NASA ACES Helmet

Hughes

New Member
Part way into building a NASA ACES helmet and decided to share the journey. This is my first attempt making something this complex so wish me luck. 3D print files were purchased from Wesley Tarr link HERE and I commissioned Michael with starforgeprinting link HERE. I'll say Wesley does indicate that "major assembly" is required, and I've watched Adam Savage's build videos of his NASA ACES helmet along with most of his other videos. The first several days have started off with an UNHOLY amount of sanding and priming.
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adamszki427

Member
embarking on building this helmet too so i will definitely be following progress on this one, i am literally gathering materials and working in cinema4d on file conversion for 3d print and exporting a ton of STL's.... i have an anycubic predator printer so i should be god to go printing the shell in one go and i have a friend with a small resin printer for some of the other parts... i am going to make some of the parts in aluminium if i can..... the only real pieces of information i am short on is references for the head pad inside the helmet... there's glimpses of it in Adam Savages videos but not enough to make anything from....

are you going to do anything to strengthen the shell like fibreglass the inside? im not sure even at 100% infill i would be happy with the strength of the 3d printed shell on its own even just for display purposes.

picture shows what i am working on with the 3d files at the moment. i purchased the same file from turbo squid as Adam Savage did and boy is it taking a lot of work to make it printable...but i am far from proficient at C4D so its taking up a lot of time... i would say i am about 50% of the way there.

likewise my vac former is about 50% finished too and that's a whole other side to this project for sure.

good luck on the journey anyway and hopefully we can share tips along the way.
 

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Hughes

New Member
Well I suppose I took a bit of the easy way out by using Wesley's ACES files and having Michael print them. On the infill for the helmet and the visor bucks i'm not 100% sure, but maybe I should ask. I know it was printed with PLA+ and actually seems quite robust. I wasn't planning to fiberglass it, but that does have me thinking a bit. I am concerned with the visor bucks surviving the vacuum forming process to make the visors. Right now I'm sanding, priming, sanding, priming and more sanding. Its quite a process for sure.
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adamszki427

Member
dude looks like you have done a real good job on the filling and sanding.... they are looking super smooth for sure.
i wouldn't call it the easy way out, this project has been one i have had my eye on for some time and my C4D skills were rusty at best... but i felt i needed to learn about how C4D interacts with slicer software so that i can build better models myself, but hey i have alot of files straight from thingiverse like the ecto goggles and ghost trap so its a mix of allsorts....
i was just reading another post about strengthening 3d printed helmets and it suggests a smooth on epoxy, so i guess like a rotocast technique or brush it on the inside of the helmet for extra rigidity.
 

Hughes

New Member
Working a bit on the bailer bar. Currently it is 3d printed in two parts, so looking to connect them, sand and prime then paint. Hopefully I'll be able to eventually upgrade this to metal, which I've seen some headaches around getting the shape correct. I'm also starting to prep the visor bucks for the eventual vacuum forming process. I have absolutely no skill in that area so watching a bunch of YouTube videos trying to get the concept down.
 

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adamszki427

Member
looking great... i would be tempted to use a dowel to join the bailer bar parts to add a bit of support rather than just glue. definitely another area of trepidation making that out of metal... i considered making a jig from screws in a thick sheet of MDF/PLY... draw round the inner edge of the bar... put all the screws in following that line and then bend the metal to match...... very rudimentary but could work... its that or buy a bending tool.
 

Hughes

New Member
Yes I connected the bailer bar together with an internal metal rod for support. The two pictures show the bailer bar in two pieces and then finally connected and primed. The visor bucks have been coming together well, but I don't know how smooth I need to make them? How fine of detail will transfer to the actual visor? I'm using PETG .030 thickness for the vacuum forming.
 

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adamszki427

Member
looking real nice... from my understanding of vacuum forming processes, material will pick up every single little flaw in the buck, so i would go as smooth as you can... especially for clear/optical parts such as visors
 

lmgill

Sr Member
Looking good. In one of the pictures you posted, there seems to be a "step" in the back of the helmet. The shell of the ACES is smooth.

The v-form pattern needs to be glass smooth. 600 grit at minimum. You cant go too smooth!
The best way I have found to smooth parts is with high-fill primers. But you have to let them dry completely, then wet sand your surfaces. Using copious amounts of water with allow you to sand faster & longer (with wet-dry sandpaper) and will give you a better finish. Do not gloss paint your pattern with a non-catalyzed paint. Rattle can paints generally get soft when heated and a gloss spray-paint is liable to stick to you hot plastic. Even with the pattern powdered with talc. (Baby powder) The high fill primers do not seem to have this issue of sticking, but you definitely want to talc your plastic and pattern first.

