The Fifth Element ZORG Industries ZF1 build thread


Sr Member
Hi all,

I have spent the last 8 months looking at film stills, the Propstore ZF1 and generally any reference I can get my hands on to make one of these things. I speak of the ZF1 from Fifth Element. This is my first prop build and I am aiming to create THE definitive ZF1 replica. It will not fire but will have extending weapons bay and scope and be true to the original materials used (metal parts will be metal, plastic parts will be plastic etc) and will completely light up.

I ordered a resin shell from SuperKrates and got to work..





Moulds were taken of a Star Trek Voyager Maquis fighter and cast in PU resin to start the build process.
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Using film stills as a reference I then could begin scaling all the components I’d need to fabricate.


Most frame parts are laser cut from 3mm acrylic plastic and will develop throughout the build as I need to make adjustments and include more parts.


They are heat bent on my line bender.


Most of the parts here are placeholders and will be swapped out as I develop the drawings.

Certain parts require turning and machining on the lathe and mill..



...other parts I decide to use my 3D printer and mould and cast resin versions from them to save time and headaches.




Regular test fits ensure it all fits.
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These parts are turned from aluminium rod and have Torch Lite bodies.


The housing they fit into was also machined from a block of aluminium..

The next component was important to get correct because many parts fit to it. Following my drawings precisely insured the perfect alignment.



All together. Lots left to do!
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The side arms were machined from 5mm aluminium plate. They drawn up using stills as reference and scribed before being screwed together to make sure they were both identical. The shape, rebate and holes were then machined into them.


Mounting brackets were also fabricated. These were first shaped by hand, then bent on my metal bender and further machined on the mill to get the accurate holes I needed..



I used a chopped down Allen key in a bench press to push through a hexagonal hole for the barrel..


The rocket is from an Estes Bullpup model so I mould and cast from this..


The rocket body is 35mm aluminium tube and a mount was machined for it too..


..complete with laser pointer!

Mounted rocket assembly..


Completed grip assembly..


(If the picture doesn't show up, please open in another tab and it should pop up!)


I also turned a holder for the red button!
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I had to replace the M4 screws holding the side arms on so turned more accurate versions..



...much better!!

Barrel pistons were also fabricated. These use rod ends screwed to stainless rod, which fits into bored out aluminium rod turned to the correct diameter. These in turn sit in machined aluminium blocks. Most of this will be later anodised black and yellow...


The barrel ring was turned and attaches the pistons to the barrel..


I turned a small mount for the yellow push button indicator which will become my power switch for the gun...


A small detail on the lower shell needed making too. I took a mould of some strips of styrene and cast PU resin into them. Before the resin set too hard I curved it into the right shape..



Much better!


Rocket tip now has fins!!
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The top weapon bay was first..

I made a basic prototype mechanism..
..this scissor lift style mechanism will raise the bay.

The extension mech is separate and uses a continuous rotation servo.
It runs on a linear rail with switches either end to tell the Arduino when to stop.

The mechanisms working together..

I then had to shoe-horn it into my gun..


I had to cut away some of the barrel and barrel mount to get it to fit but it went in eventually..

Not bad!!
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Next on the list was to mechanise the scope.

I started by making a simple prototype out of sheet material to check the concept I had in mind worked.

I then started a proper metal version..


Arms are machined from plate aluminium with 3mm stainless rod going through into bearings to make for a smooth movement.

The first test was done with whatever DC motor I had lying around..
Good enough for this test but not nearly powerful enough for the final thing.

Say hello to the bigger brother..


This guy is 15V and geared 500:1 so loads of torque for lifting the fairly heavy amount of weight that is soon to be in the scope body. The ratio also means there will be little to no back drive, so it will stay up even if powered off..


I also geared a positional feedback potentiometer to tell the motor where to stop once a target resistance is met. This will let me program the movement and animation to match it to the film. It will also ensure the scope raises and lowers to the same position, even if the weight changes.

In the test stand..

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I got it lifting! You can see I haven't programmed the button to toggle from up to down position but it shows the motor is powerful enough and the position pot and associated code work.

Demonstrating the feedback pot and associated code to accurately position the up/down movement..
..The ScopeUp and ScopeDown values are the target resistance the pot needs to turn to before the motor turns off. You can see the potentiometer readout by looking at the lowest number in the cascading list of numbers and see that the motor turns very accurately to the set points. Pretty happy with this!!

Next is lighting!!

I set up another Arduino to sequence some LEDs for me..

..and used some thin acrylic rod and heat shrink tubing to beam the light to smaller points..

The sequence timing is taken from the film as close as I could get it. I like the way it holds slightly on the middle LED's.


The whole assembly. The scope body is from a Voyager hull along with some other ship parts, slush cast with PU with some steel conduit added as per reference pictures. The front 'glass' of the scope is layered acrylic which is shaped so it is a push fit into the front. This means I don't have to glue it and worry about glue spots forming on the frosted material.

The scope on my test stand..
I need to place this into the main gun body and reprogram everything to work together on the press of a button. The plan is to have a working trigger on the gun grip which activates the animation. All wiring and batteries will also need space so it can be hidden away from view.

More tomorrow!
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Thank you for the kind words everyone.

MORE!!! I want MORE! This is amazing! Some of your pics aren't working though. Can you also post videos?

Those are small video clips. Opening them in a new tab on chrome will work if you're on desktop, I know safari will view them no problems.

I have to use video clips because at this stage a lot of the parts are moving about and an image doesn't do it justice.

More to follow tonight when I get back from work. If you'd like to see some more up-to-date pictures, follow me on Instagram @jakecanmake


This is truly a truly excellent replica that you are building!
My goodness, your work is outstanding.
I’ll send this along to my pal Simon who built the original, I’m sure that he would love to see it!

Simon Atherton??? That would be awesome! I have so many questions! I fell in love with this prop at the cinema when I first went to see this film when I was about 10 so it would be a dream to have a chat with the bloke that dreamt it up!
How long did this take you? Please don't say anything lower than a year.

Hate to annoy you! At the stage that I've uploaded to, about 5-6 months. That's working till 10-11-12pm most evenings after work (sometimes 3am!) and a couple of full weekend days. The main thing with any ambitious project is to keep plugging away at it to maintain creative momentum. If you start questioning your finishes, or remaking bits that aren't up-to-scratch, the fire will go out and it'll be shelved permanently! Best to carry on and revisit them once certain goals have been met.

Most of my drawings are drawn up on my lunchbreak, then I fabricate whatever they are during the evenings. Works for me!

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