20 May 2017

NEXOGON: Wearable LEGO® creation

When selecting builders for our parts festival, one thing I was looking for was the unusual. So I couldn't pass up on Blair Archer's wild idea to add Nexogons to the outfit he was developing for his local LEGO® convention in Portland, Oregon! He shares the ups and downs of this inspiring project with us today. (Oh - and if you haven't yet seen Blair's 1979 ALIEN Xenomorph on his Flickr page, you totally need to check that out too.)


For some time now, I had a ‘wearable LEGO creation’ concept rolling around in my mind and various sketches in my notebooks. I'd been wanting to build a cyberpunk-style Samurai suit of armor/battledress, but was struggling with the fashion design element since LEGO connections don't lend themselves to creating curves or complex polygons very easily (at least not ones that can withstand motion, without being overly rigid/heavy/uncomfortable to wear). I jumped at the chance last year to load up on Mixels joints in bulk, thinking these would be ideal for creating a LEGO wearable piece that could conform to the shape of a human body, and withstand some bending and movement.

It turned out that balljoints alone wouldn't do the trick, as complicated arrays of wedge-plates quickly became unstable while trying to make cool geometric patterns and get away from the blockiness. I was at a standstill, until I saw the Nexogon. The multitude of connective points on the Nexogon plates alone was enticing and I was excited, from a fashion perspective, at the ability to create polyhedrons that were lightweight and studs-out for ease of decoration.


With Bricks Cascade fast approaching, six builds already on the table, and only a couple weeks left once the generous quantity of Nexogons arrived, I decided to scale-back the concept for my first attempt. I combined a mass of Blacktron-themed parts from a failed SHIPtember attempt a couple years ago with the cyber-armor idea and set to work. First, I experimented with creating a stylish mesh of Nexogon plates to create a base for the chestpiece.


With the time constraints (and an appropriate placement of two large Blacktron-logo printed windows) my idea quickly developed into a sleek, sexy, cyberpunk-themed, "Blacktron Goes to Burning Man" dress, like a spacecraft stretched out across a human torso, with a mind-controlling headdress.


Much of the dress relied upon finicky, but very flexible connections such as rods through dishes through netting, rods through 3-wide tank treads, pieces suspended within cages, and some single-point ribbed hose connections.



Working on the mannequin was key, and as the show approached I was very busy finishing up (or abandoning altogether) other big projects. I did not have a chance to do a test of wearing the outfit.


At the show, I was asked if someone would be modeling the outfit. I responded by saying that my deal with myself was that if I won a trophy for our new 'cosplay' category, I would wear it on the final day. Reactions ranged from 'OMFG YESSS!!!' to 'please don't...', and to my delight (and horror) I was given the opportunity to try.

Horror, because I knew it would take a lot of work to pull it off, if it even worked at all. I picked my best cyberpunk boots, leggings, and skirt. I donned the silicone breastforms, and had my stellar gas-mask ready to complete the Burning Man look. From there, my wife and I attempted to assemble the piece on me. It did not go so well, however. The backpack elements were extremely durable, as was the headpiece, but once there was motion impacting the Mixels-joint assemblies they began to give way. I have noticed that there seems to be a clutch strength issue with the 1x2 wide ball-joint plates, and I cannot tell if it is the physics of the joint affecting the sandwiched plates themselves, or if they just don't hold on quite as tight in general, but it worked against me. Mannequins don't move, breathe, or give in any way so the outcome was relatively unpredictable. Every time we would get something working, another part would fall to pieces, until eventually we were forced to give up.

It turns out that only the Bionicle/Hero Factory ball-joint parts could really withstand the pressure of being a purist wearable piece, as well as some of the Technic connections. The tank treads did fairly well, unless they twisted, but the Mixels joints and plates associated with them would need glue (*gasp!* NEVER!) to really stand the test of time as a fashion element.


I did convert the headpiece into something I could look goofy walking around in for the rest of the day, and it was a great learning experience.


I'd love to return to wearables for next year's show, using my knowledge to create a stronger, more robust suit of armor. Now that I have reassembled it enough for this report, I am eager to work on some other Nexogon techniques in future builds. I'm really pleased with the glorious geometry they allow, and I am going to use them as a seed part for some of my LEGO educational courses I host at local libraries to see what the kids come up with, and report back!


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