Archive for June, 2008

The History of the Iron Man Suit!

June 12, 2008

The History of the Iron Man Suit!

MARK I
This is the very first Iron Man suit ever built. In a life changing moment, Tony Stark is attacked and captured by terrorists. While being held captive, Tony is forced to build a weapon of mass destruction. With the help of Yinsen, Tony builds the Mark I suit instead and uses it to escape. Thus, a new Super Hero is born: IRON MAN!


CLASSIC MARK 1
The first Iron Man suit ever created. Built during Iron Man’s first appearance in “Tales of Suspense #39″, the suit functioned both as a life saving device for Tony Stark’s injured heart and as a weapon to help him escape captivity. While reinterpreted by different artists, this design is based from the original version of the suit designed by Jack Kirby and Don Heck.

MARK II
The Mark II was constructed as a prototype with an emphasis on exploring flight potential. As the first suit of Iron Man armor built at Stark Industries, the Mark II armor was soon replaced by the Mark III after initial flight testing.

MARK III
This is the main suit Iron Man uses in the game and film. After initial flight tests were completed on the Mark II, Tony built the Mark III. Designed for customization, the Mark III armor can be equipped with a variety of enhancements and upgrades.

EXTREMIS
First appearing during the “Extremis” story arc that ran from Iron Man Vol. 4 Issues 1-6, this armor has become the most prevalent look for the modern day Iron Man. This is the defining suit that Tony Stark has worn during major events such as “Civil War” and “World War Hulk”. In this armor, Iron Man has hit new levels of power.

HULKBUSTER
The name says it all. In order to be ready for possible combat with the rampaging monster known as “The Incredible Hulk”, Tony Stark developed this suit of armor as the ultimate add on to the Iron Man suit. The first version of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor appeared in Iron Man #304 and enabled Iron Man to lift up to 175 tons as well as provide enough durability to withstand repeated blows from the Hulk.

SILVER CENTURION- X360 Only
Originally used as a means by which Tony Stark could test out new ideas for the Iron Man suit, it eventually became his new fully operational set of armor when used in the first comic book battle between Tony Stark and Obadiah Stane in Iron Man issue 200. Boldly sporting new colors, this version of the suit was worn during Stark’s days as a West Coast Avenger and during the first “Armor Wars” storyline.

ULTIMATE- PS3 Only
In the Ultimate Universe, an alternate version of the Marvel Universe, Tony Stark requires the help of an entire specialized crew to help maintain this bulkier Iron Man armor. As seen in The Ultimates, this ensemble functions more like a compact vehicle than a man-sized suit of armor.

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How To: Build Your Own Iron Man Powered Armor

June 1, 2008

As we saw in the first instalment on home-made Iron Man-style armor, it’s not impossible to make a suit of armor that gives you protection from bullets -– the problem is being able to move afterwards. Even when advanced ceramics and composites are used, it’s hard to get the weight down. Medium-sized inserts in Interceptor armor weigh four pounds apiece and are about the size of a sheet of A4, so whole body protection is going to weigh a lot. If you could carry a few hundred pounds extra, wearing this sort or armor wouldn’t be so much of a problem –- and that’s when a powered exoskeleton starts looking like a good idea.

Researchers have been working on exoskeletons since the Navy’s unsuccessful Hardiman project back in the 60’s (I think they borrowed from the design for the Matrix movies though). Progress has been slow and the results have been mixed at best. If you want to build your own, then it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of patience. One of the more advanced projects has been the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX), which includes a pair of robotic legs and a backpack. The latest product from Berkeley is the Human Universal Load Carrier (….yeah, that’s HULC™….) which is intended to add 200 pounds to your carrying capacity.

The reduction of the wearer’s metabolic cost is of paramount importance for long duration missions. This is true because excessive oxygen consumption leads to premature fatigue even if the exoskeleton supports the load. In fact, a very recent BAA from the Natick Soldier System Center requests proposals to conduct a preliminary study on solutions that lead to a reduction of oxygen consumption.

HULC™, fueled by proprietary technology, decreases the wearer’s oxygen consumption and heart rate thereby increasing the wearer’s endurance.

When the users carried a load, the effect was more pronounced. The oxygen consumption of these users carrying an 81 pound approach load at a speed of 2MPH was decreased by about 15% when using the prototype HULC™.

Video here .

The Army meanwhile has bigger plans. In an article for The Brookings Institution, Peter Singer gives us A Look At The Pentagon’s Five Step Plan For Making Iron Man Real. This is the Land Warrior program, now Future Force Warrior, which involves a large number of gadgets and gizmos being assembled into one wearable suite for the foot soldier, including various sensors from super-sights to sniffers, weapons, communitcation and navigation. With that sort of load you’re going to need an exoskeleton. But as Singer points out, sometimes the Army get a little carried away:

When the Army-MIT super-soldier project launched, its director, Professor Ned Thomas, extolled, “Imagine the psychological impact upon a foe when encountering squads of seemingly invincible warriors protected by armor and endowed with superhuman capabilities, such as the ability to leap over 20-foot walls.”

The problem was that the images his program used on the grant proposal were pretty much lifted from the Radix series, about a female superhero who wears an armored skeleton with just those same superpowers. Comic book creators Ray and Ben Lai threatened the project with a lawsuit, “They’re selling this as science fact while we’re trying to sell it as science fiction. And people don’t even know that we created it in the first place. People might even think we’re copying them.”

But it doesn’t necessary take big corporate resources to build a working exoskeleton. Inspired by the powered armor in Starship Troopers, Monty Reed, a former Ranger, has built his own version. Called Lifesuit, it is intended to help those who have lost the use of their legs:

The Seattle native, now 40, has used mostly his own money over many of the past 19 years developing a robotic device he devoutly believes will allow even quadriplegics to walk, climb stairs and, someday, perhaps to dance.

A lanky, 75-pound contraption evoking scenes from “Robocop” and “Aliens,” the robotic exoskeleton looks like a combined backpack and rocket pack, topped with scuba tanks.

Reed has founded a not-for-profit medical organization, TheyShallWalk, to back the project. )Video of the Lifesuit here.)

I remain undecided about whether powered armor is a good idea. I was struck that when SARCOS were researching their powered exoskeleton for the US Army, one of the things that vets most requested was the ability to jump out of the suit and make a run for it. Exoskeletons like Lifesuit may have their uses for the disabled, but on the battlefield they have a long way to go before you’d want to bet your life on one.

(( If all this tinkering with hardware sounds like a lot of work, perhaps the virtual alternative is easier. A competition in Second Life is giving residents the chance to win $125,000 (that’s Linden dollars, it’s about USD $400 ) by creating Iron man fan art using the official Iron man avatar.

Entries so far run from “the sublimely cool to the ridiculous” – there’s a gallery here.))

Want even more? There’s a host of Iron Man related articles at Wired.com’s Iron Man Extravaganza: Everything You Need to Know , covering the movie, the technology of exoskeletons, and related comic-book material.