My DIY BB-8: Problems, Solutions, Lessons Learned

Imagine trying to make a ball-shaped robot that rolls in any direction but with a head that stays on. When I saw the BB-8 droid doing just that in the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, it was an interesting engineering challenge that I couldn’t resist. All the details for how I made it would fill a book, so here are the highlights: the problems I ran into, how I solved them and what I learned.

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Safely Remove Drill Chuck; Receive Motor, Gearbox, and Clutch

There’s a treasure trove of usefulness inside of an electric drill. [Steven Dufresne], Hackaday writer and the mad scientist behind Rimstar.org, kindly documented how to safely and reliably remove the chuck from a drill motor. You may think this is easy, but once in a while you’ll come across a drill determined to hold onto all its bits. We certainly were entertained by the lengths [Steven] went to in the video below to get a Black and Decker to give up its chuck.

An understanding of how the chuck and gearbox are connected, combined with the right tools and a bit of force, gets you a motor, gears and gearbox, and a clutch. There’s not much left in the drill after that, and you can put some or all of those components to new use — like using them for the drive system of a BB-8 Droid.

Many projects (like this walking scooter) make use of cordless drills as motor sources. Being able to skip the chuck in order to interface directly to the shaft is useful for those projects where the drill is at least a semi-permanent part of the build. Ask your friends, neighbors, and at work. Cheap cordless drills and screw guns have been around for a long time. It’s usually the batteries that go and many people have the drills lying around and will be happy to part with them knowing you’re going to do something awesome with them.

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