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    Adam Savage's Incredible Muscle Suit

    Adam invites us to the Cave to check out a new costume that he can't wait to try on. Without knowing what it looks like beforehand, we get to see it for the first time and are left dumbfounded. It's one of those things you just have to see to believe!

    In Brief: A Beginner's Guide to Drills and Bits

    BoingBoing has been running a nice series of instructional guides to common workshop tools, written by maker Steve Hoefer. He started with a guide to wire strippers, and then a beginner's guide to hammers, and today has published an overview to the many different types of hand drills and bits. I like Hoefer's approach to explaining tools; his write-ups are primers are more about breath than depth, and point you in the right direction for a specific task at hand. Perfect for a beginner like me!

    Norman
    Bits to Atoms: Building the Millenbaugh Motivator, Part 4

    Your patience has paid off--it’s time for the final print of the Millenbaugh Motivator! All the measurements have been made, a rough version has been completed, the final version has been modeled and prototypes printed. After three months of work, it was time to get this delivered to Adam. And that meant making a flight back out to San Francisco.

    For my previous prints, such as the Octopod and Jetcar builds, I’ve used the trusty Objet Connex500. It's a high-end polyjet printer that can print in various materials--even rubber. But as much as I like this machine, I also had access to a 3D Systems ProJet 7000 HD which could print at even higher resolutions and in stronger material, all of which would be especially useful for the Motivator. The ProJet is a SLA (stereolithography) machine that prints by ‘drawing’ the part in a vat of liquid resin using a laser that solidifies the UV sensitive material. Once a layer is finished, the print platform sinks further down in the resin, a fresh layer of resin is distributed over the top and the laser draws the next layer. The resolution can be set incredibly high, and I was told the parts would be dimensionally accurate, meaning a hole modeled at 3mm in diameter would print at exactly 3mm.

    ProJet 7000 SLA 3D Printer & UV 'Oven'

    I was a bit skeptical of this claim, since typically you need to factor in some tolerances when modeling to accommodate the accuracy of the printer and behavior of the material. This has caused me frustration when 3D printing since a model built with tolerances for one printer won’t always print well on a different printer. I have done various versions of the same model with slight tweaks for different printers--an annoying and time-consuming task.

    Adam's Mecha-Hand Posters are Now Shipping!

    Hey everyone, we're pleased to let Premium Members know that we began shipping out the Mecha-Hand posters today. The prints arrived in our office and look fantastic--they're 24"x36" if you want to get a frame ahead of time. We had to approve the packing process, and are shipping them out in batches of a few hundred each. Once Will and I get back from PAX, we'll continue the shipping the rest of the posters a batch at a time, and hope to have all of them out for members who joined during the promotional period in a week and a half or so. The posters aren't going out exactly based on when members signed up, so we unfortunately won't be able to let you know which batch your print is in. Today is also the last day for users to sign up for an annual membership and get in on the first run of these posters.

    As promised, Tested Premium Members who signed up before the Comic-Con promotion will have an opportunity to get these posters too, and we'll be putting them in the store soon after the first run is completed. We'll email members directly and make a post about it so you won't miss out.

    Thanks again for making this print run a success, and hope you're enjoying our new video series (month of builds, shop projects) that are a direct result of your support. Let us know if you have any additional questions about the poster or the membership promotion, and we'll do our best to answer them in the comments below.

    Designing a Custom Arcade Cabinet in Sketchup

    As soon as Norm and I decided to build an arcade cabinet, we ran into a problem: We didn't actually know how to build an arcade cabinet. We knew what we wanted, at least in general--a four-player MAME cocktail cabinet that could support fighting games and beat 'em ups and pretty much anything else we could throw at it. How hard could it be to find exactly what we wanted online, then replicate it at home? Turns out: Pretty hard.

    ArcadeDepot, one of the most popular sources for arcade kits, was knocked out of commission by Hurricane Sandy. The other pre-built kits we looked at didn't offer customization. That left user-built arcade cabinets to work off of. The Arcade Controls forums and wiki are great resources, with one unfortunate downside: Many of the projects linked on the site now lead to 10-year-old dead webpages, and most members only upload photos of their homemade arcade cabinets, sans dimensions or detailed blueprints. That left us with one good option: the detailed Pac-Man cocktail plans and assembly instructions created by Kyle Lindstrom.

    Credit: Kyle Lindstrom

    Most cocktail cabinets are heavily based on the original Pac-Man cocktail, with a few tweaks here and an added control panel there to support two extra players. To make those tweaks, I decided to recreate the Pac-Man cocktail cabinet in SketchUp. Once I had a 3D model of each part, it would (hopefully) be easy to piece them together, add another control panel, and change some dimensions while making sure everything still fit together.

