Technology 5 min read

Adam Savage Creates a Replica of Marvel's Iron Man Suit

Image courtesy of Discovery

Image courtesy of Discovery

Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame may need a re-release to dethrone Avatar as the highest-grossing movie ever. However, this doesn’t hurt its status as a critical and commercial juggernaut.

But we wouldn’t have the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the first place without Tony Stark in his Iron Man suit who kicked off the adventure and helped keep the saga rolling in the decade since.

After the first DIY Iron Man armor he built in the cave, Robert Downey Junior‘s Stark kept upgrading the technology and its features, donning many suits throughout his run. Other than the pure fun in theaters, he’s inspired many to mull over the idea of a real Iron Man suit.

One of those who stepped up to the plate to get it done and build an Iron Man suit is Adam Savage, the co-host of the defunct TV series Mythbusters.

Savage is back with a new show at the Discovery Channel called Savage Builds. And for the show’s first episode, he chose to build a flying Iron Man suit using available technologies.

I Am Iron Man: Building a Wearable Iron Man Suit

But first, Savage needed Marvel Studios’ permission because he wants to build a real Iron Man prototype suit based on one of the metal suits from the films. Marvel’s president Kevin Feige was willing to oblige.

He also needed access to the actual digital files that were used to create the Iron Man suit for the film by special effects studio Legacy Effects.

Savage wants to build a real Iron Man armor. Meaning, no fancy futuristic concepts, no green screens, and no CGI touches. For the suit to be a real armor and not just a costume, it has to be bulletproof, explosion proof, and can hover in the air. To 3D-print the armor, they opted for titanium due to its high strength and low weight properties.

Savage recruited the expertise of the Colorado School of Mines and EOS, a pioneering manufacturer of additive manufacturing systems.

The armor pieces were 3D-printed based on the Mark II prototype suit from the first movie, which was the second suit Stark built and worn after the original Mark I armor.

About 95% of the armor is titanium. Only the shoes parts were 3D-printed using powder nylon by a company named Dinsmore.

Savage packed the parts and had them delivered to San Francisco so his team can start putting the armor together. The assembly of the armor’s 250 individual pieces was a painstaking process that required punching holes on titanium.

When the suit assembly was finished, Savage and his team continued with figuring out how to make it fly, which was the hardest part.

The Iron Man Suit Replica Actually Worked!

To learn how to fly in his titanium Iron Man suit, Adam Savage went to Gravity Industries that develops jet suit technology.

Although it was founded only two years ago, Gravity has mastered its technology enough to be able to tackle the challenge of powering an Iron man replica suit.

Gravity’s jet suit has five jet engines, like a mini version of airplane gas turbines, two on each arm and one around the back. Compared to the fictional Iron Man that can fly for virtually unlimited time, Gravity’s suit has a flight autonomy of 5-10 minutes before it needs a fuel refill. With its 1,050 bhp, the suit can reach 32mph of speed and can fly up to 12,000 ft as an altitude limit.

In Gravity’s training hangar, it proved to be difficult for Savage to learn how to control the thing and fly. You can’t cram months of training into a couple of hours. But Savage could finally maintain a stable hover while he was tethered. He came to realize that flying untethered in an Iron Man armor was probably a bad idea.

For safety measures and because the “goal wasn’t for [Adam] to fly the suit but for the suit to fly,” he had Gravity Industries founder and chief test pilot Richard Browning put on the Iron Man suit and take it for a spin defying gravity.

This isn’t the Iron Man suit in the movies that, packed with highly-advanced weapons and life-support technologies, is nearly indestructible.

“The military has been trying to develop a suit like that for decades and hasn’t even come close,” said Savage. “Our real suit is basically a titanium shell…” Still, Savage could now finally declare “I am Iron Man!”

Despite being just a “titanium shell,” Savage and his collaborators pulled it off with this Iron Man replica suit. It’s the closest we can get to a real Iron Man using current technology, and the prototype can only get better from here.

You can watch the whole Savage Builds episode here.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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