Also .030 PETG is way too thin. The real visor is .125" and at only .030" your visor will be very floppy. I would recommend no thinner than .060" but .090" would be better. To improver the optical quality, use the type of PETG that has a plastic film protective sheet (They may all be like this) and leave this film on your sheet (Inside) when forming. It should peal off easily after the visor has been formed. This will help with the clarity of your finished visor by keeping the removable film between your hot plastic and the tool.

It seems the early S1035 helmets has a bronze colored sun visor, and the newer Orion helmet may have a gray sun visor. So if you are doing an ACES version, the sun visor wants to be very dark bronze.


Here is a set of photos of the s1035 helmet (note the 3M- prismatic tape on the back)
1035 Helmet.jpg
 
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Hughes

New Member
Looking good. In one of the pictures you posted, there seems to be a "step" in the back of the helmet. The shell of the ACES is smooth.

The v-form pattern needs to be glass smooth. 600 grit at minimum. You cant go too smooth!
The best way I have found to smooth parts is with high-fill primers. But you have to let them dry completely, then wet sand your surfaces. Using copious amounts of water with allow you to sand faster & longer (with wet-dry sandpaper) and will give you a better finish. Do not gloss paint your pattern with a non-catalyzed paint. Rattle can paints generally get soft when heated and a gloss spray-paint is liable to stick to you hot plastic. Even with the pattern powdered with talc. (Baby powder) The high fill primers do not seem to have this issue of sticking, but you definitely want to talc your plastic and pattern first.

Also .030 PETG is way too thin. The real visor is .125" and at only .030" your visor will be very floppy. I would recommend no thinner than .060" but .090" would be better. To improver the optical quality, use the type of PETG that has a plastic film protective sheet (They may all be like this) and leave this film on your sheet (Inside) when forming. It should peal off easily after the visor has been formed. This will help with the clarity of your finished visor by keeping the removable film between your hot plastic and the tool.

It seems the early S1035 helmets has a bronze colored sun visor, and the newer Orion helmet may have a gray sun visor. So if you are doing an ACES version, the sun visor wants to be very dark bronze.


Here is a set of photos of the s1035 helmet (note the 3M- prismatic tape on the back)
View attachment 1536091
Yes you're correct the version of helmet files that I have from Wesley Tarr is different. There is a step on the back of the helmet, the visor hinging has differences too. There are three visors in total (Clear, Blackout, Tinted). The clear and blackout actually slide up and under the outer shell of the helmet with only the Tinted visor sliding over the top exterior of the helmet.

Can't recall why I choose the .030 for the PETG material, but I do recall on Adam S. videos some of the visors appeared very thin. I'll order some .060 too. I do have significant concerns around my visor buck holding up to the heat, it is made with PLA+ and don't know the infill, but it does feel very rigid in my hands. You can see in the pictures below the wall thickness from inside the buck. I will also add some strengthening fill to the inside of the buck. Currently you can see the buck's only have filler primer on them, but because of the heat concern I was thinking of adding the High Heat ceramic coating. Does that seem like a good or bad idea?

Thanks for the wet sanding tip I'll give that a go. I was also previously only sanding from 60 to 100/120 to 220 to 3000(polish pad). So probably not the most efficient method, but just what I had already to use.

I would need to modify if the dog is planning to wear the helmet.... ;-)
 

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Hughes

New Member
looking real nice... from my understanding of vacuum forming processes, material will pick up every single little flaw in the buck, so i would go as smooth as you can... especially for clear/optical parts such as visors
Thanks Adam, I wasn't sure how smooth to go or how necessary it was and didn't want to spend extra energy if it wasn't needed on that process. However it looks like I need put in a bit more work. Thank you for the advice.
 

adamszki427

Member
Looking good. In one of the pictures you posted, there seems to be a "step" in the back of the helmet. The shell of the ACES is smooth.

The v-form pattern needs to be glass smooth. 600 grit at minimum. You cant go too smooth!
The best way I have found to smooth parts is with high-fill primers. But you have to let them dry completely, then wet sand your surfaces. Using copious amounts of water with allow you to sand faster & longer (with wet-dry sandpaper) and will give you a better finish. Do not gloss paint your pattern with a non-catalyzed paint. Rattle can paints generally get soft when heated and a gloss spray-paint is liable to stick to you hot plastic. Even with the pattern powdered with talc. (Baby powder) The high fill primers do not seem to have this issue of sticking, but you definitely want to talc your plastic and pattern first.

