The idea for this transforming Optimus Prime costume was inspired by my son’s love of Transformers. During the first quarter of 2015, this love turned into an obsession. While discussing random real-life objects, such as ceiling fans, bulldozers, clocks, etc., he would constantly ask the question “But…can it transform?” He also began walking and talking like a robot (unfortunately no robot dancing, though).
I tried to explain that Transformers are aliens and not robots; but he didnít quite understand that concept. He also began transforming from bot-mode to vehicle-mode using only his body and a great deal of imagination. From a standing position (bot-mode), he would simply crouch down, then lay flat and extend his arms forward (vehicle mode), all the while imitating the transforming sound effect. At that point, I decided that I needed to create a better means of transformation for him, and that meant he would eventually become a transforming Optimus Prime costume.
During my initial research, I saw several well-built transforming costumes on the internet that were fully functional, but lacked the aesthetic appeal that I was looking for. For my design, I tried to focus my efforts on this aesthetic appeal of the vehicle mode while maintaining the functionality of the costume. I also realized that my son may lack the flexibility and dexterity needed for a transforming costume, so I had to ensure that the transformation was fairly easy.
When I began building and assembling the costume, I ran into several roadblocks that brought about design changes. One of the biggest road blocks dealt with the shapes of the parts. Since I wanted a semi-realistic looking vehicle mode, I designed many parts to incorporate curves and chamfered edges. This prevented me from getting the kind of transforming functionality that I was hoping for.
Another big roadblock dealt with the weight and balance of the costume. Because of this issue, I had to mount the cab and sleeper to the rear fender sub-assembly to partially support the weight of the costume (approximately 10 lbs) with the rear wheels.
After struggling with the costume that I designed and built last year using AutoCAD 2D drafting software, I decided to use Solidworks 3D modeling software for my design this year. Since this design is far more complex than last year’s design, the 3D software proved to be essential in the development stages.
Transforming Optimus Prime Costume Supplies and Assembly
- Most parts were made from single wall, B-Flute flat cardboard and cardboard cylinders.
- Other parts inlcuded popsicle sticks, wooden dowels, aluminum screen wire, bicycle training wheels, clear acrylic sheets, and Sylvania DOT-it silver LED lights.
- All parts were assembled using hot glue.
- Most parts were primed with Artists Loft White Acrylic Gesso, then painted with Craftsmart Bright Red, Bright Blue, or Black Acylic Paint, and then finished with Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating.
- Some parts were painted with Krylon Premium Metallic Original Chrome spray paint.
- The flame decals were designed in AutoCAD, colored in Photoshop, and printed on glossy photo paper.
- These decals were attached using Elmers permanent double-sided tape. I found this tape worked better than liquid glue, which tends to cause waves and ripples in the paper.
- In order to maintain a temporary method of attachment between the cab and sleeper sub-assemblies, I used 4 medium sized binder clips to secure these pieces together. However, these pieces could have been hot glued together for a permanent attachment.
- The grille/bumper sub-assembly was hot glued to the hood/front fender Sub-assembly. The Rear Fender Sub-assembly was attached to the sleeper sub-assembly using a 3″ wide hinge. This allowed the sleeper and cab to be rotated up and rest on the rear fender sub-assembly, which partially supported the weight of the sleeper and cab.
- This assembly was then attached to the Cab using suspenders straps.
- The final assembly was attached to my son using suspender straps hot glued to the inside of the Cab.
After my son put on his store-bought Optimus Prime costume and then slipped into his homemade transforming Optimus Prime costume, it was time to “roll out” to go trick or treating.