Saturday, January 14, 2012

Notes on spacesuit helmets

Generally speaking there are three basic kinds of face-readable spacesuit helmet designs. 

1. There's the "bubble" helmet like the Apollo suits had, with variations like the helmets in Alien.

I do love the clunkiness of this particular suit design but I expect it's rather expensive because the Lexan dome is going to cost more than our budget.

2. The second main kind of design I do not like because it's very visually distorting and makes it hard to read the faces of the actors. I'll call this the "Firefly" design. 

3. The third design is what we might call the "Outbreak" design. Three flat lexan panels instead of a curved piece of plastic for the visor is likely vastly less expensive to manufacture.

The big cost issue is the visor itself. I haven't been able to source reasonably-priced bubbles. Flat pieces are likely to be the cost-effective way to go. 

The other big issue is the method by which the helmet will actually attach to the body. Typically a pair of rings are used (like in the Apollo design). Another way to go is to make the helmet attached to the carapace which would then have the suit itself pulled up over the carapace -- similar to the way dive suits sometimes are made.

We're very price-conscious. When we say the budget for all three is $500 it really is $500 for all three of them complete. ;-)

So those are our thoughts regarding spacesuit helmets right now.


Jeff said...

Your pics, they are not loading, which makes me sad. How am I to re-post your thoughts widdout dem pictures widdem? Please to be reloading.

Andrew Bellware said...

It should be better now. Try it. You'll like it.

Jeff said...


Lindsay Stewart said...

once upon a time, in a shop class far far away....

used to make domes, bowls and rudimentary forms out of acrylic using a really low tech method. it required two pieces of plywood, four bolts, a drill, a saw, a bicycle pump, your plastic sheet of choice and an oven. a more complex variation would require another piece of wood and longer bolts.

bottom piece of wood has a hole drilled in the centre, to which the air pump is connected. the bolts are pushed through and into the sky awaiting the next piece of wood. that second piece of wood is cut to the shape you want to extrude, circle for bubble bowl being easiest.

the plastic gets heated in the oven until it is soft enough to deform but not so soft that it slumps all over the damn place, trial and error!

once sufficiently heated the plastic is placed on piece of wood no. 1. piece of wood no. 2 with the shapely hole cut out is then threaded on to the bolts and secured. at this point the air pump is engaged, nice and steady, not too slow or fast. you will stand in awe of your own martial prowess in the presence of a plastic bubble. this would provide you with low cost 'firefly' helmet material.

the trickier version would require the third piece of wood to be mounted on the threaded rods at whatever distance your design specs. when the bubble rises with increased air pressure, it meets the magical third piece wood and flattens out. this gives you the opportunity to create something akin to the 'outbreak' hat. if you have the tools in the shop you could create a groovy and original hybrid.

i shuts up now.

Kangas said...

Have you thought about, instead of using one piece of plastic, do the squarish 3-side one, but use mylar(a thin plastic) stretched across. On the two verticle edges, maybe put in a line of lights to disguise a support(and also help light your actor's face). Dunno, just a thought. Not sure it would work, but it would be cheap if you could make it work.

Kangas said...

And in case I wasn't making sense, here's my pisspoor photoshop mockup of vaguely what I was talking about, using led strip lighting.

Heck, you could even run them across the top and bottom.

Andrew Bellware said...

psa: that's interesting about the oven and blowing air. I never would have thought about that. I grew up in a welding shop so nobody ever touches plastic (well, we have great big sheets of lexan but all anybody does is cut that.) That bubble - making technique could definitely work.
Kangas: I'm very interested in using fake structural pieces rigged up to lights. Or real structural pieces faked to be light holders.

Tim Shrum said...

Indy Mogul had a spacesuit and helmet how-to for under fifty bucks a few years back.

Hope that helps a bit.

Andrew Bellware said...

That how-to is pretty cool. Of course, the problem STILL is getting the visor right! ;-)

Robert said...
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