Progressive Automations had a chance to speak with Michael McMaster about his new R2-D2 and R4-P17 - and yes, he'll be using our actuators.
When Mike McMaster got the itch to recreate a working model of R2-D2, like so many of us, have contemplated in the past, he came upon the R2 Builder's Club Yahoo! Group. After his first build was a smashing success, he's about to do it again. This time, he's not only got his eye on a new R2-D2. He's planning on building an R4-P17, as well.
It seems Mike has always had a penchant for creation. "I have been building things since I was a little boy," he says. "I used to make elaborate spaceships from cardboard and lumber, then slowly stepped up to go-carts and more practical things." The move toward building things appeared to be a natural one for McMaster. "I lived on a citrus farm, so my father designed much of our farm equipment, and I was tasked with building some of it myself." When McMaster joined the R2 club in 2002, that's where he says his electronics and robotics knowledge really took off. There's a lot that goes into building a single R2 unit, from painting to molding to everything else. "I was really excited to learn how to mold parts that I had made, so I could reproduce them. I also learned how to properly paint and weather props through some very good teachers who are professional prop builders themselves." He's already created an R2-D2, so we wanted to know what the inspiration for the new one was. "I built my first R2-D2 replica over ten years ago, during the early days of the R2 Builder's Club, so it was slightly off-scale in a few places," he says. He plans on making the new version as accurate as possible, and it will be built with many of the gadgets that saw R2 through the Star Wars saga. "He will be much more robust, as well," McMaster says. "Utilizing the latest advances available today."
McMaster is also taking on a new build - an R4-P17 replica. His inspiration for this little guy is its rarity and uniqueness. "What drew me to the character was the color scheme, as well as the fact that there were very few of them out there." For those who might not be on the up-and-up, R4 belonged to Obi-Wan in the first three films and is colored red, silver and white rather than the familiar blue, silver and white of R2-D2. "It seems everyone has an R2-D2 at this point."
Linear actuators will be used to control the center foot and legs of the R2-D2 and R4-P17 units. We'll be able to see them switch from two legs to three legs when the replicas are done. "I typically use PA-14 actuators, as they fit in small spaces, are cost-effective and very powerful!" He'll control the little fellas with an RC switch along with a few limit switches.
Considering how much goes into building two of these robots - let alone a single one - you might think it would take eons of research, but that's where the benefit of being part of a group really pays off. "I am fortunate to be involved with a diverse group of talented people in the R2 Builder's Club. Many of them have already done a ton of research on the smallest details on each of the droids, which has helped tremendously." Among his resources for getting each and every specification as close as possible, he'll be using DVDs and material in print. "There are quite a few books on 'the making of Star Wars' with some great behind-the-scenes photographs."
For enthusiasts or seasoned professionals looking to get more information on building their own R2, the R2 Builder's Club is an excellent resource. McMaster says, "Members are always willing to help and give advice. Anyone can build a droid!" If you are interested in building your own droid, whether you have a background in robotics or this is your first one, visit the R2 Builder's Club Yahoo! Group info page, or check out Astromech.net.
McMaster says the robots are currently only a heap of parts, but we can't wait to see how the progress moves along. Find out about all of Michael McMaster's latest projects here, including his project with Mike Senna, the two Wall-E robots.