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BB-8 Project Part 5: Power Distribution

power intro

It's probably time I worked out how to distribute power to all of BB-8's components, a little late I know. Just a little warning: I am still considering myself a newcomer to electronics so the best I can do with what knowledge I have is get it working and avoid shocking myself at the same time. I think I have a bit of a knack for it so we'll see how well this works out.

In this article I'll discuss my options and what choices I made. It's a little more complicated than you might think. Different components have different tolerances for voltage and current, but some components also work better on higher voltages.

Let's get started ...

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BB-8 Redesign (Based on Bruton's Version 2)

BB-8 Redesign based on Bruton's Version 2

After a lot of thought and observation with my current design, I've decided to scrap it! Part of my decision comes from James Bruton with XRobots and his version 2 BB-8. I've decided it's a much better idea and has far more control than what many are doing already (omni-bot hamsters). You can read about and watch videos at James Bruton's website: Now, I don't have James's design files and I can only determine his specifications based on what he's told us and by observation. Mine is going to differ quite a bit for various reasons. Number one, my 3D printer has a small build volume (145mm x 145mm x 155mm, Lulzbot Mini). I've already worked out most of the mechanics and I will be using existing electronics from the first version.

Another project has been in development for the remote control this BB-8 will use, so expect to see another project page spawn after a while! This universal remote utilizes a Raspberry Pi, TFT Touch Screen, and XBee Series 1. I'm still determining exactly what parts will be used for that project.


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BB-8 Redesign: PLA vs ABS

Printing w/ PLA

I've been experimenting with ABS for printing the prototype drive wheel for my BB-8, but it was never perfect. Cracks would appear the taller the object was or the layers would not be perfectly aligned with the curved shapes. I've decided to break from my use of HIPS and ABS and try PLA instead. So far the prints are coming out perfect. Everything lines up right, the curves are perfect, and there's no shrinking that I can see.

Unfortunately PLA is not going to be strong enough to use in the actual BB-8. The plan is still to take these prints and use them as positive for molds where I can hopefully quickly mass produce the parts I need to form the drive wheel. Progress is slow, but I have a trash can full of failed HIPS and ABS prints!

The green print is PLA (left image), absolutely beautiful.

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BB-8 Spoilers and Analysis


Now that the movie is out I can get a better analysis of BB-8. This will be quick, because we already knew so much about the droid. Let's break it down:


The head spin isn't what I thought it was. There was some talk about how the head spinned, but we were all so focussed on the BB-8 from the Anaheim Star Wars Celebration in which the head spins on top of the body. In the movie the head actually spins on top of the metallic rim on the lower part of the head. It's not a complicated thing to do in a real-world BB-8, but it would add substantial weight which is probably why the stage BB-8 did not spin that way. Others are saying it's just to keep the head from falling off.


The sound effects are not what we originally heard when the Star Wars celebrations were going on. Abrams must have changed the sound effects later on while the film was in editing, but I really don't know why. The sound effects have a bit less reverb and are much more muffled. I'll need to find some sources to extract the new sounds for my BB-8.


The circular light on the head to the left of the holo projector (small and white) actually blinks to show the droid's mood. It does not always blink when BB-8 speaks, but sometimes it does synchronize with his speech. The rectangular white light to the left of that circular light is not always on. Also as far as I could tell I only ever saw one red light on the head and there were not multiple lights in a line with it that ever came on. I might be wrong there. It's possible in future episodes we might see the eye show more lights, but I did not see that in The Force Awakens.

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