Motorized Revell Babylon 5

Pixelworks

Active Member
Hi all,

after a VERY long break, with all the curves and waystops that life likes to put in your way, I am slowly getting back into my modeling mode. I will be taking up in the threads that I left off with, but beforehand I wanted to do something more simple to get back into the swing of it. This time around I will be doing the Babylon 5 Space Station from Revell.

To be honest, other than other builds and a couple fan-based materials, there really is not a lot of reference pictures of the Babylon Station... and I have found nothing in a halfway decent resolution to allow one to zoom in on the fine details. If anyone out there has any information or sources, I would be more than happy for any tips.

Now, as any of you who know me know, I have a love/hate relationship with Revell/Monogram (keywords: Galactica, Star Destroyer, X-Wing, the list goes on.) but the Babylon 5 kit is really not that bad. Of course there is the overall lacking in detail but in Revell's defense, it is a kit from the 90's, so I cannot be too picky there. After my first inspection of the parts, I did notice a slight molding fault on the front of one of the habitation pieces (I will get a picture up on that later tonight), but other than that the molding looks quite good.

Where am I going with this: Well, of course I will be doing a lot of detail work on her... it just would not be me if I didn't. But along those lines I will be stepping outside the comfort of "screen-correctness". Just to give a bit more flavor on the whole, I want to add a bit more texture to the hull that is at least implied in 2D on the decals. Of course this will have to be done so as not to completely bust the scale. I have a couple ideas that I want to try to see how they look, and I will go from there.

I do not think Paragrafix has a product for B5, so that means that even though they have become quite expensive, I will probably invest in the Green Strawberry photoetch kit. Naturally I will be using an arduino for lighting the station up with LEDs and fiberoptics. In the show you see a lot of navigation lights and of course the landing bays are lighted, but I have only found one reference picture that actually shows living quarter windows. Well, to give it that "lived-in" look. I also want to do windows... I mean what space station does not have at least a couple windows?!?

The highlight of the whole build will be that I want to motorize the centerfugal habitat module. I have read many builds where the poster claimed it "could" be possible, but I have not found any examples of someone actually motorizing the B5. I am not quite sure yet how to best place the hardware to achieve this, but in any case I will be needing to transfer power/signal from the non-moving part to the moving part which means a type of slip-ring will be needed somewhere.

b5_14.jpg


Well that is all for now. Here a couple details about the Revell kit as well as some specs on the station itself...

The Babylon Project: Babylon 5

Class: O´Neil Deep Space Station
Length: 8,064.5 meter (5 Miles) *
Diameter: 840 meter
Mass: 9.1 billion metric tons
Power: 8 Fusion Reactors
Crew: 2,500
Troop: 15,000
Civilians: Unknown (The station's life support system is capable of supporting over 250,000 entities in variable gravities)
Fighters: 48 Starfury fighter craft

Weapons: Twin Particle arrays
Particle Laser Cannon
Pulse Cannons
Plasma Cannons

Defenses: 8 - 12 meter armored hull
Mk. II Defense Grid


Babylon 5 was the fifth and final space station in the Babylon Project, Located at the L-5 point in a binary star system between a star and a planet named Tigris & Euphrates, in a 33,000 kilometer orbit around a planet called Epsilon Eridani III, coordinates: "Grid Epsilon" at 470/18/22 (see "Fun Fact" below) located 10.67 light-years from Earth near the local jumpgate where it could serve as both trade station and strategic command post. Unlike Babylon 4, Babylon 5 was immobile and only had maneuvering thrusters for orbit corrections.

* The total length is somewhat disputed, the 8064 meters (or 5 miles) is stated as the overall length in some sources and in others it is the length of only the cylindrical habitat module. [EDIT]: The Babylon 5 station was originally designed to be one mile wide and eleven miles long: only the centrifuge (the main rotating cylinder, containing the Garden and Green and Red sectors) was going to be 5 miles long, with the forward command sphere and the rear power section and the front cargo arms adding the remaining length. However, in-episode dialogue constantly refers to the whole station being five miles long. This creates inconsistencies since the CGI in the Garden sequences (particularly the end of the episode The Fall of Night, the Season 2 finale) clearly shows a much wider station than the 0.45 miles it would have been to keep the scaling correct.

Fun Fact: Straczynski used the "GEnie Online message board" to communicate with fans starting back in 1991 and those who were part of JMS discussion of Babylon 5 back when it was still referred to as "That Which Cannot Be Named", referred to themselves as The Grid Epsilon Irregulars. Grid Epsilon was the original location of GEnie's Science Fiction Roundtable. The numbers "470" by "18" by "22" are taken from Category 470, Forum 22, Topic 18 of the original GEnie forum. JMS named the location of B5, Epsilon 3, in honor of this group.

The Revell model scale is somewhat controversial (never heard that before, right? ;) ) but depending on what measurement you use, it comes in at about 1:26100 and is 44cm high and 14cm wide.

Babylon 5 Revell box.jpg


Babylon 5 Revell box (back).jpg
 
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Ooooh, I can't wait to see more of this! I've always wanted to see this kit motorized! I'd love to do it myself, but I don't have the kit and prices on eBay are outrageous.
 
Ooooh, I can't wait to see more of this! I've always wanted to see this kit motorized! I'd love to do it myself, but I don't have the kit and prices on eBay are outrageous.
You can say that again. I picked this up a couple of years ago for 60 Euro, basically because it was (even at that time) a good deal and I knew I wanted to do one sooner or later. You can still find them on ebay for under 100 Euro, but the average is above. It is insane really, I mean there are not that many parts and no rocket science was used to create them.

