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June 28, 2008

I am Iron Man

When I saw the new Iron Man movie, I instantly knew I had to build some part of the suit (I like to wear gadgets). Luckily for me, I found an old hard drive that had just the pieces I needed for building a repulsor-like LED flashlight.

(This picture comes from IDontLikeYouInThatWay.com)


To build a very powerful LED flashlight mounted on my hand palm that would turn on and produce brighter light as I move my hand back (and the angle between my hand and my arm decreases and gets roughly to 90°). Also, the flashlight should be comfortable, allow my hand to move freely, be very sturdy, and of course look as much as possible like the repulsor Tony Starks wears on the picture above.

For those who have not guessed yet, this is what I was building.

  • An old (aluminum) heat sink (from a broken computer monitor I believe)
  • A long and thin aluminum piece from a copy machine
  • A street cleaner brush bristle (like the one used to build a Bogota Rake)
  • An aluminum disk and a thick aluminum ring (they were the holder and separator for the plates on a very old hard drive)
  • 6 5 mm and one 10 mm ultra bright LEDs
  • A linear potentiometer (from an old sound system equalizer)
  • A switch
  • An old laptop battery
  • Some cable, some female and male headers, heat shrink tubbing, a paperclip, a plastic cable tie, and lots of love.
How to do it

Since my materials are pretty specific and it is quite unlikely that some reader may get the exact same set of materials, I won't give a detailed description of how it is built, but rather how I did some of the key parts of this contraption.

Shaping and shining the metal:
Since the heat sinks and the other peace of metal I found were not flat (they had many 90° bends) I hammered them on a piece of thick steel until they became perfectly flat. Then, they were sanded with a fine sand paper and polisher until they where nice and shiny with some tell wool (the kind used for cleaning). I always sand and rub the metal along the same direction so it gets a consistent brushed look .

I bent the metal with my hand and worked the bends with a heavy steel rod so they are round and smooth instead of straight edges.

Linking the hand and wrist pieces:
The wrist and hand pieces are linked together bu a street cleaner brush bristle. The bristle is bent in a "Z" shape and goes into a hole at center top of the hand piece. The other end of the bristle is slightly bent upwards (so it doesn't go into my arm when I move my hand) and goes trough a wire tie loop on the top of the wrist. A paperclip is soldered into this end and is connected to the linear potentiometer. The I heated and Inserted the clip into the plastic potentiometer tab, this creates a nice and strong link. The paperclip provides flexibility and allows the and to move beyond the range of motion of the potentiometer.

I'm very proud of this link since it is flexible, robust, and is rather easy to build.


I used seven LEDs connected in parallel (since they have roughly the same voltage and current needs). They fit nicely into the seven holes in my metal disk. In order to avoid the LED leads to short when in contact with the metal, I applied a thick layer of transparent nail polish to the metal plate previous to inserting the LEDs. The nail polish works very well as an insulator and is, for all practical purposes, invisible.

The LEDs are connected in series to the potentiometer which in turn is connected to a regular resistor. The regular resistor is used to limit the current and set the appropriate voltage for the LEDs and the potentiometer determines the light intensity. You can determine the appropriate value for the resistor by using this LED calculator.

I hope you enjoyed the information and you like the end result.

Below is a video of the repulsor beam. I know it lacks the repulsive action but still, I think it looks nice. Enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Hey there... I like the work.. but i must say that it seems a bit over complicated and a bit bulky... I did something similar...

I uses an IKEA Dioder under cabinet light, a 12 volt clicker battery, a cheap push button switch and some electrical tape.. all attached to a glove. The switch it placed so that it will close momentarily with a slight flax back of the wrist or lack closed with a full snap of the wrist.. check out the pics






Carlos said...

Hi elepski,

Your design is indeed really simple. I guess the main difference between your design and min is that the use of a potentiometer to ramp up the light intensity.


Anonymous said...

Hi there, nice prop ;-)
Have you thought about replacing the central LED with a more powerful SSC P7?


Anonymous said...

Check out these puck lights from IKEA... not as bright, but much thinner.


Carlos said...

Thank you for the feedback.

SSC P7: that LED looks awesome. I did not put that much attention into choosing the LEDs. Now I know there are many other (much more powerful) choices. Any ideas on where to buy those SSC P7?

IKEA Dioder: those look very nice and compact.

Anonymous said...

You can buy it (along with hundreds other electronics goodies) from DX, it has the lowest price and free shipping ;-)

Btw, why don't you come and subscribe to Candlepowerforums.com?

Mad Scientist said...

Love the Project! I can't wait to see what you are up to next. I just started a blog about my project as well. It's a laminar flow nozzle. Check it out if you wish.


Carlos said...

Mad Scientist,
Thank you for the comment. I saw your project and I have to say it looks very impressive.


Anonymous said...

hey dude can you give use instructions?

Anonymous said...

can you give us pics of the parts.

Carlos said...

I don' t have any more pics than the ones I posted. If you want more info about the build, please refer to the video on this post and on the one in the What am I building post.

The same goes for the instructions. As I said, I doubt anybody could have the same combination of materials I had (they were pretty random). If you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me.

Solscud007 said...

Hey have you given any thought to selling your prop? or making custom orders? if so please email me Solscud(a)gmail(dot)com

Anonymous said...


What is the ohm-age of that sliding potentiomenter? I see some on ebay 50k Ohm jobbies. Would they work for this do you think?


Carlos said...

Because of the nature of the materials I used, It would be hard to make many copies of this prop. That is why I don't think I could sell it.

I used a 100K Ohms potentiometer. Any pot could be used as long as it reduces the current enough for the LED not to light up.

Anonymous said...

Hi, im new to these gadgets and whatnot, but I saw the video and I am amazed! I was just wondering if I need a resistor for each light? And what kind of switch would be good for this project? thanks

Anonymous said...

Thats really cool! my bro and i ar trying to build the best ironman costume there is and we had difficulty figuring out how to make the blasters(resistors) thanks. peace out

Carlos said...

You need to do a regular current limiting circuit for your LEDs (ie. a resistor in series with your LEDs) and if you want to have the fading effect, you simply add a potentiometer in series with your resistor.

I'll post an update soon with a more thorough explanation and some diagrams. Please don't hesitate in asking further questions may you feel the need.

Anonymous said...

Que repulsor tan fantastico diseñastes!

I grew up in L.A. but was born in a small town in Mexico so my Spanish is still there.

The best part is your use of increasing intensity as you move your hand! And I always love metal in any project.

If I had time, I would have used a lot more metal in my 5 year old son's suit he wore for Halloween.

You might check it out the slideshow for the Instructables Halloween Contest here:


Need to take a bit more video and editing needed in the next few days of suit in action here and more technical information too after that.

Hasta luego,

James said...

With “Iron Man 2” shooting set to begin on Monday, Robert Downey Jr. was rocking the Tony Stark look at the “Soloist” junket today, where he had an update for MTV News about the plot of the ol’ shellhead sequel.

Anonymous said...

Hi,i think Your idea very good and I am an your fan.can I have the projects of the armor?
My mail is: Orus900@Gmail.com
I wait your answer,thanks