Introduction: 1:1 Scale Replica BB-8 Prop

Just prior to the release of Star Wars, The Force Awakens, I created a full scale replica of the lovable little BB-8. Working with a small budget, I relied on materials lying around my studio, and purchased only what I needed to. My replica was designed many for display, as it's non functioning, however, I did create a wheeled base that was allowed BB-8 to be pulled around.

Step 1: Building the Body

I was able to confirm that BB-8's spherical body is 20" in diameter. Using that info, I started by creating a line drawing using reference pics. I then scaled the drawing of the body to 20". Doing so gave me the proportionate head dimensions.

To create the body, I constructed the 20" sphere using EVA foam. 8 wedges were made to create each half of the sphere. The wedges are heated using a heat gun and slightly curved to achieve the proper shape.

Next contact cement was used to glue each formed wedge together, gluing 2 at a time. Each half on the sphere was then glued together using contact cement.

Step 2: Creating Circular Patterns

I gathered as many reference photos of BB-8 that depicted each side of the droid in order to achieve as much detail pertaining to his design as possible. This step took a lot of probing, guessing and filling in the blanks. For the most part, BB-8's circular tool-bay discs are symmetrical so establishing 1 panel dictated the rest. The layout is also symmetrical making positioning of the surface design straightforward. The stainless steel patterns are all unique and were a bit tricky to confirm.

Once the drawings were established, I printed each in full scale. (All drawing were created in Adobe Illustrator on a Mac)

Tracing a circle onto a sphere doesn't quite work. The circle becomes distorted and you will lose some of it's circumference. Instead, I created each circle using a measuring tape and a sharpie. Staring from the center, and marking 1/2 the diameter as I rotate the measuring tape.

The silver patterns were cut and traced onto each tool-bay disc (orange panels).

I then cut into the EVA foam, tracing all of the line work and then applying some heat to the foam. Doing so expands the foam and creates the illusion that each panel is it's own piece while adding depth. This process also made masking the droid for paint a little easier.

Step 3: Preping the Body for Paint

Once the build was complete, I sealed the foam using wood glue. I usually like to use flexbond but had none on hand. I applied 3 layers of wood glue, smoothing the 3rd with a little water and my fingers.

Spot putty was used to fill any noticeable seams - except the intended ones. Sandable primer was applied and the body was given a wet sand.

Step 4: Building the Head

Using the same technique as the construction of the body, I created a 2D full scaled drawing and starting building a dome. The dome was created using 8 wedges, headed and shape before being glued together. I constructed the head out of 0.5" plastazote foam. Once the dome was completed, I added 3 layers of 0.5" foam to the bottom in order to created the tapered underside of the head. I carved the beveled edge in accordance to the linear drawing I created.

I then transferred the the pattern details to the finished build. Unlike the EVA foam, plastazote doesn't expand when you cut into it. Therefore, I had to manually cut a groove throughout the entire design.

Step 5: Giving BB-8 a Personality

I started by cutting out the facial openings in BB-8's head. His primary photoreceptor (the large black domed eye) was created using half of a clear plastic ornament ball found at Michael's. It happened to be very close in size and worked well. I painted it on the inside using transparent black spray paint. The casing around the photoreceptor was hand-built using sintra (PVC Foamboard)

The Articulated holoprojector was created by spray painting a large marble gloss black. The housing for it was carved out of plastazote. (SIDE NOTE: I only know the technical names of these parts because Santa brought The new Force Awakens Visual Dictionary)

The small circular light was made by painting a piece of blue acetate with transparent white and gluing it to the inside of the opening.

Not seen here are the antennas. BB-8's rubber duck Antenna was salvaged from a junck shop and painted white. The larger antenna was handmade using some steel rod and foam.

Step 6: Painting

Painting BB-8 was a long and tedious process. After the initial flat white base, I masked off each orange disc using automotive masking tape. The rest of the droid was covered to protect the base white.

Next The metal parts were masked and a combination of chrome and grey spray paint was used.

Weathering BB-8 was the most enjoyable part of the painting process. Making stuff dirty makes me happy.

To give BB-8 that "just been on Jakku" look, I simply used a few acrylic paints diluted with water. The paint is layered by rubbing on and then rubbing off.

Step 7: This and That

I added some LEDs to my BB-8 to give it a bit more life. I wired a single red LED behind the domed eye and used a dollar store pen light to provide light for the smaller circular opening. The head was attached to the body using magnets. Doing so allowed me to access the LEDs inside the head and gave the option of head positioning. The head can be attached so that it faces the other side of the body for a fresh look.

Comments

author
joweeks (author)2017-02-21

woah that is cool

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schristopher3 (author)2016-06-16

Where do you get your EVA Foam? Any help?

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1truedrum (author)schristopher32016-06-17

Hi there, this type of EVA foam is fairly easy to locate. It comes in a 4 pack of interlocking floor mats. I bought it at Walmart. I believe it was approx. $13-$14 a pack. I used one pack to make BB-8s body. I used a different foam for the head which I bought from a foam supplier.

author
rnchang (author)2016-02-02

How are the wedges shaped? Are they straight edged triangles or are they curved? Trying to figure out how to shape each piece to fit together neatly

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1truedrum (author)rnchang2016-02-03

There is a slight curve to the bottom edge and the sides are slightly convex.

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JannickV (author)2016-01-10

Very nice! now the next job is to make it move!
Here is something a found on the web: https://xkcd.com/413/

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JonathanD72 (author)JannickV2016-01-27

Great idea! Raspberry pi I guess?

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JannickV (author)JonathanD722016-01-27

I think an arduino can do this job too. Actually there is another post on on instructables of a 17 year old tinkerer that did it with an arduino and a lot of creativity. If you are interested: here you go:
https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Life-Size-Phon...

I definitely will bookmark that post and when I got some time, I'll build one myself :)

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JonathanD72 (author)JannickV2016-01-27

where the hell is the like button :)

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1truedrum (author)JannickV2016-01-10

Thanks for sharing. I believe the components to make it functional add up to quite a bit.

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DavidL138 (author)1truedrum2016-01-12

Not a huge cost. Inside would be a floating cage with a gyroscope in the middle. Gyroscope will usually point north. Having that, you can build a system that detects and steers the sphere. Similar to the navigational gyros on an aircraft and ship. On the outer rings of the cage is the drive motors. It rotates independently of the sphere. This cage will always keep the same vertical orientation to the horizon. Setting powerful earth magnets at the north pole of the spherical cage, that will keep the dome, which has magnets in the center of the flat side, on the top of the base sphere. Align the magnets closer/farther to allow the dome to have some slop. Use counter pole magnets in the sphere and dome to "levitate" the dome off the sphere. Control which what the dome faces by rotating L/R the magnet group in the sphere. Control the pitch and yaw of the sphere by moving the gyroscope on the X and Y axis. For a counter-weight, place the batteries opposite of the magnets. Move them along the Y axis to find weight balance between the Gyro and the magnets. The batteries will provide operational power.

author
DavidL138 (author)2016-01-11

Excellent job. I've been thinking of building one from the first trailer that showed BB-8. In my version, I would make it fully mobile in the same way seen in the motion picture. It wouldn't be that difficult at all. No wheels needed. It would be radio-controlled.

author
1truedrum (author)DavidL1382016-01-12

I wouldn't mind seeing how you approach it. Thanks for sharing.

author
DavidL138 (author)1truedrum2016-01-12

Not a huge cost. Inside would be a floating cage with a gyroscope in the middle. Gyroscope will usually point north. Having that, you can build a system that detects and steers the sphere. Similar to the navigational gyros on an aircraft and ship. On the outer rings of the cage is the drive motors. It rotates independently of the sphere. This cage will always keep the same vertical orientation to the horizon. Setting powerful earth magnets at the north pole of the spherical cage, that will keep the dome, which has magnets in the center of the flat side, on the top of the base sphere. Align the magnets closer/farther to allow the dome to have some slop. Use counter pole magnets in the sphere and dome to "levitate" the dome off the sphere. Control which what the dome faces by rotating L/R the magnet group in the sphere. Control the pitch and yaw of the sphere by moving the gyroscope on the X and Y axis. For a counter-weight, place the batteries opposite of the magnets. Move them along the Y axis to find weight balance between the Gyro and the magnets. The batteries will provide operational power.

author
1truedrum (author)DavidL1382016-01-21

Keep my posted of your system. I may build another in the future, making it operational would be cool.

author
DavidL138 (author)1truedrum2016-01-22

I'm not building one currently. I have far too many other important projects I am working on. My background is electronic, mechanical, design and quality engineering. When I see a problem, I like to solve it, pass on the info for other's to implement if they care. I did notice an ad yesterday for a fully functional BB8. I do not know of any specifics, size, capabilities, cost, where to buy, etc. I moved right on. Can't afford distractions right now; writing three books, two inventions and tons of research keep me quite busy.

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SebastianD18 (author)2016-01-21

and would you mind telling me from where you got the EVA foam?

