Dec 17, 2015 | By Kira

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Those were the words spoken to Luke Skywalker before he went on to become one of the greatest Jedi the galaxy has ever known. Yet as XRobots’ James Bruton, Earth-residing maker and 3D printer extraordinaire knows, the most satisfying projects do require quite a bit of trying—trying, tinkering, experimenting, messing up, learning from experience, and then starting over again. That’s why, almost immediately after creating what was already a very impressive, functional, and life-size 3D printed BB-8 droid based on the Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ original trailer, he got right back to work on Version 2.

He is now almost finished, and has released seven YouTube videos so far that go into great detail explaining the design, mechanics, controls, 3D printing, electronics, and finishing touches that make this one of the most movie-realistic and impressive fan-made BB-8 droids we’ve seen to date. The V2 model features a hubless motorized wheel that rotates inside of the main ball, and was mostly 3D printed on his LulzBot TAZ 3D printer.

This isn’t the first time we’ve featured Bruton’s work on He’s previously 3D printed a complex Iron Man Hulkbuster suit, an alien xenomorph cosplay costume, and a one-of-a-kind robotic 3D printed R2D2. As if that last one wasn’t proof-enough of his Star Wars fandom, his first and now second generation BB-8 droids will bring you out of the Dark Side.

While the first version was entirely based on just two seconds of footage from the first The Force Awakens trailer, Bruton got a much better view of the duo-spherical robot and how it really moves after the Star Wars Celebration, where the real BB-8 actually rolled out onto the stage, leading to a significant concept overhaul for his second iteration.

“The ‘red carpet’ version of BB-8 only drives in one direction and steers as it goes. I made my V2 basically like that with a single axis hubless wheel that makes it travel in one direction, and a flywheel to spin it around—this is stabilized with an IMU and PID controller driving the main motor,” he explained.

It is precisely this hubless wheel that makes this design concept stand out from many other 3D printed BB-8 projects we’ve seen. “Most of the other builds out there, including the BB-8 builder’s club, are building a giant Sphero with two wheels driving a ‘hamster ball’…the main issue with scaling this sort of thing up is finding a ball that opens with no seam line (it would have to be smooth on the inside and outside) and is thin enough for the magnetic head coupling to work."

Bruton also rightly pointed out that, contrary to popular belief, Pinewood’s CFX department and not the toy-manufacturing company Sphero was the mastermind team behind the real BB-8’s design and technology, and ought to be credited for bringing this little spherical wonder—unarguably the most popular and beloved character of the newest Star Wars episode—to life.

In his series of YouTube videos, as well as on the XRobots website, Bruton explains how he 3D printed all 16 units of the main ball using his LulzBot TAZ, each of which took around 2.5 hours. The drive unit is located inside the main ball and it has a magnetic head coupling. The electronics consist of an Arduino Uno with a Bluetooth shield, an Adafruit BNO055 Absolute Orientation Sensor, two L298 motor drivers and an MD03 motor driver for the main drive (a windscreen wiper motor.)

A pair of magnets, each with opposite poles facing upwards, holds the dolly onto the head and will allow the internal mechanism to guide it around. In addition, he has 3D printed rubber tires in Ninjaflex, as well as the main eye parts.

So far the V2 BB-8 droid is nearly complete—Bruton still has a few more videos for the series, in which he will go into the cosmetic finishing touches: LEDs in the ball and opening hatches, painting, detailing, etc. Then, it’s right back to the start for V3.

“It was actually pretty easy once I’d worked out the IMU/PID stabilization techniques—most of the hard work was done in the V1,” he explained. “The side-to-side leaning axis is missing from my droid so I have to stop and turn on the spot, but this will be in my version 3 build!”

Though it may seem like he’s already focused on the next version, Bruton told us that so far, he’s very happy with what the V2 has accomplished in terms of mechanical design, and being one of the first fan-made 3D printed BB-8 droids that we know of to move away from the Sphero ‘hamster ball’ and instead use a single axis hubless wheel. “I’m happy that people like seeing it being built and like watching the videos. At least two people have tried to tell me it’s not real and it must be CGI,” he added. I don’t blame them—take a look at the most recent video to see just how smoothly it rolls and how realistic this project is!

As with his past projects, Bruton will be releasing all of the CAD files and code for free once this 3D printed BB-8 droid is done. In order to maintain his passion for making, he’s turned it into a professional enterprise through a sponsoring system and fan pledges from

Finally, taking a cue from the Star Wars franchise itself, Bruton let out a tantalizing teaser for his upcoming work: Project Ultron, an entirely 3D printed hybrid ABS/Ninjaflex robot torso that we’ll be keeping a close eye on when it’s revealed in the upcoming weeks.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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