Also .030 PETG is way too thin. The real visor is .125" and at only .030" your visor will be very floppy. I would recommend no thinner than .060" but .090" would be better. To improver the optical quality, use the type of PETG that has a plastic film protective sheet (They may all be like this) and leave this film on your sheet (Inside) when forming. It should peal off easily after the visor has been formed. This will help with the clarity of your finished visor by keeping the removable film between your hot plastic and the tool.

It seems the early S1035 helmets has a bronze colored sun visor, and the newer Orion helmet may have a gray sun visor. So if you are doing an ACES version, the sun visor wants to be very dark bronze.


Here is a set of photos of the s1035 helmet (note the 3M- prismatic tape on the back)
View attachment 1536091
these images are fantastic.... thankyou for sharing.... the fitting that houses the white cable there, how does that go through the helmet? and also the white cable itself looks unusual (yes i have gone down the rabbit hole and some details just wont be right if i use some old twin and earth from the scrap pile)....
and also i know there is a neck cushion pad, but on adam savages build he has a head pad inside the helmet but i cant find any other resource on that part.... do you have any tips? thanks for sharing again its really great to see such amazing ref images.
 

lmgill

Sr Member
Yes you're correct the version of helmet files that I have from Wesley Tarr is different. There is a step on the back of the helmet, the visor hinging has differences too. There are three visors in total (Clear, Blackout, Tinted). The clear and blackout actually slide up and under the outer shell of the helmet with only the Tinted visor sliding over the top exterior of the helmet.

Can't recall why I choose the .030 for the PETG material, but I do recall on Adam S. videos some of the visors appeared very thin. I'll order some .060 too. I do have significant concerns around my visor buck holding up to the heat, it is made with PLA+ and don't know the infill, but it does feel very rigid in my hands. You can see in the pictures below the wall thickness from inside the buck. I will also add some strengthening fill to the inside of the buck. Currently you can see the buck's only have filler primer on them, but because of the heat concern I was thinking of adding the High Heat ceramic coating. Does that seem like a good or bad idea?

Thanks for the wet sanding tip I'll give that a go. I was also previously only sanding from 60 to 100/120 to 220 to 3000(polish pad). So probably not the most efficient method, but just what I had already to use.

I would need to modify if the dog is planning to wear the helmet.... ;-)
I'm a little confused. The ACES S1035 helmet has only 2 visors; A Pressure visor (clear w/ frp stiffeners) and sun visor (Bronze tinted). Both are on the exterior of the helmet. I assume by "Black out" you are referring to some type of sun shade. The ACES helmet has nothing like this.

Printed pattern: This should be no problem at all. If you were using this as a production tool (Making many visors at a time) you would build up enough heat to be concerned. But, for a couple of pulls, or many pulls with ample time for the pattern to cool, you have nothing t worry about heat wise. The plastic does not carry enough heat to damage the pattern. If you have a vacuum-form machine, where the heating elements are fixed over the platen (where the pattern sits) then heat the plastic, then as it's heating place your pattern. This will keep the pattern from absorbing needless heat. You will want to fill it. Plaster would be a good choice (or most any gypsum , hydrocal, hydrostone...) Depending on what altitude, and how good a vacuum you can apply, you will have 10-14 pounds per square inch, pressing down on the pattern. (A 10'x10 square is 100 sqin, so that's 1000 to 1400 pounds)

Sanding- Skipping from 220- 3000 is a bit silly. The same reason you go from 120 to 220 is still relevant above 220 grit.
220-320-400-600-800 or 1000 is a better approach. Make sure to dry the pattern fully, and inspect for scratches. The water will obscure finer scratches. Thy to switch sanding directions with each grit. This lessens the chances you abrasive will follow the same path as previous grits.

There are 2 pads inside the helmet. One in front of the chin, which looks like it's the big blocky piece printed on the inside of the chin area of the helmet. This pad is about 1/4" thick, and covered with black garment leather. The other pad, is in the back/ upper section of the helmet skull. This is a softer open cell foam. covered in black spandex like fabric, then it is quilted in circumferential rings, about 1/2"-1" apart, to the center of the pad.
Here is a good PDF about the ACES crew system. You can see a picture here of the back liner/pad.
Here is another, that was part of the Columbia accident investigation, which has some good details of the ACES system.

Also, if you haven't already done so, check out this thread.


