SOUTH BELOIT - At an undisclosed location in South Beloit, Trevor Walmer is hard at work.
He's perfecting his latest Ironman suit of armor. His craft is something he's used to bring joy to hundreds of northern Illinois kids since 2012.
Walmer, 32, is soft-spoken and doesn't mince words. He's spent years tinkering with machines, working on cars and finding ways to fix just about anything.
With that type of Tony Stark-esque mentality, it's easy to see why he's able to build such elaborate costumes.
He started making his creations after the release of the first Avengers film, but his first project was actually a Power Armor suit from the widely-popular video game Fallout.
To start, Walmer used basic supplies like plastic foam and would craft designs free-hand, making sure dimensions would fit so he could wear whatever he was working on.
He's built multiple iterations of his Ironman suit, and, like Stark, he's never done tinkering.
"I like Robert Downey Jr., engineering and cars," Walmer said. "I feel connected to the Tony Stark character. He's definitely my favorite Marvel character."
Walmer has built Ironman suits from Ironman 2 and Ironman 3. He has even sold one of his models, an Iron Patriot suit of Ironman armor.
Cosplay is considered a performance art in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent characters. Walmer said it's an open-sourced community and everyone is willing to share ideas and collaborate.
"It's all about learning about how you do this and people have their own ways of doing things. It's your own style," Walmer said. "People have crazy ways of bringing their costumes to life."
For his newest suit, he decided to purchase a 3D printer. The printer uses various types of plastic, rather than foam Walmer previously used for past costumes.
The printer is able to build items that are assembled together layer-by-layer, something that took longer than his original production process.
"It builds itself, just very slowly," Walmer said of the one-year timeline it took to build his newest suit.
Walmer said it took a lot of consideration before getting into 3D printing for costume-making.
"I thought about it for a while, and at first it was expensive to get into 3D printing," Walmer said. "I thought there was a lot of Computer-aided drafting (CAD) design work that went into them, but now I am going to school for engineering, I am able to do all of it now."
Walmer uses his powers for good, joining up with other area cosplayers including Chicago-based "Cosplayers For A Cause" and helped form the local, Rockford-based Rockford Cosplayers group.
Over the years, Walmer's been able to go into children's hospitals across the northern Illinois area to cheer sick kids up by visiting with them as their favorite superheroes.
He said one particular interaction with a patient stuck with him.
"They said he had cancer and he had a valve in his chest - similar to Tony Stark's arc reactor - and I saw that and he said he was just like me because I was wearing my Ironman suit," Walmer said. "I was just like, 'wow.' I couldn't believe it."
He says it's emotionally rewarding to embody all the good things that Ironman stands for, including ingenuity, the pursuit of progress and shared humanity.
Kids believe the character is real, and that makes it that much better, Walmer said.
"There's a sweet age where the kids think you are the real-life Ironman," Walmer said with a smile. "You can kind of tell by their reactions on what they think about you. Some believe, some know it's cosplay but still think it's cool."
While studying engineering at Rock Valley College full-time, Walmer has slowed down doing cosplay events. He still encourages anyone interested in contacting him for appearances to reach out via Facebook at Trevor Walmer or his Toxic Trev Cosplay page.
With his mind always racing, Walmer said he's always planning his next idea, which he says is half the fun of cosplay.
"This is something that I do that really lets me express myself," Walmer said. "And you're able to meet so many people who also do it. It's great because everyone is so different in their approaches but it's all about celebrating characters."