Update: this project is now available on LEGO Ideas -- so be sure to support it if you'd like to see it sold in stores someday!
Built originally for Star Wars Day 2014, I present to you a project that I've been constantly revising and making additions to since spring 2014 -- into a near-final refined form as you see now. This is a life-size replica of Han Solo's iconic weapon à la Star Wars, recreated with LEGO bricks, and fully rigged to light up and play sound effects with triggered! This particular model -- a prototype with crude electronics -- may seem rough around the edges, and even uses a lot of improvised jury-rigging in its functionality, based on what LEGO pieces and electronics I had available. Building this project was a challenge to say the least, and had more electronic malfunctions than you can shake a stick at! I ran into multiple issues with the Arduino code, the problems with the breadboard parts experiments, wiring the circuit, and of course designing the physical LEGO portion itself. In making this creation, I've taught myself how to program with Arduino, as well as I've improved my electronics savvy so that subsequent electronic LEGO models of mine will be more sophisticated. Consider this project to be an instructional guide for the everyman, with its elaborate functions simplified. Rather than necessarily being a verbatim step-by-step guide, this is more of a chronicle to my experimental prototype, so that you can see my work, make feedback on my design, and even make your own changes if you wish to attempt build this yourself.
In this tutorial, I'll show you exactly how to construct the LEGO frame, where to obtain pieces, how to program the sound/LED functions, how to go about rigging up the electronic components, and finally pointing out some important notes involving the design and engineering. I encourage you to make your own improvements where applicable, as in, if you have any better solutions for engineering and ascetics -- as well as for the electronic functions -- feel free to deviate from my design. Although this is an elaborate build from the LEGO standpoint, for the electronic portion I'm going to illustrate it in very basic beginner terms, so that anyone can replicate the electronics and program the coding with ease.
What you currently see is the Mk. II version of the design. The Mk. I edition of the LEGO DL-44 blaster was built by me throughout April 2014, and used a very crude and inefficient electronics/sound system that was slapped together from hacked Radio Shack parts, and was more or less rushed for Star Wars Day 2014. I didn't promote the project on the internet very much, as I was going to wait until I could retool the project with a custom circuit board and more efficient layout. That being said, this is the second draft of the blaster project, which uses its own custom circuit chip and Arduino programming.
To get things started:
- Like all of my LEGO tutorials, this is not an easy nor cheap project to build for the novice LEGO craftsman.In fact, if you have an intermediate or beginner skill for making LEGO projects, I would not recommend attempting this.
- The electronic portion is rather tricky, but gets easier once you know what you're doing. This of course requires aforementioned soldering savvy. My electronics expertise is intermediate, hence this project was a huge learning experience where I ran into multiple failures and had to troubleshoot constantly to gauge what needs repaired.
- The electronic portion also requires programming with Arduino, which means you must have a functional Arduino unit along with the current software, as well as of course knowledge of how to upload code.
- This project is available for support on LEGO Ideas. This is a prototype of a product I would like to see sold in stores, therefore if/when picked up by LEGO Group via my Ideas entry, a mass-produced model will be streamlined, more movie-accurate, and would contain a small self-contained sound/light box rather than my elaborate electronic hacking. Please keep this in mind, as I'm sure there's bound to be at least one person who'll read this and say, "Why would LEGO release a toy that requires kids to solder and program microchips!!?"
- The LEGO construction of this model is provided with LEGO Digital Designer, a free 3D CAD program from LEGO Group. LDD is very user-friendly and geared towards younger users (e.g. the ages 6-12 demographic), which means a lot of elaborate unorthodox LEGO construction methods often used by adult fans (AFOLs) such as myself are often times disabled -- thus certain spots of the gun's design can exist in real life but aren't reflected in the virtual 3D model. In real life, you can place certain pieces into areas where they're not expected to fit (such as tilting a tile sideways and sliding it in between two parallel LEGO studs), but the simple user interface of LDD disables this. In real life, you can fit a Technic stud inside a LEGO 1x1 cylinder (as in the orange tip of the gun), but LDD has this disabled -- hence in my 3D design, the orange tip of the barrel has most of its pieces unconnected. You'll also see two random rubber tires, which are actually supposed to fit around the circumference of the gun's scope. In reality, you can slide the tires around a 2x2 round brick, but LDD has this disabled too. LDD is also infamous for generating steps out of order at times, so sometimes you'll randomly see steps and pieces appear before they normally would in the physical creation when viewing the building guide mode. You'll see more information on this throughout the tutorial.