AMS Spring 2023

Predator Mask Recreated with Thermal Vision & 3D Printed Laser Cannon Mount


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While maker and gadget-builder James Hobson has not yet reached Tony Stark status, he does go by another name that I think sounds just about as cool as Iron Man: the Hacksmith. Hobson left his job as a full-time product developer and engineer to develop and create working prototypes of some of the coolest “fictional ideas from movies, video games & comics.”

As Hobson explains on the Hacksmith YouTube channel, “We show the engineering process of making our projects to inspire others into STEM fields, and to show that anything is possible with science!”

Every Thursday at 4 pm, a brand new Hacksmith video is posted. Some of the other awesome DIY projects that Hobson and his crew have completed include real-life versions of famous movie weapons and props, such as a lightsaber, Thor’s Hammer, a Batman Grappling Hook, and X-Men character Wolverine’s claws. The team’s most recent prop, created with the help of 3D printing, is based on a truly classic 1980s movie that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, and one of the most recognizable monsters in the history of film: Predator.

The IMDB plot summary for the movie states, “A team of commandos on a mission in a Central American jungle find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior.”

The Predator is a large, humanoid alien that stalks and kills humans for sport with a shoulder-mounted laser cannon and a helmet that uses heat-based vision, making its signature clicking noise all the while. However, the creature meets its match in Schwarzenegger, and even infrared vision, a light-bending camouflage device, and armor can’t help it.

I’ve seen a lot of amazing 3D-printed movie props and costumes—everything from a Ghostbusters Proton Pack and Giga Meter to the respirator mask from Mad Max: Fury Road and the Back to the Future flux capacitor. But aside from a small, hand-painted model, I don’t know that the Predator character has seen a lot of 3D-printed action. The Hacksmith has changed that.

Hobson tried to make a functioning replica of the Predator costume in the past, but the technology just wasn’t quite there yet. This time around, he’s turned to high-tech cameras and 3D printing in order to improve the design, namely in the making of the thermal vision helmet and the shoulder mount for the laser cannon.

“I was limited by the technology of my time, and didn’t have many resources or money to buy better parts,” Hobson explains in the Hacksmith ‘Make it Real’ video. “But now, we have this awesome facility, a great team of engineers, and a healthy R&D budget, which means we can finally do this project justice.”

Working with intern Ben, an engineering student at McMaster University, Hobson used three different camera modules to replicate the Predator’s unique vision: two standard Raspberry Pi 8 megapixel sensor cameras, one of which has a visible light filter, but no infrared filter, which Hobson said “means it can capture shortwave infrared light, allowing you to see in the dark,” and a FLIR Lepton 3.5 thermal imaging sensor that can measure long wave infrared light heat signatures.

Luckily, he purchased this last module a year ago, as it’s impossible to find one now. They’re all being used to scan people for high body temperature during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A developer kit was employed to combine the three modules, and Zeiss Cinemizer video glasses are used to display the cameras behind a visor inside a motorcycle helmet, which looks just like the Predator’s terrifying headpiece.

In addition to programming a button that mimics the Predator’s terrifying clicking sound, Ben was in charge of making the laser cannon and its shoulder mount, the latter of which was 3D printed on an Afinia H-Series system. The mount is curved so it can “sit securely on a shoulder,” as the intern explained. For experimentation purposes, Wicked Lasers sent the Hacksmith team an affordable RGB laser projector, called the Laser Cube, which Ben said is “awesome for this project because it has built-in laser targeting protocols.” In the video, you can see him testing this feature out on several balloons in what appears to be a gymnasium.

Finally, Hobson created a panel that controls both the clicking noise and ten different vision modes, which is mounted on a wrist brace for easy access, and the lifelike Predator helmet was complete. Someone on the team had a lot of fun testing it out in the Hacksmith facility, the results of which you can see in the build video above. You can also check out the hilarious Hacksmith video below, which shows how well Hobson’s team of engineers fare against the Predator in the woods overnight.

(Source: Men’s Health)

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