Introduction: Tie Fighter

About: aspiring gadget freak, product manager interested in all things biometric, 3D Printing, Star Wars and online gaming

Hi This is my first Instructable, and my first attempt at using an Arduino Due. My son who is a big Star Wars fan, as you can see the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, came up with the idea of a wearable Tie Fighter costume while attending the Star Wars Celebration earlier this year. I seized the opportunity to use this as a way to introduce him to electronics and programming. The idea seemed simple enough a basic sphere with some wings and a few sound effects. However it started to grow rather large in scope and we discovered early on that we did not have the required tools, and equipment to build one from scratch. I negotiated with my wife for a 3D printer, she gracefully accepted to pay for half but it would be my entire 2015 gifts. I accepted the terms of her agreement rather quickly :).

I have to give a shout out to all the folks at Adafruit, their tutorials and products are what made this costume a success for my son. I spent countless hours listening to their tutorials so much that my wife now has a bigger crush on Lady Ada than I do.

On to the costume.

Step 1: The Equipment

components and connectors

qty (1) Arduino Duo (Adafruit) I have found that my local suppliers have counterfeit Arduino products, I didn't realize this at first, but I had massive issues with these boards and found Adafruit always provides authentic Arduino products. If your local supplier is legit then use them, otherwise I recommend Adafruit it will save you headaches later on.

qty (1) Audio FX board ( Adafruit )

qty (1) 5vdc 1000mAh Lion battery

qty (1) 9vdc battery

qty (8) Green LED (I recommend the ones from AdaFruit, I've tried others and theirs provide the highest lumens)

qty (12) .187" x 60" Carbon Fiber rods (these will make the lightweight frame for the wings)

qty (2) 8mm x 48" Carbon Fiber Square (support for the wings to the Sphere)

qty (1) 22" diameter clear PVC Sphere w/14" hole precut on bottom (you can increase the hole size on order but I don't recommend anything larger than 16" as it could weaken the lower portion of the sphere)

qty (1) 3 yards of black carbon fiber, rip stop nylon

qty (1) roll of duct tape

qty (1) roll of red wire

qty (1) roll of black wire

qty (1) roll of white wire

qty (1) roll of green wire

qty (1) Joy Stick (Adafruit)

qty (1) NeoPixel (Adafruit)

qty (1) NeoPixel Ring x12 (Adafruit)

qty (2) 8ohm speakers (Adafruit)

qty (6) lighted LED Buttons (Adafruit )

qty (1) roll of silver duct tape

qty (1) roll of VFT Tape (local hardware store)

qty (1) Ultrasonic sensor

qty (20) 8mm x 36mm bolts

qty (20) 8mm nuts

qty (8) washers

qty (1) Hammered Silver Spray Paint (primer based)

qty (1) Hammered Black Spray Paint ( primer based)


qty (1) 3 yard of silver / grey rip stop nylon

qty (1) roll of conspicuity reflective tape ((white, 3M) I used this for area's on the Tie Fighter to make it visible to cars while my son was trick or treating.)

qty (1) EL Tape RED and power source (used this some some internal details)

shrink tubing various colors (all my connections are shrink tubed to match the color of the wire. I wanted it to look clean and prevent and shorting) Its not required you could used electrical tape or other insulators, its just what I wanted for my final piece.

Equipment needed

qty (1) 3D printer (I used a Printrbot metal plus with a heated bed, overall a good 1st printer) I did learn a lot about 3D printing during this project and would have saved a lot of time had a known more at the beginning of the project. I will describe what I learned during the different steps later on.

qty (1) Cordless Drill

qty (1) Cordless Screwdriver

qty (1) Soldering Iron

Step 2: Painting the Sphere

I'll apologize up front, most of my step by step photo's were lost during my iPhone ios update ugh so I will attempt to write about the process in as much detail as possible.

We taped all view ports and windows on both the inside and outside at the same time, this was to ensure they were lined up before the painting began.

Apply the inside first using the Black Hammered Spray paint. use in a well ventilated area and use a face mask. This stuff smells nasty. You will most likely need 2 - 3 coats. for each color

Allow the inside to dry for 2 days before painting the outside with the Silver Hammered use in a well ventilated area and use a face mask.

