The BB-8 Builders Club is an international organization devoted to building high-quality models of the BB-8 droid from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Innovative club members are using rapid prototyping and 3D printing to create full-scale replicas of the droid from the new film, and have even helped a high school robotics class build their own!
December 15, 2015: Star Wars fans have been building replicas of droid characters for years, typically using traditional production methods to achieve screen-ready quality. Recently, one creative group of global fans was inspired to use 3D printing to supercharge their team development efforts. Members of the group saw the new Force Awakens droid BB-8 for the first time in April 2015, and its design seemed perfect for 3D printing. Thus, the BB-8 Builders Club was born.
Faced with the exciting challenge of creating a high-quality, full-scale BB-8 droid, builder Michael Erwin and developer Tiny Panganiban collaborated from opposite sides of the world to design 3D models and build their prototype parts. Taking advantage of their 12-hour time difference, the two created a unique development process: Tiny would upload his latest design files, then Michael would test them on his 3D printer using Simplify3D and provide feedback within a 24-hour period. As they got further into the process, they acquired more 3D printers to optimize the part quality and construction time. This allowed rapid development and iteration that energized their entire droid building organization.
Michael saw an opportunity to improve the speed and efficiency of the entire BB-8 Builders Club using Simplify3D. “We realized that many of the club members were using different slicing software packages. We were having difficulty communicating in a common language,” he explained. In addition, many desktop 3D printers use different default software or file formats, making collaboration that much more difficult. However, by standardizing and recommending that all club members use Simplify3D, the entire team can quickly open and print the files on virtually any desktop 3D printer. The universal Simplify3D interface has also allowed them to rapidly solve several 3D printing quality issues. Michael describes the benefit to his team by saying, “Simplify3D is simply the fastest way to improve the quality of their prints and make their lives easier.”
The club publicly released the STL files for the BB-8 droid in October 2015 (under Creative Commons International 4.0 SA BY NC) so that makers everywhere can print the new design with confidence. On October 8th, the BB-8 Builders Club was officially recognized by LucasFilm Ltd, a day that many members proudly refer to as “October BB-8th.” Since then, the club work has also been featured on StarWars.com, Tested, and the Discovery Channel.
The club’s popularity has grown dramatically over the past few months, reaching more than 1,800 members in 27 countries. In addition to sharing their sophisticated BB-8 design with the world, the club is even helping the robotics class at a Texas high school bring BB-8 to life — they donated filament and Simplify3D Software so the seniors can build BB-8 as a class project.
The STL files for BB-8 are free and available for download from the club’s Facebook group, so you can prepare for the new movie by printing your very own life size droid!
December 30, 2015: Update – Tested visits Mike Senna and his working BB-8 replica
Robot builder Mike Senna has created a working replica of the BB-8 droid, including the 3D printed top design by Michael Erwin and Tiny Panganiban from the BB-8 Builders Club.
Tested visited Mike to follow the design process of the “life-size” droid from the new Star Wars episode: