Let’s start with the head

R2-D2 is made of: a half-spherical head (not really), a cylindrical body and two legs. We can build them in whatever order, but most builders start with the head, and it seems to be a good idea (this is the part that comes closest to the skills that I know …).

First, we need a dome, and that’s where the problems start: it has a very special shape, it is a kind of hemisphere drawn up, with a diameter of 46cm and and a height of 30cm (23cm if it was really a hemisphere …).

We can look for something like that in hardware stores (some use an Ikea lamp …) but nothing existing is really to scale. The real dome is actually the reflector of a projector model that is no more available.

Another solution is to make a fiberglass dome (the R2 of the Empire Strikes Back have fiberglass domes molded on the domes of the R2 from the first Star Wars …). The steps are : sculpting a master , molding (fiberglass / carbon / epoxy resin) and finishing (putty, sanding, a lot of time !). It’s a very time consuming work.

An additional difficulty is that we need in fact two nested domes to reproduce the panels cut into the thickness of aluminum.

In general I like to do everything by myself, but this is really too complicated.

The only option left is to find someone who has the right machines and can manufacture and sell these domes. On astromech.net forum, we find mainly two US vendors, who make small series, one plastic and one aluminum. Obviously, the prices are not the same !

Personally I chose the expensive one and I ordered the aluminium dome. Shipping costs from the US and the french customs add about 33% to the original selling price.

After a few weeks I received two aluminum domes, 2mm thick, with laser-cut panels , a horizontal plate and a beautiful base ring made of solid aluminum. The two domes fit together perfectly, the laser leaves burrs which need to be removed (next article!)


For information, the domes are made with this type of machine (definitely not accessible to an average maker!):

The domes are really beautiful, and I almost forgot the price! This should be the only R2 part I will need to buy.

Next episode: preparing the dome …

Let’s build R2-D2 !

I’ve been making things since quite some time : models of boats, planes, figurines, electronic circuits, robots …

In May 2016, I just finished this boat, all wood, with sails and rigging:


So, I’m looking for a new project, and if I try to sum up the things I’ve learnt so far :

  • Build a kit, with a plan
  • Drawing a plan, by hand or with a computer
  • Designing electronic circuits, using a soldering iron
  • Using an airbrush, weathering techniques
  • Working with wood, metal, composite materials
  • Working with a 3D printer
  • … non-exhaustive list 🙂

What could I do that uses all this knowledge? I found the answer in Make Magazine (makezine.com), in an article showing the construction of an R2-D2 life-size !
After being a little hesitant to get into such a big project, I finally decided to start  after looking at the reference forum, astromech.net and reading some construction logs showing very different techniques to achieve the result.

An important point is that there is no official method of construction, or ready-made kit: everyone has to to get by with the plans published by astromech.net!

I decided to build a R2 life-size,  with animated elements (hatches, periscopes …), lighting effects, sound effects … The dome is made of metal and rest of the body will be made of metal , with plastic cover. Small items will be made with the 3D printer.

I will try to describe in this blog the progress of the construction of my R2-D2, and also publish the files (3D objects, diagrams, software …) that I design for the occasion.

At the time of this writing I already have a head that is well advanced, you can follow the progress on my twitter account.