Luckily, I didn't have to mod my Vendel helmet for my dog ;-)
DSC03034.jpg
 

Hughes

New Member
I'm a little confused. The ACES S1035 helmet has only 2 visors; A Pressure visor (clear w/ frp stiffeners) and sun visor (Bronze tinted). Both are on the exterior of the helmet. I assume by "Black out" you are referring to some type of sun shade. The ACES helmet has nothing like this.

Printed pattern: This should be no problem at all. If you were using this as a production tool (Making many visors at a time) you would build up enough heat to be concerned. But, for a couple of pulls, or many pulls with ample time for the pattern to cool, you have nothing t worry about heat wise. The plastic does not carry enough heat to damage the pattern. If you have a vacuum-form machine, where the heating elements are fixed over the platen (where the pattern sits) then heat the plastic, then as it's heating place your pattern. This will keep the pattern from absorbing needless heat. You will want to fill it. Plaster would be a good choice (or most any gypsum , hydrocal, hydrostone...) Depending on what altitude, and how good a vacuum you can apply, you will have 10-14 pounds per square inch, pressing down on the pattern. (A 10'x10 square is 100 sqin, so that's 1000 to 1400 pounds)

Sanding- Skipping from 220- 3000 is a bit silly. The same reason you go from 120 to 220 is still relevant above 220 grit.
220-320-400-600-800 or 1000 is a better approach. Make sure to dry the pattern fully, and inspect for scratches. The water will obscure finer scratches. Thy to switch sanding directions with each grit. This lessens the chances you abrasive will follow the same path as previous grits.

There are 2 pads inside the helmet. One in front of the chin, which looks like it's the big blocky piece printed on the inside of the chin area of the helmet. This pad is about 1/4" thick, and covered with black garment leather. The other pad, is in the back/ upper section of the helmet skull. This is a softer open cell foam. covered in black spandex like fabric, then it is quilted in circumferential rings, about 1/2"-1" apart, to the center of the pad.
Here is a good PDF about the ACES crew system. You can see a picture here of the back liner/pad.
Here is another, that was part of the Columbia accident investigation, which has some good details of the ACES system.

Also, if you haven't already done so, check out this thread.


Luckily, I didn't have to mod my Vendel helmet for my dog ;-)
View attachment 1536251
There are for sure a few differences between the ACES helmet I have versus the one you pictured or the one done on Adam's video. The 2 visors inside the exterior of the helmet are a noticeable ones. Additionally the 3rd visor "blackout" visor is just solid, so almost more of a shield? Since it's not something you can see through. Picture below in the middle of sanding/priming/sanding etc.

Agreed going from 220 to 3000 is silly. I'll get some more appropriate step downs in grit for sanding. I really do appreciate the info on the visor bucks too as I was worried about them surviving heat.
 

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adamszki427

Member
I'm a little confused. The ACES S1035 helmet has only 2 visors; A Pressure visor (clear w/ frp stiffeners) and sun visor (Bronze tinted). Both are on the exterior of the helmet. I assume by "Black out" you are referring to some type of sun shade. The ACES helmet has nothing like this.

Printed pattern: This should be no problem at all. If you were using this as a production tool (Making many visors at a time) you would build up enough heat to be concerned. But, for a couple of pulls, or many pulls with ample time for the pattern to cool, you have nothing t worry about heat wise. The plastic does not carry enough heat to damage the pattern. If you have a vacuum-form machine, where the heating elements are fixed over the platen (where the pattern sits) then heat the plastic, then as it's heating place your pattern. This will keep the pattern from absorbing needless heat. You will want to fill it. Plaster would be a good choice (or most any gypsum , hydrocal, hydrostone...) Depending on what altitude, and how good a vacuum you can apply, you will have 10-14 pounds per square inch, pressing down on the pattern. (A 10'x10 square is 100 sqin, so that's 1000 to 1400 pounds)

Sanding- Skipping from 220- 3000 is a bit silly. The same reason you go from 120 to 220 is still relevant above 220 grit.
220-320-400-600-800 or 1000 is a better approach. Make sure to dry the pattern fully, and inspect for scratches. The water will obscure finer scratches. Thy to switch sanding directions with each grit. This lessens the chances you abrasive will follow the same path as previous grits.

There are 2 pads inside the helmet. One in front of the chin, which looks like it's the big blocky piece printed on the inside of the chin area of the helmet. This pad is about 1/4" thick, and covered with black garment leather. The other pad, is in the back/ upper section of the helmet skull. This is a softer open cell foam. covered in black spandex like fabric, then it is quilted in circumferential rings, about 1/2"-1" apart, to the center of the pad.
Here is a good PDF about the ACES crew system. You can see a picture here of the back liner/pad.
Here is another, that was part of the Columbia accident investigation, which has some good details of the ACES system.