    After recreating the cocktail cabinet in 3D, the next phase of our build could begin: Creating a cardboard mockup, to make sure the dimensions of our modified design would give us enough control panel room. The cardboard build would also give us a good visualization of how the planned 19-inch arcade monitor would look in a slightly enlarged cabinet.

    Starting off in 2D in Sketchup

    SketchUp is a free download, and offers templates upon startup to work in millimeters, inches, feet, and so on. I started with inches, and spent a few minutes fiddling with the 3D camera before settling on a top-down perspective. Then I started drawing each Pac-Man cabinet part in 2D.

    Tested Projects: Building a Custom Arcade Cabinet, Part 1

    Our next Tested Project is a custom arcade cabinet, built from scratch! Norm and Tested contributor Wesley Fenlon have been working on a cocktail cabinet build, using designs and recommendations found online. In this introductory episode, we discuss the design of the cabinet and our parts list for building. We also bring in Adam's friend (and ex-ILM modelmaker) John Duncan to supervise and provide guidance for woodworking in Adam's shop. (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    The Zoidberg Project in Pictures

    Last week, we published the final installment to our Zoidberg Project with Frank Ippolito, capping off the series with Frank's walk through Comic-Con in his Jesus Zoidberg variant costume. Throughout the build, Frank supplied us with dozens of photos every week documenting every step of the build, many of which we published in Frank's build logs. Spread across multiple months, it's difficult to appreciate the artistry that transformed this sculpture from sketches and 3D renderings to the foam latex mask that Frank wore at WonderCon and Comic-Con. So here are the build photos in their entirety, with links back to the write-ups in case you missed them the first time around.

    Making a B.F. Goodrich Mercury Mark IV Helmet, Part 1

    When Adam commissioned us to make a hybrid NASA Mercury space program suit, we didn’t give much thought to the helmet or really any of the “hard parts” with the exception of the neck and wrist rings. We just figured that if anyone was interested in buying another suit, they would have to find a helmet on their own, and that we’d probably have to re-cast or find standalone MIG neck rings. Adam advised us they would be hard to find.

    But initial feedback from prospective customers indicated that we might not be able to sell many suits without including helmets and accessories. Pictured below are Adam’s suits. One with rings on the left and one without rings on right:

    Since Adam supplied the neck ring for the first build and we returned it to him, we had to find another for our third suit. We weren’t really in a hurry to find one but weeks passed and we saw nothing except MIG helmets with rings, so we bought one hoping maybe we could sell the MIG helmet later. The upside of buying the helmet and ring was understanding how the ring locked onto the helmet as Adam never sent us his helmet at this point for scrutiny. Now that we’ve had a closer look at his helmet during the Comic-Con Incognito walk, we can see he manufactured a similar locking system we have based on the MIG helmet and neck ring design.

    I remember Adam saying he needed another neck ring so I kept looking and eventually found one and bought it. Because it was expensive we considered recasting it in four-part molds for future projects. It wouldn’t be functional but may look good enough for some buyers.

    When I told Adam what we were planning and asked him where he got his helmets he offered to send us his spare helmet blank to re-cast but we would have to return it as it was his only one. I’ve never had quite this experience before. We’ve been lent stuff in the past but nothing that couldn’t be replaced easy enough. It was very generous for Adam to send his helmet so we didn't have to sculpt one from scratch, and really aligns with his philosophy of opening these projects up to makers. Above is a photo of what he sent over. We were absolutely thrilled to have access to it!

    The "Movie Physics" of Back to the Future Part II

    One of the things we love about science fiction movies is the storyteller's take of futurism. Films set in the near future take on the challenge of imagining a world filled with technological and cultural changes, and yet are still recognizable and relatable to the viewer. Movies like Blade Runner, Minority Report, and A.I (hey, all based on Philip K. Dick works!) fast forward us in time to create a setting that can be used to reflect on the problems of the present, and adorn that setting with props and effects that signify "the future." Those gadgets in turn have inspired a generational of roboticists, computer interface designers, and even toy makers.

    With 2015 right around the corner, we wanted to take a look back at one of armchair futurtists' most beloved movies, Back to the Future Part II. With technologies like Google Glass, video-recording drones, and ubiquitous video conferencing software, it does seem like BTTF II was particularly prescient in its wacky vision of the future. So what’s it like for a screenwriter to see elements from one of his movies coming true twenty-five years after its release? We talked to BTTF scribe Bob Gale about how he and director Robert Zemeckis went about predicting the future, how you can make an audience believe in time travel and hoverboards, and just exactly why Doc Brown infamously pronounced the word gigawatts 'jigawatts.'

