Posts Tagged ‘ironman armor’

The History of the Iron Man Suit!

June 12, 2008

The History of the Iron Man Suit!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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’s Iron Man Extravaganza: Everything You Need to Know , covering the movie, the technology of exoskeletons, and related comic-book material.

How To: Build Your Own Iron Man Armor

May 8, 2008

It’s one of those worries that keep your friendly Danger Room correspondents awake at night: “If I was kidnapped by terrorists and forced to make them weapons, would I be able to secretly build a suit of bullet-proof armor and fight my way free?”build Ironman costume
Tony Stark shows how it’s done in the new Iron Man movie. But how easy would it be in real life?

Maybe not as hard as you think.

We’ll ignore the optional extras (rocket-powered flight, built-in weapons) and concentrate on the armor’s main function: making sure that when you burst out in your new get-up, you don’t get turned into a sieve by a fusillade of AK-47 slugs.

In fact, complete suits of bullet-proof armor have existed for centuries. It’s a popular myth that gunpowder made armor obsolete; armor-makers just improved their product.

In 1642 Sir Arthur Hazelrigg MP was a commander of cavalry in the Parliamentary army; his troop were known as ‘lobsters’ for their full armor. Cavalier officer Richard Atkins shot him, getting so close he touched Hazelrigg with the barrel of his pistol before discharging it. “I am sure I hit him for he staggered and presently wheeled off…”. Atkyns tried with his second pistol, hitting Hazelrigg squarely in the head again at point-blank but with no effect, “for he was too well-armed, with a coat of mail over his arms and a headpiece musket-proof.”

King Charles later joked that if Hazelrigg had been “victualled as well as fortified, he might have withstood a siege.” How we laughed…

Very few could afford the cost of this type of armor, and the weight of it meant that it was not suitable for infantry. But bullets could still be stopped by a stout piece of iron (anyone else remember “A Fistful of Dollars”?) – and this was observed by the man who must be the patron saint of home-made armor makers, Ned Kelly.

Kelly was Australia’s most famous bushranger: an outlaw who was either a simple horse-thief or a resistance fighter for the oppressed Irish against the oppressive English rulers and landowners. His story and especially his last stand at Glenrowan has been the subject of many books, films and web sites.

Kelly and three of his gang wore suits of home-made armor forged from the mould boards of ploughshares. (How they did this was quite a puzzle – the mystery is investigated here ) The mould boards were iron and described as being ‘as thick as a dinner plate.’ It took at least six to make a full suit which weighed around eighty pounds. They were proof against rifles at ten paces, and during the gang’s last stand at Glenrowan police fired volleys at them with little effect. Kelly himself was hit dozens of times but kept fighting and had to be physically overpowered.

how to build iron man costumeUnfortunately the weight of the armor and the restricted view from the visor were major handicaps: Kelly himself, though known to be an excellent shot, did not manage to hit any of the police besieging him. The armor did not completely cover the body, and this was its ultimate failure: with multiple injuries, including leg wounds, Kelly was unable to escape.

More than a hundred years later, there are still people building their own suits of bullet-proof armor. The most notable simple has to be Troy Hurtubise, a larger-than-life inventor of the old school. . After an encounter with a grizzly Hurtubise built a series of “bear-proof” Ursus armor suits; the end results of this, with Hurtubise testing his invention in the wild with actual bears, was filed as Project Grizzly .

This was followed by, among other enterprises, “The Trojan”, a complete flexible armored exoskeleton.

 The Canadian’s latest Trojan rig is comparatively portable, said to weigh just 40lb all-up. It is armoured with “high-impact plastic lined with ceramic bullet protection over ballistic foam”, and supposedly has resisted elephant-gun fire in testing. This time Hurtubise wasn’t inside, but he has said he’s willing to conduct live-fire trials in person.

“I would do it in an instant,” he told the Hamilton Spectator. “Bring it on.”

The suit has a number of interesting features, including emergency morphine and salt compartments, “magnetic holsters”, and a forehead-mounted laser pointer. The helmet has a “solar powered fresh air system”, too, presumably more mundanely described as an electric fan – handy for the desert heat. Built into the forearms are a small recording device, a pepper-spray gun and a detachable transponder that can – of course – be swallowed in case of trouble.

Video of The Trojan is inevitably available on YouTube, of course.

A lot of people don’t take The Trojan too seriously, and Hurtubise has not had any luck selling it to the Pentagon. The limitations of weight and ballistic protection mean that most body armor is confined to the torso, and it’s hard to see how an all-over armor weighing just forty pounds could provide a high level of protection. You’re looking at about 32 pounds for the current Interceptor armor with inserts, and that only protects the torso. Add-ons to protect the groin, neck and upper arms add extra; if you wanted to cover the legs, lower arms and head as well you’d be looking at a lot more. Issues of heat, mobility and fatigue also have to be factored in, and all-over armor does not look like a good prospect.

Then again, dealing with standard AK-47 rounds requires only Class III armor, whereas the hard inserts in Interceptor take it up to Class IV in vital areas. (Since, unlike the fictional baddies we sketched out above, jihadists are perfectly willing to cheat and use armor-piercing rounds.)  Still, I reckon if Troy Hurtubise was forced to work in a terrorist arms factory, just maybe he might manage to surprise them by coming out out in his own working Iron Man ensemble…