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R2-3X (300% 3D Printed R2-D2)

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I’m starting to dabble in the world of Kenner-style Star Wars customs, after restoring a rough 3.75″ R2-D2, dubbed Repro-D2, I got the bug and wanted a slightly larger project. 3 times as large. I purchased an STL file of the original Kenner R2 and had it 3D printed at 300%, roughly the size of a beer can. This size allows for cool photos, that would be impossible to take with an original size R2 action figure. Read on for some progress photos during construction, and more creative photography with my R2-3X.

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Here’s a side by side comparison shot from the Dune Sea. When I was five and six years old, I carried my R2 action figure around everywhere. He was a constant companion that I would pull out of my pocket and get into adventures with. I wanted my R2-3X to durable, able to hang out in my camera bag and be ready to put into a creative situation for a photo without worrying about him getting broken. That’s one of the reasons I wanted the action figure version, instead of a highly detailed model that was more screen accurate. But most importantly I’m paying homage to the adventures my six year old self got into.
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I purchased a 3D file from Desert Octopus via Cults3D. It’s a scan of an original toy, as you can see the injection seams from the Kenner toy. I haven’t yet finalized my decision on which 3D printer to purchase, so I used my local library which prints up 3D files pretty cheap. This R2 cost me $7. I got the decal from ToyPolloi and sized it up myself and printed it on Avery decal paper.

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The STL file had pegs included to assemble the head to the body as well as the two legs. I didn’t like how loose the body was when it was put together. I had a hard time keeping the body at a slightly tilted angle. I also found it’s much easier to transport him if I can detach the legs and put them back on quickly. So I used a Dremel and sawed off a portion of the peg and glued on Neodymium magnets, and glued a small nut inside the body. The legs pop right into place and the power of the magnets keep the angles I choose. I did not use the included peg to connect the dome to the body, but subbed in a magnet and nut and that has worked great too.

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The first challenging shot I had in mind was this photo with the Milky Way. It would be very difficult to take this photo with the original sized R2-D2. I took R2-3X to Assateague Island, the darkest sky in Maryland, during the Perseid meteor shower. I wanted R2-3X surrounded by stars, not below them, so it wouldn’t be questioned if it was photoshopped. So I positioned him on a small cooler to get him higher than the horizon, but after I got back to my laptop, I found I didn’t like the cooler, so I cropped it. It doesn’t matter too much, I didn’t get the emotional response I was looking for, so I committed to keep trying.

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I did however nail this shot. We went mini-golfing at the beach and found this skeleton that resembled the crait dragon bones from A New Hope. I was able to get both relatively in focus, and avoid having to take two photos and composite them together. The entire point of this ongoing project is to avoid stacking photos and achieve everything in-camera. If I’m going to photoshop it, what would have been the point of using the 300% version?
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Then it was time for Awesome Con, DC’s comic con. There’s always a ton of Star Wars cosplayers and props, thanks to the R2 Builders Club and the 501st, so I brought R2-3X. I enjoyed incorporating him into my coverage of the 2021 AwesomeCon for something unique. I do wish there had been a bit more vintage toys for sale, but we had a good time. See my coverage for more pics of R2-3X at the con. On the way home I managed the long exposure shot in the DC Metro seen at the top of the article.r23x_startunnel_03
So I wanted to do a dedicated photoshoot with R2-3X to really introduce him to my audience and the collector community. I had hoped that Milky Way shot would have been it, but it wasn’t strong enough, so I took him downtown to the National Gallery of Art to the star tunnel. I love shooting here so I knew some of the techniques. However this was my first time photographing an action figure here and not a beautiful woman.

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I set him down on the moving walkway and used my hat to prop up the lens to get him in the frame. I used my app to take long exposures. The big trick is distancing R2 far enough away to be in focus. I used a 1 second long exposure to get some streaks in the stars and get a bit more light into the exposure.
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I also wanted to get a shot like this with the starry bokeh in the background, however I could not touch the artwork and put R2 on the piece in any way. I debated sliding a table over from the adjacent café, but I thought that would get too much attention. Then I had a flash of inspiration. There was a row of high chairs, on wheels. I could wheel over a high chair and balance R2 on the edge of that. The only trick was getting the angle right.
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I then got another opportunity to try the Milky Way again. On business travel to Green Bay WI, my friend Josh drove me to Point Beach State Forrest. We were close to a certified International Dark Sky location, but it was still just a little too far to drive for the window we were going to have. I could position R2 on a log to get him with the stars (definitely an improvement over the cooler) but I did have difficulty getting R2 in focus at the same time as the stars. It’s possible. What I may need to do is use a tape measure to figure out the distance needed in daylight before attempting in the dark on a beach again. I like that it’s not easily attainable and it will take some more time to figure out.
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I’ve found this entire experience to be very rewarding. I was giddy picking up the fresh 3D prints, but even more excited as each stage was paint. Now that he’s in my hands I can’t wait to take him places and figure out the challenges of taking photos with him in new environments. Expect to see more travels and tricks with R2-3X.

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