    We first asked Gale if he was surprised that some of what was predicted in Back to the Future Part II has come to pass. “Well yeah, I kind of am,” he says. “There’s a lot of stuff we did a lot of research on, like using your thumb to make a money transaction, what the money would look like, that kind of stuff was all being theorized about back in the day. The video conferencing, there was a rudimentary form of video conferencing that that already existed back in 1989. So a lot of this stuff was me and Bob Zemeckis saying, ‘Let’s try to take these ideas to its logical conclusion.’

    “One thing that’s kind of interesting, is it’s like what came first, the chicken or the egg,” Gale continues. “We know that people who saw the movie have thought, ‘Is there a way to invent a hoverboard?’ Then people are out there trying to figure that out. We did the tie-in with Nike to make the shoes, then they started thinking, ‘Maybe we can [actually] make these things.’ Some of what we predicted may be coming true because people who saw it in the movie were inspired and thought, ‘Maybe there’s a way to make it come true.’ The guys at Mattel that worked on the hoverboard replica were excited about it, they wanted a hoverboard just like everyone else.”

    Exclusive: Kevin Tong and Tom Whalen's Info•Rama Art Prints

    Artist Kevin Tong is one of my favorite movie poster designers. If you've watched the videos shot at our office, you may have noticed his Overview print mounted on our studio set wall, as well as his Avengers Iron Man print in my garage in Tested member videos. We've also shared his design process videos on Tested before, which are fascinating for anyone who appreciates Adobe Illustrator work. I've had the pleasure of meeting Kevin at various conventions like the Renegade Craft Fair and Comic-Con, and it was at this year's SDCC that he let me know about an infographics exhibit that he had recently been working on. Called Info•Rama, it's debuting this Saturday at the Phone Booth Gallery in Long Beach. The show is a collaboration with artist Tom Whalen, whose work you may have recognized as part of the recent Gallery 1988 Ghostbusters exhibit. (I bought his awesome Stay Puft 'Kaiju' print.) Kevin and Tom have designed a dozen prints for this show, covering a range of topics from spacesuits to dinosaurs to celebrated vehicles of the 20th century. And I'm delighted to be able to show you guys two of the prints here.

    The coolest thing for me about this show is that Tested was actually able to help with some of the information for one of Kevin's pieces. For the infographic on NASA's Extravehicular Mobility Unit, Kevin told me that he sourced some of his information from our video about the EMU shot at NASA JSC. Terry Dunn, who we interviewed in that video (and now is our RC columnist on Tested) also helped fact check an early proof of the print design.

    Check out our exclusive print reveals from both Kevin and Tom, below, as well as some in-production and close-up photos!

    Adam Savage's Alien Spacesuit Replica

    Before we went to Comic-Con, we visited Adam in his shop to get an up close look at his replica 'Kane' spacesuit from Alien. At this point, Adam was just about to complete the 10-year project of building the suit in anticipation for his Incognito walk at SDCC. Here, he describes each of the unique components he obsessed over fabricating in this dream project.

    Bits to Atoms: Building the Millenbaugh Motivator, Part 3

    Progress on the Millenbaugh Motivator marches on! All the measurements have been made and a rough version has been modeled and approved by Adam. This week we take a look at modeling the final version and speccing hardware.

    I decided to tackle the ‘valve arms’ first since I wasn’t sure how to build them. They look relatively simple but on closer inspection there’s multiple compound curves, plus the forked portion at the back and I couldn’t easily build them using my regular techniques. I ended up drawing them as 2D splines (curve described by interpreting points) on top of the reference photo--if you are comfortable using the pen tool in Illustrator or Photoshop, this is the same idea. I was able to give the spline thickness by extruding it and then used planes and simple shapes to cut out the rear fork and the front slope.

    The many steps to build an arm. (click to animate)

    Early on, it was tough picturing the size of some of the parts. When you’re constantly looking at blown up pictures for reference and working in 3D where things are floating in space, you start to picture things much bigger than they really are. Adam mentions this in our video when he was convinced the motivator was too small until he actually placed it on the glove. I did a test print on my MakerBot and it looked way too small, so I printed a 1:1 reference picture to easily compare parts and they were right on. I was even able to print the pivot and if a part was printable on the MakerBot (even if it was a little rough) it should print on the high-end printer without any problems.