After your 2nd or 3rd coat wait about 30 minutes then remove the tape. You can wait till it's dry but you could end up with rough edges

Save the left over Silver Hammered paint for any external parts that you want the same color as the body of the Tie Fighter

Step 3: Creating the Wings

Each wing is a mirror of the other so I will describe the steps to make one and you just need to do it twice to get both wings completed.

for each Wing print the following

qty (1) wing_center.front.stl

qty (1) wing_center_back.stl

qty (2) wing_holder_side.stl

qty (4) wing_holder.stl

You will need to cut the carbon fiber rods in to the following sizes for each wing

qty (4) 628mm (24.72") (these are the outer braces)

qty (2) 1385mm (54.4") (long cross area braces)

qty (2) 667mm (26.25") (top and bottom brace)

qty (1) 993mm (39.1") (center brace)

when cutting the carbon fiber use a small bit of tape around the cutting area and cut in a turning motion. This will prevent any strands from being pulled and provide a clean cut.

Note: Wear a mask, as cutting carbon fiber creates some nasty dust that you do not want to breather

After you print these pieces and have cut the tubes to length you can assemble the wing structure.

I recommend doing the out part first then use the center front with the longer rods last. Once you have the assembled and the center rod is squarely placed in the middle use some hot glue or E6000 to keep them in place. Once this is complete and dry, we need to measure and cut the Black Rip stop nylon to fit.

Step 4: Attaching the Nylon

use a clean flat area to lay the nylon down, use an iron set to nylon setting and remove any wrinkles that maybe still in the fabric.

Place you wing frame with the Front Center facing up and the printed carbon Fiber patter also face up.

We want this print facing on the outside of the wing.

I used a bit of chalk to run along the outside diameter of the wing with, using a 1" trace. This provided me with a template with enough area to folder over and secure it to the back side.

Carefully cut the nylon to the pattern you traced, and starting with the top fold it over towards the back and use a bit of hot glue on each end and the middle to hold it in place. Repeat this on the bottom of the wing and stretch the nylon a bit. the work your way from side to side until you have a smooth even folds around the wing. Once all the sides are in place run a bead of hot glue across each inside fold and allow to dry. I used a evenly round pen with tinfoil wrapped around it to press the hot glue into the fabric as I worked around the wing. placing a small strip of glue as close to the rod as I could get and then smooth the glue away from the rod with the tin foil covered pen. this made a nice flat and secure bond and reduce any bunching or wrinkles from appearing.

Once the wings have dried cover the edges using the silver duct tape. You should be able to use ~1/2 inch on each side of the wings. By folding the tape over the edge covering both sides and covering up any seems from the glueing.

Step 5: Add the Supports to the Wings

Print the wing_center_back.stl and the wing mountA1.stl while printing make sure the pieces do not have any lift or layer separation this will affect the mounting of the wings.

Cut the square carbon fiber rods @ 10", you will need 4 for each wing.

Once the pieces are printed hot glue or E6000 the rods into the slots.

Use the nuts, bolts and washer to attach the wing back to the wing front. You may need to use an exacto knife to cut a small starter hole for the screws to go through the nylon.

Step 6: Attaching to the Sphere

Print the wing mount a1 and b1 pieces. ( I have an optional one if you want to make the wings fixed to the housing and not removable, use the Wing_Mount_A3_Fixed.stl, I used the fixed for Trick or Treating and the removable for his school, so I could easily remove the wings from the main sphere.)

The Pull_Pin uses some of the left over Carbon Fiber rods to insert with hot glue. I used a Red translucent SLA plastic to make it easy for people to tell what to pull.

Also designed into the Wing_Mount_A1 are 2 cavities designed to insert cut carbon fiber rods to add strength to the mount. After using this in the real world I will be redesigning this mount as it does have some issues with flexing as well as putting a strain on the plastic layers. If you have a good 3D printer I would recommend printing on a different axis to have the layers go down the length of the center mount instead of circular. While the carbon fiber has strength, it added a stress point in the print causing the layers to separate.

Attach the 4 carbon fiber rods with hot glue or E6000

Placing the mounts on the sphere may take two people, I recommend using 2 wires cut to length to cover the outer diameter of the sphere align one on the x axis and the other on the y. Align the screw holes where each wire intersects them. I found this to be the east method to ensue the are properly center and evenly spaced. If someone has an Easier method please add to my post and I will gladly update.

Use a drill to slowly drill out the holes in the sphere. Go slowly and back it out every so often to ensure you don't crack or burn the PVC plastic.

Use the washers on the inside of the sphere to distribute the pressure and prevent any cracking of the PVC.

The molds all have redesigned nut holders to make putting this together easy.

Step 7: The Rear ION Drive

Print the rear_ION.stl

I would recommend a fill of 20-25% and you don't want to add to much weight.

The Neo_pixel and Ultrasonic sensors will be mounted to this.

Use the same method to find the center of the rear that you did for the wing attachments. I used Hot Glue to attach this piece, then drilled a larger hole for the wires to run through the rear.

Make sure you wires are long enough that you can route them along the inside of the sphere to the control panel.

I used the VFT tape to secure them to the inside along one side of the sphere.

Step 8: Straps

I used an old backpacks straps and some 1 1/4" D-rings to attach them to the sphere.

carefully remove the straps from the backpack in order to keep the reinforced fabric in place, cut a small hole in each of the 4 ends of the strap.

Then drill 4 holes in to the bottom of the Sphere. I used a yard stick and a square to make sure they were evenly spaced. The bottom of the hold should be between 3/4" - 1" from the bottom of the sphere. This is to prevent any cracking.

The D-Rings should be separated and then inserted into the holes in the Sphere first, then attach the straps. Using pliers squeeze the D-Ring back into their original position. This will take a few minutes to adjust and get right. There are other options to attach them but I had these readily available so it is what I used and worked well

Depending on the side of your child you can use the built in adjustments straps to get the best height. I left about 2" clearance on the top for any potential bounce so it didn't bump my son in the head when he was walking. This distance seemed to work well, he never had it bump him during his several hours walking in it.

Step 9: Printing Control Panel and Supports

Print the Control panel and supports with Black ABS or PLA, I preferred the ABS as it is stronger and holds up to heat much better.

The holes for each of the buttons are in the design meant to work with a 15mm diameter button from Adafruit.

The center holes is for the Joystick, if you are doing a different placement you can use the .STL as a template and place the buttons where you like. I didn't put the holes in the .stl incase someone used a different joystick, but you can easily use the template that comes with it and drill out the mounting holes.

I used the VFT Tape to affix the Supports to the Control Panel and then the Control Panel to the Sphere, this is one of the last steps you will do.

Step 10: Blasters

Print the Blasters in RED PLA, and insert the 4 Geen LEDs through the rear. Use Hot Glue to secure them to the blaster.

Print the Blaster holders and align them to the front of the Tie Fighter, you can place them in several orientations. affix them to the Tie using Hot Glue and then drill holes in the center of each large enough to allow the wires to go through easily.

Once these are done thread the wires through the holes and using hot glue attach the Red Blasters to the mounts. I recommend putting a small bead around the base of the blaster then while inserting slowly turn the blaster. This allows the Glue to both make a better bond but also smooths out the hot glue and makes for a cleaner appearance.

Note: please test the LED's prior to glue them in. I combined 2 LED's with a 300ohm resister then attached the power 5vdc power wire to both Resistors. This minimized the wiring, but was a little bulky once I put the heat shrink tubing on them. So for each Blaster their is 4 Green LED's , (2) 300 ohm resistors for each set of 2 LEDS.

This still allows the LEDs to be bright and saves on battery, you can adjust the resistance to make these LEDs even brighter, but since this was for a kids costume I didn't want these too bright as little kids are always looking at the lights.

Step 11: The Schematics and Brackets

I used Fritzing for my component placement and schematics, I have attached both the Sketch and a JPG of the schematic incase you are using something else you can just use the picture.

The wiring is pretty straight forward, I used some headers for each of the connections to the DUE and soldered the wires to the headers to make a pseudo harness. I also printed a bracket to hold the Sound FX PCB to the DUE to keep it clean.

The Sound FX PCB is attached to the DUE using RS232, on serial port 3 of the DUE. I did find a bug I could not get past in the Sound FX code moving from UNO to DUE. The initial reset would never complete, so in my code I removed the step and have not had a problem. If someone finds the cause for this and can provide the fix I would be grateful, I don't like not having the ability to reset the Sound FX board. On the bright side in over 20+ hours of operation I have never had an issue that required me to reset the board.

After everything is wired to the control panel I used the VFT tape to secure the DUE to the underside of the Control panel. You can also use Velco tape if you feel the need to remove it from time to time.

The battery holders are all attached using Velcro tape so they can be removed to be replaced or recharged.

Step 12: The Code

This is my first Arduino coding, so please forgive any issues you may see.

The code works and I've tried a few things to make it as efficient as I know how.

I have since learned a few things about how to make the Arduino appear more multi-threaded but I have not had the time to redo the code for these.

The sound is also launched first, since the Sound FX board handles this, so then the Arduino can go off and perform any lighting required or respond to other inputs.

The only time it feels unresponsive is when the Imperial Theme music is playing, since this is a long sound sequence the Sound FX board can't do any other FX while a file is already playing. All the other sounds are fairly short and don't impact the fun for the kids. My son really likes the theme song and always plays it when he is just walking.

In the code on start up it always plays the Vader Sound "What is thy bidding my master" and flashes the blaster LEDs' this was so I would know all PCB's were operational right away since they are running on 2 different power sources.

Wearable Tech Contest

Runner Up in the
Wearable Tech Contest

Halloween Costume Contest 2015

Participated in the
Halloween Costume Contest 2015