Die Hard is not a movie that I like to cosplay or make props, Robert Wallhead’s project It was a bit of a surprise. Powered by a Raspberry Pi Pico, this RFID card reader is housed in an almost screen-accurate stanchion.
Basically, the prop is an RFID card reader, RFID-RC522, connected to the Raspberry Pi Pico’s SPI and I2C GPIO interfaces. Scanning the RFID card triggers MicroPython-powered code to control a series of NeoPixels (WS2812 RGB LEDs) that illuminate the “open” sign. This is a simple yet practical gadget that recalls the aesthetics of the 1980s.
Speaking of aesthetics, Wallhead’s props recreate the original security level at Nakatomi Plaza, the setting for the 1988 movie Die Hard. The European terrorists who are ultimately there to steal money from secret vaults are foiled by NYPD detective John McClane (played by Bruce Willis, who was more famous for his comedic roles at the time). McClane is defeated by weapons and faces terrorists alone in this classic —C—h—r—i—s—t—m—a—s— film.
image 1 of Five
Rather than 3D print the case, I chose to scratch build it using 1mm thick styrene, an ABS plastic modeling sheet commonly used by model makers. If you’ve seen Star Wars, The Terminator, or any movie from the 80’s or 90’s, you’ve seen styrene used on screen. Holding the prop together is a thin layer of contact cement that lightly melts and bonds the styrene layer. Use a small amount of cyanoacrylate glue (super glue) for extra strength. To prevent light leakage from the NeoPixels, Wallhead used aluminum tape to allow light to pass through an acrylic plate that illuminates the OPEN message.
Making props has always been a passion of makers and fans alike. From the early days of Star Wars, when fans watched the movie repeatedly in theaters, to today, where high-resolution images and models can be found that can be printed using the best 3D printers. I am developing props using He knows at least two prop makers who have used 3D printers, Arduinos, and code to create props for shows like The Peripheral and Star Wars and Marvel movies.
This simple prop is cheap to build, but that cost isn’t reflected in the final product. This Pico-powered prop appears to be enough to secure his $640 million bearer bond for Nakatomi Corporation!