    Building and Testing a Custom RC Airboat

    Sometimes you seek inspiration. Sometimes inspiration smacks you in the face. As I was walking down the clearance isle at Walmart, I was smacked in the face. They had a few kid’s kickboards on clearance. With my Mini Alligator Tours airboat experiences still fresh on the brain, I immediately thought that one of these kickboards could be the starting point of a scratchbuilt airboat.

    Sitting next to the Mini Alligator Tours, the wide stance and minimalist design of my DIY airboat is apparent.

    There were a few features of this kickboard that I particularly liked, in addition to its clearance price. First of all, it has a very wide stance. That would serve to prevent tipovers--hopefully. Another appealing aspect was its slippery plastic shell. I thought that would help it slide the water, as well as grass and other surfaces. The other kickboards that I saw had a nylon mesh-type covering. That’s probably great if you are actually using it as a kickboard, but not so great in airboat mode.

    The one thing that I did not like about the kickboard was its very pronounced curvature (as viewed from the side). Most airboats use flat-bottomed hulls. I figured I would give it a try anyway and see what happened.

    Keeping It Simple

    Early on, I decided that my focus with this project would be to make the simplest airboat that I possibly could. That proved to be a surprisingly elusive goal. I discarded numerous design sketches over the course of an afternoon before I felt that I had shaved my concept down to the bare essentials.

    Matchbox Car Factory, Circa 1962

    From British Pathe, a YouTube channel repository of 20th century archival footage, this awesome behind-the-scenes look at the design and production of matchbox cars. It's like the show How It's Made, circa the 60s (cheesy narration, music and all). A 1965 follow-up to the corporate film is just as delightful, and takes a different voice and look to reflect the swing of the decade. (h/t Paul Francis)

    Zoidberg Jesus at Comic-Con!

    We love going to Comic-Con, but have noticed that every year there are some picketers outside that take a little bit of the fun away from going to these fan events. We decided to bring the fun back by introducing them to our friend, Zoidberg Jesus.

    The Zoidberg Project, Part 12 (Finale and Recap!)

    Even though The Zoidberg Project has been wrapped up for a while now, it’s not over. I got sidetracked back in May with the Gore Magala build for Capcom's Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate display, and I still owe you all one more article!

    So let's back track a bit….back to early April. Leading up to the debut at WonderCon, I had a ton of finishing to do on the Zoidberg costume. The feet that Carson and I sculpted and molded needed to be cast up and painted. We opted for a simple latex and polyfoam casting. To make this cast, we brushed in about four or five good coats of latex into the mold, giving plenty of time for them to dry between layers. If you don't let the previous layer dry enough, you will end up with wet layers sandwiched between dry layers, which will make the skin too soft and prone to stretching out of shape.

    Since this mold for the feet are stone, I could have just filled it up with latex and let it set for an hour to form a "skin" around the outer edge, then dump the excess latex back out into the bucket and let it dry. But I felt that manually brushing in a few layers and drying them with a hair dryer between layers would be the fastest route. Once this layer of latex skin is set up, I mixed up a batch of Flex Foam 3 from Smooth-On and just rolled it on the surface until it started foaming up. I didn't need it to be a solid foam casting because I still need room for my food and ankle inside.

    This finishes the casting, which could then be demolded and trimmed up while the second foot was being done. I like to use an electric turkey cutter sometimes when I'm trimming foam, and it helps to hog out big sections quickly. Once I find the right fit for my foot, I used a little Barge glue to tack the latex down to the foam, as sometimes it can delaminate. That was it for the feet, but we all know that Zoidberg doesn't walk barefoot.

    Soviet Moon Colonization Dreams, Circa 1965

    Produced in 1965, this Soviet documentary was produced to educate citizens about Soviet rocket technology and what astronomers knew back then about the Moon. Its second half is a fantastic imagination of how humans might colonize the Moon in the distant future. Just great retrofuturist fodder, even if you can't understand the Russian. "The film consists of two parts: popular scientific and science-fiction. In the first part in the popular form the modern (1965) scientific convergence on the Moon are stated. In the second part the director and the artist create a picture of the future of the Moon." More context about the production of this video on The NewStatesman. (h/t io9)

    In Brief: How Glass Lenses are Made

    Adam shared this awesome photo gallery documenting every step an Optician takes to make corrective lenses to fit custom glasses. Every step is described in captions, showing the transformation from a hockey puck-sized lens to something that fits in the customer's glasses. My favorite tool used is the "edger" a machine that takes a scan of the glasses bezel shape and cuts the glass to fit into that specific frame. I love that the whole process takes less than an hour, and even as quickly as 35 minutes, according to the technician who posted the photos. (And here's an old How It's Made video showing the manufacturing process for lenses, from raw slabs of glass.)

    Norman