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:
What you'll essentially be doing is building each segment of the gun individually, inserting the electronic parts where needed, then sealing the whole thing up. Naturally of course with the magic of LEGO bricks, you can always remove/dismantle certain parts of the gun to make any repairs with electronics or to swap out the batteries, and you can even make substitute color swaps like a bright orange gun instead of black. Also, since this is a prototype design, it has its flaws, and isn't recommended to be used a legitimate toy gun; most likely if you run around with it in your backyard or take it with you to a 501st Legion parade, some of the pieces could fall off -- hence this is more of a permanent display model, like those expensive Force FX Lightsabers versus the cheap "expandable sword" Lighsaber toys you see at Walmart! If/when this ever becomes a real marketed LEGO toy via Ideas, it'll most likely be a master-build, and something you'd want to keep on a pedestal or in a case out of harm's way.
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