DragonCon 2016 Death Star Deadmau5 and a Vacuum Forming Machine

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Well-Known Member
Hello everyone, this year we have been very busy and as always we are down to the last few days till DragonCon. We will be working straight till Friday morning given what we have left to do.

So as with previous builds I will link those previous builds where they are referenced. Last year we did our first full cosplay. Retro 50s space suites with air tanks that functioned as coolers for the nectar of the gods, Guinness beer. That build can be found here:

Well this year we had high ambitions but time waits for no man, so we ended up going with plan B, Death Star Deadmau5. If you are only interested in the Deadmau5 heads then skip to that portion of the thread. Otherwise, enjoy the information on vacuum forming and how we ended up with the Deadmau5 heads.

So plan A was to build Mandalorian Armor and we had some really good ideas for paint schemes and the like but before we could start on the Armor we needed to build a vacuum forming machine. So we started with a modest budget and went way over budget as expected.

We started on the vacuum forming machine in late March 2016 and finished it in late July. It just seemed that life kept getting in the way and finding the time to work on this stuff was eluding us.

Further, a vacuum forming machine, if you are going to build everything from scratch is one of those projects that “begets” other thing. Well, what the heck, its only money. And besides, I always wanted to learn how to weld…

So, we did our research and decided that the best course of action was to purchase the plans of the proto-form vacuum forming machine from here:

Let me say that the plans are a bit hard to follow in some areas but its clear that these plans were a real labor of love by their designer, Doug Walsh. This guy puts his phone number and e-mail in the plans and on several occasions we called him and he was extremely helpful. I highly recommend that anyone planning on building a vacuum forming table that these plans are an absolute must.

So with the plans you can choose between three sizes of tables, we went with the small one 24”x24” mostly because High Impact Poly Styrene (HIPS) comes in 4’x8’ sheets and the 24”x24” was the most efficient size to work with.

Ok, a vacuum forming machine has 4 major components; the table, the vacuum system, the heater, and the chassis that carries the HIPS from the heater to the platen.

So we started with the table:
Not understanding the plan initially, we built the table for the medium machine, once we figured out what we did wrong, we rebuilt the table for the correct size machine. We used normal 2x4s and plywood.

After the table was built we built the platen. For this we used several layers of MDF with a ¼” thick hollow space that was sealed with silicone and filled with an aluminum wire mesh. The top piece of MDF had a thin aluminum sheet applied to it and holes drilled through them both. We used a sheet of peg board as a guide to layout the holes. The bottom sheet of MDF had a hole drilled in it and a brass fitting sealed with silicone. When the whole thing was sealed and assembled the platen would have a void in it that dispersed the vacuum across the full 24”x24” area.

With the platen done, we moved on to the chassis. The basic frame we built out of 1” square steel tube and 1” angle steel. This was why we needed to purchase a welder and everything that we would need to use it.

So we cut everything we needed and started to weld, grind, and weld some more

The last part of the chassis is the control arms and we made these from oak so that we could experiment with where the pivot points are located.

After the chassis was completed, we moved on to the heater. So there are several ways to make the heater and the plans describe two methods. We chose the more effective but more expensive method of the “quick heat panels. These are 6”x24” so we would need 4 of them. Doug Walsh sells these panels as kits on his web site but we had some contacts in the HVAC world so we decided to build ours from scratch.

Well the heater works… Guinness approves but is more interested in sleeping.

With the heater completed, it was time to work on the vacuum system. We purchased a Single Stage 7 CFM 1/2HP Rotary Vane Deep Vacuum Pump D1-VC130 HVAC AC Air tool from Amazon and an 11 gallon air tank from Harbor Freight.

We connected all the vacuum stuff with plastic connectors (for lawn sprinklers) and used flexible plastic electrical conduit.

Once everything was connected and tested we made a control board. We purchased some sheet HIPS and then we did a test pull. Later we added a vacuum gauge so that we could be sure of the level of vacuum we were getting.

After some adjustments, additional pulls were more successful.

Well that’s the Vacuum Forming Machine, now on to the Death Star Deadmau5 Heads.

So we really enjoyed making our Steampunk Deadmau5 Heads 3 years ago, that build can be found here: http://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=192899

With Rogue One coming out in December, we have been somewhat focused on the Death Star and we had seen previous attempts of a Death Star Deadmau5 but we really were not that impressed. So we decided to try our hand at them. I say them because we all know there were two Death Stars, so not only were we going to attempt Death Stars but both versions. DAC would build Death Star One and I would build Death Star Two.

As with our previous build we started with some concept drawings and then formed a plan of build. We purchased 14” neckless acrylic globes from 1000bulbs. Once we had them we marked up the globes using the same measurements from the template we used in the steampunk versions. We started cutting them out. For this thread I will mostly be coving the Death Star 2 as it required more alteration and Death Star 1 was mostly straight forward.

Next we wanted to mount the helmets. We used construction hard hats from Home Depot and we built our own flexible net insert that was more comfortable than the plastic one. We made cutouts in the hats to access the ear mounting bolts but we also made the hats removable to finish the build. I used 3 blocks of wood for my build and T-nuts that were fiber glassed into the globe. DAC used 4 wooden dowels with T-nuts and fiber glassed in his globe. Near the end of the build we added two PC fans for each globe and attached them to the hats to circulate the air inside the globe. This worked great and we wished we has done this on our Steampunk builds.

