Introduction: Building a Star Wars Datapad From a Phone Case
This build started because my wife and are I going to Disneyland to see Galaxy's Edge, the new Star Wars area. Adults aren't allowed to wear costumes in Disneyland, so makers have responded by converting their phone cases into data pads. This works really well because there is a Disney app that turns the screen of your phone into a data pad.
Rather than trying to recreate a specific prop, the idea is to build a datapad that looks like it comes from Star Wars, while also fitting you.
I will walk through this build with two examples: my phone and my wife's phone.
- A phone case to convert
- Various materials to use to decorate the case (covered in more detail later)
- Regular paints
- Fabric paints (optional, see directions)
- Cutting implements (e.g. diagonal cutters)
- Glue (I used Crazy Glue)
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Step 1: Choosing a Phone Case
If you pick a phone case with lots of existing details, it can be easier to get started. You can also pick a plain case and layer in the details yourself.
For my build, I started with a case with a lot of details (the case on the right).
For my wife's build, I started with a plain case.
Step 2: Collecting Your Materials
You can collect materials from different sources. You should try to have a wide variety and quantity of materials. For each of the builds I did, I probably started with close to 100 pieces, and used a small handful (maybe 10-12).
Different materials you can use:
- 3D printed pieces (somehow, I not only printed two extra discs on one of my projects, but I fully painted them as well...it worked out for me)
- Mis-printed 3D pieces or support material--these can have interesting textures
- Lego pieces, especially transparent ones
- Flat craft foam pieces (e.g. small vehicles, animals, dinosaurs, which can be cut into pieces or used whole)
- Plastic model parts and the plastic pieces that hold the parts together
- Found objects (e.g. small bits of PVC, washers, anything that looks interesting)
- Small circuit boards
- Random electronic components (resistors, capacitors, wire, etc.)
- Colored electrical tape
Step 3: Knolling Your Materials
Laying out our materials before you get going is important so you can see everything at once. This helps you find pieces to put together in interesting ways.
Looking at the pictures, you can see my case on the left, with different colors and different raised bits on the back. On the right is my wife's plain, flat case.
I tried to group similar looking materials together (e.g. round materials, long straight pieces, large flat pieces).
Step 4: Layout Your Datapad
Start by putting the larger pieces down first. Work from larger pieces to smaller. If you are layering (putting pieces on top of other pieces), then work layer by layer from the lowest layer up. Take pictures at each stage so you can recreate the layout. The idea is to play with the layout until you're happy with the pieces, then take everything off and paint it, then assemble everything with glue.
If necessary, you can cut materials to fit or to create more interesting shapes.
You can make a theme with your pieces (e.g. on my case, the cylinders at the top are some sort of power bank), or you can just arrange pieces that look good.
Take a picture of the layout before you start painting.
Step 5: Painting
Decide on a color scheme for your datapad. For my build, I went with a desert / resistance theme (e.g. Jakku / BB-8). My wife chose cream and purple for her color scheme.
Paint your pieces. Start with the phone case itself, then paint a couple of the bigger pieces.
Let everything dry and do a quick check by putting the bigger pieces on the case to see if you're happy with the color combinations.
Finish painting everything and let it dry.
Reassemble the layout from the picture you took at the end of step 4. See if you like the layout and look at this point.
If you make any changes, take another picture.
Step 6: Final Assembly
When you're happy with your trial layout, then go back to your picture and get ready with your glue. Go layer by layer (if you have multiple layers), or bigger pieces to smaller pieces. Don't rush the placement.
When everything is placed, you can use fabric paint to create connecting wires or even additional components if you want.
Take a final picture when everything's assembled and share it!