instead, we’re starting with two aluminum L-bent bars, which will be cut and drilled in order to bolt to the end of the extending arm of our actuator.

The foundation of our wings.

To mount the system, we needed something stronger than just the usual cardboard or foam, since the actuator and metal is going to be one of the heaviest parts of the suit. Thankfully, our buddy with the machine shop came through again – apparently they just have back-sized pieces of scrap aluminum plates lying around, that we were free to scavenge.

A little cutting and we got our back-plate that we could mount the actuator assembly to.

The idea is to drill some pivot points in the edges of the plate, that our metal bars would attach to via open rails – this supports the bars and keeps them on a linear route as the actuator pushes them up and down.

Unfortunately, we were left on our own to cut the rail openings in the metal bars on our own, so as always we had to make do and improvise with our apish tools. Having these openings be as smooth as possible along their edges is incredibly important, lest the bolt that runs through them catch on any jagged cuts.

Actuator mounted to the back plate.

Nuts and washers were used as spacers to keep the bars at a steady level.

What the final assembly looks like. This is probably the most metal we’ve ever used in any of our suits, and the most sophisticated mechanism to boot.

We were still having some issues with the rails catching the nuts that ran through them – had to go in with a file to smooth them down some.

Demonstration of the mechanism in action. Incredibly simple, but it’ll get the job of moving wings done.

With the feet extended as much as they have been (I think we’re looking at an eight inch boost in height right now), I’m finally able to fit the feet armor beneath the lower legs.

To play it really safe though, I still had to modify the lower legs and make them slightly shorter, in order to ensure we won’t ever be getting armor collision at the ankles.

Shortened the toe area a bit so they’re not as long.

This foot design still isn’t nearly as tall as it is on the actual suit, but at least it’s only mildly compressed, and the proportions still look right.

Cardboard used to reinforce the hollow bottoms, since the toes tend to get destroyed pretty quickly from just walking around the Expo, as we’ve seen in previous years.

The ankle armor will be built as direct attachments to the shoes.

I had them flare a bit too far out at first – looked better after I brought them in.

Sideskirts being built – they’re also stupidly giant, like the front skirts.

Due to all the sizing issues we’ve had, we were impatient to finally get the armor on my partner’s body and see how it’ll all come together – and it’s a problem. The image on the right has the original smaller front skirts, while the one on the left has the revised larger ones. Neither looks right.

With the larger skirts, the upper body looks proportionate, since the skirts are sized appropriately compared to the torso. However, the legs now look tiny in comparison, and nearly tucked and hidden away.

With the smaller skirts, the legs don’t look as silly, but the skirts look tiny compared to the upper body, and the torso looks disproportionately long. There’s no winning with either setup as it is, so we ultimately decided the only remedy is to revise the torso – it’ll be remade with more squat proportions, even if it means we’ll end up hanging the skirts around where my partner’s stomach is.

Having to entirely redo the chest isn’t something we counted on, but at least it’s something we have time for this year since we thankfully thought ahead and started the armor much earlier than usual. As I mentioned before, this is the first time we’ve had so many sizing issues and proportion challenges with a suit design – but I was at least partially expecting it, as most of the Wing-series suits always sported unusually long lower bodies.

 

Read on the rest of the build here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

 

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