Operation Meteor: Part 5

As the deadline for ‘con gets closer, we find ourselves crunching hard to get the details for this suit out. Construction is now nearly complete; we can start sealing and painting certain parts, but it’ll take a lot more prep than usual since we plan to hold this armor to a higher standard and actually enter a competition with it this year.

We left off last time with our first test-fit of the wings – they successfully went up and down, but the wings themselves needed some finer adjustments to fit just right.

Aside from straight up cutting length out of them because they were too long, the wings also had the pressing problem of flexing and bending forwards when worn, in large part due to the foam’s inherent softness and the sheer length of the pieces.

Our solution is to add a steel bar that runs down the exterior of the wings to hold their shape, bent at the top to attach to the metal bars that run to the backpack.

Steel support bar is riveted to the aluminum frame bars that run to the backpack and actuator unit.

We also decided that we wanted a wider and higher wingspan when the actuator pushed them up, so we moved our pivot points inwards on the backplate. This meant the rails that the pivot points slid on also had to be cut and extended.

Test fit with the revised wings. They look much less cape-y now. The sub-wings also aren’t in which is why they look a tad small.

Wings up. The adjusted pivot points make the angle a bit more aggressive, though it’s hard to tell here since it’s not actually maxed out in this photo – there are parts at the very bottom colliding with the actuator, so it’ll go higher than this in its final form.

Even with the steel reinforcement bar though, the wings are still kinking forward slightly. We figured kinking the aluminum frame bar backwards would mitigate that issue.

The idea was to cut a triangle out of the bar and rivet a piece of scrap metal in to maintain structure.

While my partner slaved away at getting the wings to work, I was left with assembling the other accessory – Wing’s iconic buster rifle.

The rifle’s sheer proportional size as it scales to the actual Gundam is actually ridiculous – nearly as tall as the suit itself. Naturally, translating this into a life-size prop will see issues with practicality.

The core rifle shape is simple enough, but take a closer look at the original design and it suddenly becomes a lot more tiresome to create out of sheets of foam, given how literally every feature must be built out in 3D.

Cardboard template for cutting a panel line into the barrel.

Just the tip.

The handle will be a simple PVC pipe inserted into the body and secured with epoxy and hot glue.

Given how long the rifle is going to be (about 5.5ft), it’s going to be difficult to lug it around all day at the Expo and hold it up via just the PVC handle at the far back. Even though the entire thing is made out of foam and weighs very little for its size, it’s still hilariously unwieldy. As such, a solution: buckle straps built into the butt of the rifle, intended to strap around the user’s forearm.

This then makes waving this giant thing around nearly effortless. The strap is a bit of an eyesore given how it’s exposed and goes over the forearm armor, but we’ll take that over not being able to hold the gun up at all any day.

The beam canisters were built by folding a trapezoid together, then cutting the ends straight and unfolding it to get the proper template shapes.

This then allowed me to get the proper tapered barrels that I needed.

Details carved, canisters in.

The shield’s handle is also PVC, held in via epoxy.

Getting fancy with our hand units this year – instead of our usual method of just gluing regular foam bits onto only the top of the knuckles, this year we decided to use thin 2mm craft foam to form more complete enclosures.

Mouth slits cut out for the first time, in the hope that it’ll help with the wearer’s breath always fogging up the lenses in the eyes.

So, at this point a lot of parts are just about ready for paint – their construction is finished, but we resolved to go the extra mile this year and really properly prep each part before sending it off. This means going in with Kwik Seal and filling in any seams we see, or taking the Dremel and grinding messy bits out.

Some parts, however, are beyond saving. Like these legs.

The seams, gaps, valleys, bumps, and awkward texturing proved to be too much to simply cover up with heat sealing and plasti-dip. We practically drowned them in Kwik Seal, but it did little good.

That nastiness ain’t going away. A lot of these problems come from the way the legs were constructed – I built them proper at first, but they underwent modification after modification to get the right look and curves out of them, resulting in some Frankenstein madness that gave us parts that really never had any right to actually fit together.

In desperation, I turned to the dark side – Bondo glazing putty. There’s a reason why we don’t use the likes of Bondo to fill or seal seams in our work – it’s sand-able, which is good, but it cracks easily, especially on a soft and bendy material like foam. As such, we use Kwik Seal, an adhesive caulk that’s flexible and bends with the foam.

Since I had the stuff, I decided to use it for some other nasty textures on parts like the helmet too.

Hit the affected areas with primer to see how the Bondo turned out after sanding.

They’re…not okay. In the past, I think I could’ve closed one eye, done a handstand, and spun around 3 times in order to overlook this kind of texturing, but we’re planning on entering this suit in Anime Expo’s illustrious Masquerade competition this year, which means such ugliness really won’t fly when we have actual judges looking over our cosplay.

The Bondo is peeling up when sanded sometimes, and still isn’t succeeding in filling in deep valleys. We’ll have to find another solution for the legs.

All the other parts getting the white dip treatment.

The backpack unit went through several redesign phases as we struggled to get it positioned. Lining it up with the front of the torso meant that it had to ride high, but doing so would leave the bottom of the actuator exposed. In the end we had to compromise by just building a non-canonical black box beneath the thrusters to hide the motor.

The drill battery we’ll be using to power the actuator will also be hidden inside.

Proper test fit of the new wings fully assembled.

They’re still not at their max height thanks to a part of the bar still colliding with the actuator and digging into the battery holster, but with the sub-wings on this gives us a good idea of the spread we’re aiming for.

With the suit and weapons done and the wing mechanism mostly sorted out, all that’s left from here on out is paint, lighting, and filling in the little details. As relieving as it is to know that construction is finished though, it’s still merely a minor consolation given that masking and painting Hell is waiting for us just before the finish line.

 

Read on the rest of the build here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 6

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