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 …