Apr 29, 2016 | By Kira

You would think that if you’ve seen one 3D printed Star Wars BB-8, you’d have seen them all. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth—after all, the Dark Side is in the details. From adorable 3Doodled BB-8 heads to full-scale replicas, there’s a 3D printed BB-8 for every level of fan and maker.

Even within the more technically advanced camp, there are levels of differentiation. The BB-8 Builder’s Club is known for its life-size, movie-realistic 3D printable droid, whereas other designers such as Jean-René Bédard have chosen to make a more accessible, smaller-scale and wheeled BB-8 instead.

Clearly, no two 3D printed BB-8s are alike… even if they happen to have been made by the same passionate and highly skilled designer. Case in point: James Bruton of XRobots, who has managed to create not one, not two, but three fully-functional and entirely impressive 3D printed BB-8 droids, with each one getting better than the last.

Bruton’s first 3D printed BB-8 was based on just two seconds of footage from the very first Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. Understandably, he didn’t have very much to go on, and thus designed his BB-8 as a ball-balancing robot. Though we couldn’t possibly describe it as ‘rudimentary’, by Bruton’s standards, he knew it needed work.

For his BB-8 V2, Bruton was able to analyze footage from the Star Wars Celebration, where a ‘stage droid’ was rolled out, providing much more insight as to how the droid actually moves. Instead of a ‘hamster ball’ system, wherein a small robot inside the main sphere rolls it in all directions, Bruton learned that the stage droid was actually based on a single axis hubless wheel and flywheel system.

For the next several months, he set about designing and building a single-axis 3D printed BB-8 Droid that was about as close to movie-realistic as we had ever seen.

Most people would certainly have stopped here, satisfied with their work so far. But not Bruton. Even before he had put the finishing touches on BB-8 V2, Bruton was already sketching out improvements for the forthcoming V3.

Now, just a few short months later, his third generation 3D printed BB-8 droid is nearly complete, and as usual, he’s been documenting his entire process on in a series of YouTube videos.

As he explains in Part 1, the 300mm-wide main ball alone consists of twenty 3D printed parts, each made from ABS on the Lulzbot TAZ desktop 3D printer, and taking 4.5 hours of print time each. Aside from electronics, almost the entirety of the BB-8 is 3D printed, including its Ninjaflex guidewheels. Bruton created the files himself from scratch, without using the widely popular BB-8 Builder’s Club resources.

Though to the untrained eye, V3 might look quite similar to V2, the key differences are in its performance. Bruton made the main ball slightly wider and built in another axis—both of which help to give this BB-8 more dynamic stability and the ability to tip from side to side. “This is basically the 'brute force' way of making it stable, it's using the best part of 900 watts of power peak,” he explained. “If I build any more I'll attempt a more power efficient side-to-side stabilization method.”

The 3D printed BB-8 V3 also has an improved remote control system which features improved flow-control to prevent any runaway BB-8s.

Though there is still work to be done before Bruton considers the third generation BB-8 complete—he estimates it is about 80% done now—the Star Wars fan community has already shown quite a bit of support, with YouTube commenters saying they didn’t think the V2 could get any better…and yet, somehow, he’s pulled it off.

XRobots’ 3D printed BB-8 Version 3 is entirely open source, with CAD and code publicly available on GitHub. Bruton, who is also a Hackaday Prize judge, will be releasing additional information and guides to the XRobots website as his work progresses.

Be sure to check out some of his other great 3D printed work, including this Iron Man Hulkbuster suit, alien xenomorph cosplay, and 3D printed R2D2, and watch parts 1 and 2 of his BB-8 V3 build videos below:



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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