Die Hard isn’t a movie that receives a lot of cosplay or prop building love so this project from Robert Wallhead came as a bit of a surprise. Powered by the Raspberry Pi Pico, this RFID card reader is housed in an almost screen accurate prop.
Essentially the prop is an RFID card reader, an RFID-RC522, connected to the Raspberry Pi Pico’s SPI and I2C GPIO interfaces. The act of scanning an RFID card triggers the MicroPython powered code to control a strip of NeoPixels (WS2812 RGB LEDs) that illuminate an “open” sign. This is a simple, yet practical prop that harks back to the 1980s aesthetic.
Speaking of aesthetic, Wallhead’s prop recreates the first level of security in the Nakatomi Plaza, where 1988 movie Die Hard is set. European terrorists, who ultimately are there to steal money from a secret vault, are foiled by New York City police detective John McClane (played by Bruce Willis, who at the time was more famous for comedy roles). McClane is outgunned and goes it alone to take on the terrorists in this classic ̶C̶h̶r̶i̶s̶t̶m̶a̶s̶ movie.
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Rather than 3D print the case, Wallhead chose to scratch build it using 1mm thick styrene, an ABS plastic modelling sheet that is commonly used by model makers. If you have seen Star Wars, Terminator or any 80s or 90s movie, you have seen styrene used on screen. Holding the prop together is a thin layer of contact cement, that lightly melts and bonds the styrene layers together. A little cyanoacrylate glue (super glue) provides a touch more strength. To prevent light bleed from the NeoPixels, Wallhead used some aluminum tape, forcing the light to channel through acrylic plates that illuminate the OPEN message.
Building props has always been a passion for makers and fans. From the early days of Star Wars where fans would repeatedly watch the movie in theaters, to today where we can often find high resolution images and models that we can print using the best 3D printers. Many movies and TV shows use 3D printers to develop props. We know of at least two prop makers who have used 3D printers, Arduinos and code to produce props for shows such as The Peripheral and the Star Wars, Marvel movies.
This simple prop is cheap to build, but the cost is not reflected in the final product. This Pico powered prop looks good enough to secure the Nakatomi Corporation’s $640 million bearer bonds!