Realistically, it would be impossible to cut out the entire side and rear of Death Star 2 and still be able to fit my huge head inside so we opted to create a recessed area of about 1/2” and fill it with radius cut styrene. So we took a 14” inflatable ball from Walmart and deflated it till it was 13”. Then we covered ½ of the ball with petroleum jelly and plastic wrap. Next we used plaster of Paris and newspaper and made a cast of ½ of the globe. Once this dried, we used expanding foam to reinforce the case then filled it with a ton of plaster of Paris. Once this was dry we used a cheese grater to smooth the surface and sanded it. We then cut some plywood to create quadrants. We determined where the ear would be positioned on the mold and made a block of wood that would remain in the vacuum formed part wen done. We then vacuum formed the part and reinforced it with fiberglass. We then trimmed it and mounted it inside the 14” globe and fiber glassed it in place.

Next we started on the Ears. We made the ears out of 3/8” foam. We cut out inserts for the ¼” all thread we were using to attach the ears and a ½” piece of aluminum used to help keep the ears rigid against the globe. We formed the aluminum in a correctly cut radius of a 1x4. We heated the aluminum with a torch and placed it in the 2x4 then put it in a vice and presto! Once the aluminum pieces were done and the all thread was cut to size we placed everything in the ears and sandwiched them together. We used Barge contact cement to adhere them. Once the ears were cured, we sanded the edges and made covers from a semitransparent and semi flexible speaker cover material from Joann’s. We also used this material later for the mouth. Before we put the covers on we used a 30 micro LED string we purchased online that has every 4th led blinking. These came with a dual CR23 battery case but we wanted to run everything from a different power source so we cur the LED string at the battery case and wired in a clip that would pass through a small hole in the globe under the ear. We then laid out how we would string the LED through the ear and cut out small holes to pass the string through so that we had LEDs on both sides of the ear. Once all this was done we put the covers on and adhered them in place with 77 spray adhesive.

Next we drilled the holes for the ears in the globe and test fit them. We also tested the LEDs. Next I moved on to the cut out portion of Death Star 2 and DAC worked on the laser disc for each Death Star.

For the cut out potion of Death Star 2 I used a jig and started marking vertical lines then I used a compass to figure out what each radius would be for the inside and outside cut of each piece to be added. I used a corrugated plastic for sale sign and various pieces of sheet styrene used in model building with different profiles. I then filled in areas with styrene tube and flat styrene. I hot glued all this stuff in place and cut out the eye hole. We reinforced all the cut areas with fiberglass on the inside of the globe, then we sprayed a primer coat on the whole thing. I masked off the cut out area and DAC painted it black and highlighted it with other colors. At this time I made a foam insert for the mouth out of foam and plasti-coated it. I then hot glued the insert into the globe.

For the eye we reused a portion of the cut out globe to develop the laser. We then printed a vinyl decal of the dish detail that I made in Corel Draw and adhered it to the dish then we primed them and then fiberglassed them in the hole of the globe. We filled the outside gaps with bondo and sanded till we got the desired effect then we light blocked the inside of the globes with some gold metallic paint. We then re applied the primer.

Once the globes were dry, we painted the base coat then we masked off the cut out area and started the lengthy process of drawing horizontal and vertical lines. Then we masked the areas that needed to be masked. Our goal here was to be not too heavy on the detail but to create the overall look of the Death Star with pain and masking. The trench was masked and painted and everything was highlighted. The masking was removed and an overall muting of the masked portion was done to blend everything. Lastly, a clear matt coat was applied.

After everything was painted we used a very small drill bit in a dremel and drilled out windows in clusters. We then wired up some white LEDs and vacuum formed some squares that would serve as light boxes. The light boxes were cut out and painted with the metallic gold, then lined with foil tap to aid in reflecting the light. The LEDs were hot glued inside the boxes and the boxes were hot glued inside the globes then each LED was tested.

Next we drilled out holes in the dish for a 5mm LED in the center and 12 fiber optics around the edge of the dish. Three strobing LEDs were connected to the fiber optics and hot glued in place. All the dish LEDs were painted green and tested. We then connected all the wires to two power outs that could be powered with a rechargeable battery and/or 9volt batteries.

Well we finished these things at 05:00 hours on Friday morning so we packed everything up and tried to get some sleep before we headed to our hotel. Friday evening we put them together and wore them out. After DragonCon I took some pictures to show some of the lights. We wore the heads every night of the Con. We went to cruxshadows, I:SCINTILLA, and the RAVE.

Yes, that is a passed out guy on the stairs, DAC tweeted this:

Well that about covers DragonCon 2016. Please feel free to leave questions and comments. As always thank you for your interest and see everyone in 2017.
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New Member
Nice work!
I spotted and took a picture of the RoTJ Death Star version in the hallway after the Cruxshadows concert. Dang! I didn't realize there were two different Death Star Deadmau5 heads. I was curious about how it was made.

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Well-Known Member
PenDragyn21, thanks it was a great concert. Great band and very fan friendly.

Diegator, more fun than is legally allowed.

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