Also, if you haven't already done so, check out this thread.


Luckily, I didn't have to mod my Vendel helmet for my dog ;-)
View attachment 1536251
thank you so much for sharing, loving your centurion Dog....
those resources are fantastic, i really appreciate it........
i am pretty much all done with prepping models for print except for the visors/visor bucks so son i hope to be starting the physical build rather than staring at cinema4d all night.
 

Hughes

New Member
thank you so much for sharing, loving your centurion Dog....
those resources are fantastic, i really appreciate it........
i am pretty much all done with prepping models for print except for the visors/visor bucks so son i hope to be starting the physical build rather than staring at cinema4d all night.
Really interested in seeing your helmet come out of print. Was pretty exciting getting mine and starting to assemble.

Thanks Imgill for those pdf references a bunch of great info within those. downloaded them immediately.
 

adamszki427

Member
so here is my almost completed cinema 4d model and i am exporting piece by piece everything (printable) as STL files but the merged shell and seal is causing me issues as the holes aren't behaving and simplfy3d won't like it if its not got correct geometry...
i could print without holes but for alignment purposes i would like to at least include indentation marks to show where stuff should be positioned.
also i still have the visors to turn into vacuum forming bucks too and i haven't quite decided which way to go with that yet.
 

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lmgill

Sr Member
There are for sure a few differences between the ACES helmet I have versus the one you pictured or the one done on Adam's video. The 2 visors inside the exterior of the helmet are a noticeable ones. Additionally the 3rd visor "blackout" visor is just solid, so almost more of a shield? Since it's not something you can see through. Picture below in the middle of sanding/priming/sanding etc.

Agreed going from 220 to 3000 is silly. I'll get some more appropriate step downs in grit for sanding. I really do appreciate the info on the visor bucks too as I was worried about them surviving heat.
Well I would say you have a space helmet, not an ACES helmet. The bailer bar is for articulating the visor into/ onto the seal on the outside. If the visor is in the inside of the helmet, this bar and it's lock are useless.
What you are calling a blackout visor, is known as a sunshade in space hardware terminology. The Apollo surface helmet assemblies (Known as a LEVA) fit over the pressure bubble, so it didn't need to "seal". It had a clear "bump" visor, a gold sun visor and two side sunshades. Later versions had a center sun shade. If you have a helmet used on inside the spacecraft, there is little need for a sun shade. (Unless you need Jedi practice with a target droid)
 

Hughes

New Member
so here is my almost completed cinema 4d model and i am exporting piece by piece everything (printable) as STL files but the merged shell and seal is causing me issues as the holes aren't behaving and simplfy3d won't like it if its not got correct geometry...
i could print without holes but for alignment purposes i would like to at least include indentation marks to show where stuff should be positioned.
also i still have the visors to turn into vacuum forming bucks too and i haven't quite decided which way to go with that yet.
Curious to know how long your prints will take. Do you plan to print more than one helmet or sell any? Excited to see yours come together.
 

adamszki427

Member
i have no plans to sell any helmets as im not sure to what standard i can finish it, i guess it falls to the visors and if i can get those good enough then i think im ok with the rest....
print times im not 100% sure yet cos i chucked the shell of the helmet into simplify3d being impatient and at 0.2mm layer height with a raft, full auto generated supports and 100% infill it came out at 129hrs but would require a roll of fillament bigger than 1kg or a change mid print which i really dont want to do if i can avoid it... i'll be honest i have terrible history with 3d prints and the 2 machines i had a few years back (an east 3d gecko and a tevo tornado) both cost me more time in messing around than anything but i am confident having ran a test print without really doing anything, that my predator will do the job.... but i will have everything crossed for entire print time of the shell whatever it might come out at... im hoping for around 70-80hrs for the shell and then all the small parts should be relatively quick prints... then theres the visor bucks which could be a good 30-40hrs each possibly..... i am guessing at that cos i don't have them set up as bucks yet, just actual visors.....
but the stl file for the shell and seal is still causing me some crappy geometry issues so im trying it in meshmixer and tinkercad to see if i can get a good result...
one thing is for sure, I'm glad i did the mesh check in simplify as it highlighted issues that weren't picked up in C4d and I will be doing that will all the files just to ensure i minimise wasted print time and materials.
 

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