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1truedrum (author)SebastianD182016-01-21

You can buy it at Walmart. It comes in a pack of 4. The sheets are interlocking floor tiles. You would need the better part of 4 sheets to make the body and maybe 2 sheets to make the head. The pack is roughly $13 in Canada. Probably available at various retail box stores. Each sheet is roughly 0.5" thick. I wouldn't use anything thinner.

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SebastianD18 (author)2016-01-17

and be able Just attach a way to open the middle, stick a RC car in it and voila, it moves. Try using magnets to hold the head up top though.

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Landon The Tomato (author)2016-01-16

Hello! Great Instructable....I am definitely going to make this. However, I have a question. What is the with of the 8 individual wedges? I did some calculations and got 7.85, but I want to confirm this before I start the project. Thanks!!!

author

Your calculations are correct.

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Daniel2016 (author)2016-01-14

Very very very nice !!!!!!! Like autentic !!!!

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1truedrum (author)Daniel20162016-01-15

Thank you.

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mchau2 (author)2016-01-15

the weathering on the white is fabulous! but this way of constructing a sphere does not seem very stable!

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1truedrum (author)mchau22016-01-15

Thanks. I can assure you that its perfectly stable. It's 0.5" foam, not thin craft foam. If 1" foam is used it would be even stronger. In addition, when the wedges are curved and glued, they create tension as the form pulls together.

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Jonathanrjpereira (author)2016-01-15

Where can I get the design layout from?

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Carl Jacobson (author)2016-01-13

That's fantastic! Awesome job

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1truedrum (author)Carl Jacobson2016-01-13

Thank you. Nice work on the X-Wing.

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WannaDuino (author)2016-01-12

Nicly done,

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1truedrum (author)WannaDuino2016-01-12

Thanks!

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jfv2000 (author)2016-01-10

I thought this was going to be a model of the USS Alabama battleship (BB 8) which was commissioned by the Navy in 1900 and served until it was scrapped in 1924. It was built around the time of Admiral Dewey's Great White Fleet as a pre-dreadnought era capital ship and served until the War Department was forced to reduce the fleet even further after WWI. Its successors included the famous USS Arizona (1912) which was sunk at Pearl Harbor.

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DarrenF4 (author)jfv20002016-01-11

did the 1:1 scale maybe give it away it wasn't the ship :) but none the less an interesting short read.

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whodat792 (author)jfv20002016-01-11

That's a really cool fact. I've seen the USS Alabama many times and never realized she was BB-8. I wonder if Star Wars took any motivation from the Alabama.

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1truedrum (author)whodat7922016-01-11

J.J Abrams, the Director, arrived at the name when looking at the concept drawings. The shape reminded him of the number "8 "as well as the letter "B". So the story goes. : )

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Nightwing1 (author)jfv20002016-01-11

I have my share of war interest but to not know that BB-8 is from star wars, you must've been in a war for the last year.

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Flyboyron (author)Nightwing12016-01-11

Or just maybe he has an actual real life. I had seen the robot in commercials, but had no idea what the name of the thing was...

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hashbrowndomo (author)2016-01-10

This is awesome! Thanks for sharing.

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1truedrum (author)hashbrowndomo2016-01-11

Thank you.

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SonnyC5 (author)2016-01-10

I made an entire Iron Man suit out of EVA foam. Don't know why it didn't cross my mind to make a BB8 out of the same. May have to visit your method of making round objects when I start working on a Baymax costume. Using paper mache to make my BB8 with my kids. Great work on yours.

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1truedrum (author)SonnyC52016-01-11

Foam certainly has it's applications. When used right, it can be very convincing. Thanks for sharing. Your family project is coming along well and a great way to spend time with your kids.

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SLAYERLANE (author)2016-01-10

Wow this is fantastic, the amount of detail you have achieved is really remarkable.
A quick question what is the diameter of the head dome?

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1truedrum (author)SLAYERLANE2016-01-11

Hi there, thanks for the kind words. I've got BB-8's head diameter at 11 5/8".

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joel.munoz.7547 (author)2016-01-11

That's just awesome and creative on so many levels. You definitely have my vote brother!

Thanks for sharing!!!

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stannickel (author)2016-01-10

Everybody needs one of these. It was so cute in the 3D IMAX version.

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1truedrum (author)stannickel2016-01-10

So true.

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DeniseD2 (author)2016-01-10

Amazing! Thank you for sharing not only your pics, but the full how-to. ?

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1truedrum (author)DeniseD22016-01-10

Thanks, my pleasure.

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Biomom (author)2016-01-10

You have my vote. What a fantastic job!

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1truedrum (author)Biomom2016-01-10

You rock, thank you.

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mimiywan (author)2016-01-10

Wow, super cool!

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