How It Was Made: Southern Cross A.T.A.C. Armor
July 2, 2017

In this post, I’ll cover the creation of a Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross A.T.A.C. armor suit.

I wanted to push my foam building skills and thought this would be a great challenge. I want to create the entire suit in foam – no resin casts, no 3D printing, all foam.

I began with the chest and will, for the most part, work my way down. I’m making all the templates for the pieces myself – no pre-designed files – so I got started by making a tape cast of my form and sketching out the rough details for the chest and neck pieces.

I cut the neck pieces first. The front and back pieces (and rough estimates of the sides) were cut from 1/4″ craft foam. The bevel details were cut into the pieces and they were then heated and shaped. The pieces were taped together on the form to rough out the area where the rest of the chest armor needed to fit.

The base pieces for the chest were cut from 1/2″ EVA foam mats. I wanted to test using a few seams as possible on this project, so the front is cut in 2 pieces and the back is one solid piece. I drew out the lines on the template that mapped the lines where the chest curves needed to be. I then used under cuts on the back side of the foam to create the chest lines without having to use separate pieces. The pieces were then heated and shaped over my form to create the right fit. The back was heated in the oven and shaped over the form to create the center back curve as well as the curves on the sides and upper back.

I then used 2mm craft foam to cut and contact cement the details pieces onto the chest and back. The angular tabs on the sides of the front were cut from 1/2″ EVA. and glued in place.

I used a power drill with a drum sander attachment to round off all the edges and sealed all of the pieces by running the heat gun over them.

The next step was to join the front and back pieces of the chest. I created the ‘bridge’ pieces for the shoulders by cutting and sanding 1/2″ foam pieces and then gluing 2″ strapping to the underside and leaving 2″ of excess on the front and back. This excess was then glued to the underside of the armor pieces to create a flexible, permanent shoulder join.

There will be additional decorative pieces that go over the shoulders, but those will be added later. The sides were joined with industrial velcro tabs.

I then moved on to the pauldrons. These pieces are a bit tricky as they contain some very sharp angles and also have an rounded, curved, upper area. I began by creating a base pattern in poster board to work out the shapes and general proportions.

The base and support for the outer band were cut from 1/4″ craft foam and contact cemented together. The outer band pattern was adjusted to fit when cut from 1/2″ EVA and fitted to the base.

The rounded stripes over the shoulders were created by cutting down foam pipe insulation, trimming it to fit and gluing it in place.

The outer edges need to be sanded and seams filled in, but I’m happy with the result so far. The real test will come with sealing the pieces so that the different types of foam will all finish and paint well and evenly. The next pieces needed to complete the shoulders were the lower rounded pieces. These were cut in two pieces from 1/4″ craft foam, contact cemented together and the shape completed with the use of the heat gun. The bevel was cut into the edge with an X-acto knife and the heat gun used once again to seal and finish the bevel.

Once the base shape was done, the insignia was cut from 2mm craft foam and contact cemented down to created a raised design on the finished piece.

While the shoulders are still being finished I decided to get going on the helmet. I’m using my base helmet template and assembled it from 6mm foam. The trick with things like helmets – that have complex curves – is to cut the foam straight (not at an angle) and pre-form the pieces with heat. This makes them much easier to glue together on the curves, makes the curves much more smooth and cuts down significantly on the visibility of seams (and therefore the amount of work needed to hide them later).

To pre-shape the pieces, I put them in a 250-degree oven for 1-2 minutes (depending on the size of the piece) and then shape them over my Ed Head. I then use contact cement to glue the top front and back pieces together, then each side to its top piece and, finally, the center top seam. Here’s the poster board template and the base helmet assembled.

I then used my bend-y ruler to create the curve and length for the “brush” piece that goes on the top. Before I made that piece, I added the lower back piece. This piece needed to curve to the lower back edge and then flare out. I create a template in paper and then cut it from 6mm foam. I then needed to figure out how to get a nice, even curve and flare on the piece to create the proper effect. I decided that I’d heat the foam and pre-shape it around the neckline of my largest male form. It worked like a charm and I was able to attach it to the back of the base with little trouble.

Once that was attached, I moved on to the “brush”. I created a basic template in poster board to test the curve and height and then trimmed it back to the style I wanted and made the template for the detail.

I traced out the base for the piece and left some flange on the outer curve and some extra on the lower front edge. I then traced out the entire detail piece in 2mm foam and only cut it to the lower curve. When I cemented the detail, it wrapped around the front and aligned to the lower curve. I then cut off all the flange from the outside and front edges. making the piece in this way – cutting through all layers together – ensured that I would have clean, even edges on the top and front and wouldn’t have to worry about exactly matching them while gluing.

With the piece assembled and trimmed, I added some details to the sides and cemented it to the top of the base. I then created some details to join it to the base and made the small widget that joins it to the lower back.

The visor was next. For this piece, like the others, I first created a paper template and cut it from 6mm foam. The foam sheets I was using were not wide enough to cut the entire piece at once, so I had to cut the front and side separately. I heat formed the front piece over the front of head on the white form that the chest is on (that head comes in handy for a lot of subtle curved pieces). The sides were cut with a slight angle and they were cemented to the front. This created the slight bend needed right over the eyes. Here is the visor pinned to the helmet so far.

Once the visor was done, I began working on the face and wings. The first thing I needed to do was define the area around the eyes and base for the face-plate to fit onto the helmet. I cut this from foam and heat formed it to fit across the nose and align to the sides under the visor.

I then began working out the main components of the face-plate. The center section is very angular and fits over the nose and chin. I worked the pieces out in poster board and then went through a few foam tests until I decided on the right angles and cuts. The sides are round and have flat ends that fit into the center piece. These were more challenging templates but I got to a shape that I liked and that worked with the center piece.

I then worked out the wings in multiple layers. There’s a base layer that’s flat, the rounded ‘ear’ pieces were drafted using the same method as the sides of the face and the details were cut from thin foam and cemented down.

Here’s a test fit of all the helmet components together.

Next up, we move down the body for mid and lower armor and figure out the helmet lenses. Stay tuned!