My Robot Friend – Building the Robots

My Robot Friend – Building the Robots

Building the Robots

The robots are made from EVA foam mats – similar to the ones found in a gym or children’s playpen. A suitable material had to be found for the construction of these robot suits – the original plan was to use cardboard and papier-mâché, however this was not a workable material as its flimsy construction lead to prominent creases and folds when worn or moved about. I had to consider how these suits wold be worn on set and transported to the filming locations, and cardboard was not strong enough to withstand the constant battering and reforming it would face during these days.

So a new material had to be found that was as easy to work with like cardboard, but strong enough to keep its structure when worn. When researching prop and costume building techniques, I discovered a material generally used on amateur or professional cosplay – EVA foam. Although this material is used for flooring gyms and soft play areas, it is a suitable material for making things with as it can be moulded with a heat gun, fused with solvent glue, and cut easily with box or craft knives. Therefore, if assembled correctly, this material is sturdy enough to be shaped and worn numerous times without taking damage. Additionally, for the amount of material you get, it is relatively cheap – this is because it is intended for flooring rooms so the more you purchase the cheaper it becomes.

EVA Foam Tile

EVA Foam tiles are 2ft by 2ft but must have their connecting jigsaw edges removed before use.

EVA Foam Template

Templates are used for specific or repeated shapes to aid in the final assembly.

Even though EVA foam is thought of as an ‘adult’ version of papier-mâché, this was still a new learning experience for me. Not only did I have to figure out how to correctly scale up drawings to human measurements and transfer them to the foam, but I had to understand how this material works. After each cut with a knife, the blade had to be sharpened as this material was so dense it would dull the edge with each incision. The fusing process took a long time to properly get right as a two part solvent had to be used to glue the parts together. At first, large quantities of the solvent were smothered on each piece and held together until the solvent latched to one another, but this proved ineffective as the solvent would be used too liberally causing me to run out quicker and the
fusing process not working as that was the wrong way to use it.

After this had been discovered, light coatings of the solvent were applied to each edge, allowed to set for five to ten minutes, and then pressed against each other to create the bonding process – they would fuse immediately when done like this and not come apart. These would then be left for a day for the curing process to complete.

EVO-Stick Solvent Cement

A two-part solvent is need to bond the foam pieces together. The bond is instant but takes at least a day to cure.


Safety had to be considered too when making these robots as the solvent used to fuse the EVA foam together was highly toxic and could only be used in well ventilated areas. As such, the windows would be open all day, and the gluing would only be scheduled for certain days to allow time for the curing process and fumigation of the room. Naturally, a respirator was worn at all times during the gluing process.
Starting in late October and finishing right before the shoot in April, these robots took months to build. But they were made with passion and due care and was a tremendous learning experience.

This was the first attempt at building the robot suits. Taking an image of a vintage toy robot and finding its simplest feature to scale up to my measurements was an interesting process, but the result turned out great.

Articulation is limited at the elbow but is more fluid at the shoulder. As the first full scale test, this build took over five hours from design to assembly.



New techniques in joining pieces together were discovered whilst building these robots. These shoulder pieces connected to the body from the side and needed extra reinforcement to make sure they would not fall off under its own weight, or be torn due to its location on the body – at the shoulder the arms would be moving constantly and could cause these piece to rip off entirely. Therefore, these pieces were cut with ‘jigsaw’ teeth that would slot into the body and be reinforced by their extra centimetre into the body – a joining method similar to comb joints or dovetails used in carpentry.

To give a sense of scale and how much material was used in the construction of these robots, on the left is a stack of ready-to-assemble pieces that would soon become thighs and shins, and on the right are the thighs mid-assembly.

Building these robots myself and not having the luxury to assembly or store these in a garage or shed meant that I had to live with these in my bedroom at all times. These robots would take up more space the further I progressed with them until eventually I was living with four fully assembled robots – these robots were all built slightly larger to my measurements so it was if I was living with four other people in my room.

If I wanted to work, all the robots had to go on the bed so the floor would be free for me to continue cutting or gluing, and if I wanted to sleep everything had to be moved to the floor.

Building these robots was a learning curve that I had to overcome and hurdles did present themselves. When starting out, I wasn’t careful and rushed the cutting process which caused me to slip with the knife and cut my fingers – losing a chunk of my nail. Thankfully the knife is sharpened after every incision to the foam so it was an incredibly clean cut to my fingers.

The message of this short film is to use what you have to make something great and that is even represented in the construction of these robots as certain designs or components were too difficult to make out of EVA foam so things had to be scavenged to work in the build.

For the child’s homemade robot, and the green military robot, their heads required a dome or half sphere. Unfortunately, the thickness of the EVA foam hinders the creation of spheres in general if one were to try and assemble one with segments. I had to be resourceful and find something that would be a suitable substitute so I ended up using lids from recycling bins.

After all the robot body parts had been cut and glued, it was time for assembly and test fitting. A fatal design floor in these robots however is that they were built to my measurements, so finding someone similar in size to me, willing to act in these suits, and be free on the shoot days was another challenge to overcome. However, Bradley Wyatt agreed to be the robot actor and was the perfect size for the suits.

Robot Test Fitting

It was wonderful seeing these robots fully assembled and finally come to life! There were still improvements needed though when testing these suits with Brad. Namely in what order the pieces would go on and how long it takes for the robot to go together. Additionally, as pieces were cut to my measurements, some were just a bit too small for Brad, so needed minor tweaking.

Robot Test Fitting

The shin pieces need to be completely recut to accommodate for Brad’s knees, and all shoulder or arm pieces needed small pieces to be cut out of them for his arm to go in easier.

After these adjustments were made, the next step would be to paint these robots.

Scrap robots which the protagonist scavenges from the bin also had to be made. As these were designed to look damaged and broken and never from close up, these were made out of cardboard and did not need to be precise in their construction – hence the greebling of yoghurt tubs and egg

Scrap Robots - Made From Cardboard

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