Regarding the motorized, I will be using a stepper motor to do the turning. A normal DC motor poses problems to control the speed at the level that I will need to do it. Furthermore, they are meant for higher speeds (i.e. driving the wheels of an RC car) and don't do good with real slow rotations.
 
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You can say that again. I picked this up a couple of years ago for 60 Euro, basically because it was (even at that time) a good deal and I knew I wanted to do one sooner or later. You can still find them on ebay for under 100 Euro, but the average is above. It is insane really, I mean there are not that many parts and no rocket science was used to create them.

Regarding the motorized, I will be using a stepper motor to do the turning. A normal DC motor poses problems to control the speed at the level that I will need to do it. Furthermore, they are meant for higher speeds (i.e. driving the wheels of an RC car) and don't do good with real slow rotations.
There was a fellow on a Facebook page that did this with his station kit, I'm trying to find the bookmark I had for his post.
 
I haven't found the link but here are a couple of shots I saved.

View attachment 1656663
Hey Narvik,
thanks for the pictures, it looks like the builder has a DC motor and the gears are there to reduce the RPM speed. I thought about placing the motor in the rear section in the beginning as well, but that caused two issues for me: 1) as I need FO and LEDs in the moving part there is not enough space in the back for a motor and a slipring and 2) if everything goes like I want it too, I want the station to be "free-floating" and supported by a hollow lamp rod that exits the plastic somewhere in the back and holds everything to a base (or wall mount, haven't decided yet). All of that means I will not be using the supplied base or support A-struts and the rod will have to extend through to the front of the habitat section for stability.

At any rate I LOVE the "Created by J. Michael Straczynski" on the back. That was the last scene in the opening credits of the 2nd Season if I remember correctly. I do not believe that I will do that, but I would be lying if I said I did not at least think about it. :)
 
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Yeah that JMS thing is pretty funny, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. I ended up selling all my B5 kits, which now I wish I had kept. I always had the idea of putting a motor on it, but lacked the knowledge of gearing to get beyond "Wouldn't that be cool?" I could figure it out, but never went beyond that.
 
Yeah that JMS thing is pretty funny, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. I ended up selling all my B5 kits, which now I wish I had kept. I always had the idea of putting a motor on it, but lacked the knowledge of gearing to get beyond "Wouldn't that be cool?" I could figure it out, but never went beyond that.
Yeah, the idea in itself is not so hard, but only once you get into the details you begin to see all the constrictions. I was wracking my brains as to where to put the stepper motor... like I mentioned above, if it weren't for the LEDs that need to go in the moving part, it actually would not be all that difficult.

In case anyone is wondering what a slip-ring is, the slip-ring is needed to transmit power and/or signals over a moving barrier. I am sure there are still others but basically they come in two different formats, depending on how you want to transfer your current: Horizontal (or Pancake) or Vertical.

The principle is the same though for both: you have a ring of conductive material (i.e. copper) and like the needle of a record player a corresponding mate that keeps the connection alive throughout the turning
SlipRing Pancake.png

The horizontal slip (above) uses less space in the horizontal axis and the current transferring is applied to conductive rings spreading upward. or perpendicular to the turning motion

slipRing.jpg

The vertical slip-ring does the same but the conductive rings are spread out along a line parallel to the turning motion.

Once I seal everything up, there is no way I will ever be able to get to the slip-ring ever again. Because these are moving parts and a certain amount of friction (and wear & tear) will be involved, it is important to me that the slip-ring will hold out for an eternity of turning without the conductive copper wearing thin. For this I am constructing my own slip-ring using slices copper tubing to form the individual rings in a vertical slip-ring.

As for the motor, At first I tried tests using a motor connected to a gear... both with the motor attached to the central rod and connected to a gear with teeth on the inside as well as a normal gear with teeth on the outside and the motor attached to the inside of the habitat section. The problem with using gears is that you cannot be 100% certain that the gear teeth at some point won't wear down, or that in time there is enough play that the gears are no longer aligned. On top of that, in order for the motor to work turn its way around the rod, the motor would have to be less than half the diameter of the habitat section... smaller motor means reducing the amount of torque (and life-expectancy) of the motor. All in all, I just could not commit myself to either due to my "eternal-spinning complex".

Plan B5.png


Actually, I had a brainstorm just a couple weeks ago and realized I need only think from another direction. The solution that I now believe to be the best is to connect the pin of the motor (the turning part) directly to the end of the rod (at the very front of the habitat section) and the motor itself directly to the inside of the habitat section and presto... no need for any gears at all! Yeah me!

Well that is the theory anyway. My stepper motor just arrived today so as soon as i get a chance to do some tests I will get some pictures up for you.

[Edit]: The microcontroller that you see in the aft section, will not be a complete arduino but simply the arduino chip without everything else on the board. If you are interested, just google for "Arduino on a Breadboard". To go even smaller I wrote a bit about it in my old Monogram Galactica Thread (Post #11). Do not be confused by the other account name, after a virus-related incident I lost both my password to the account as well as to the email associated with it. Never-the-less, it is me.
 
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Setting up the Stepper Motor

so both my Stepper Motor and a driver board have arrived. The difference between a DC and a Stepper is that you can move a stepper "step by step" and can control which direction as well as the speed of each step by means of a microcontroller (e.g. arduino) and a driver board (here an A4988). Most steppers are of the 1.8 step angle type, meaning each step moves at 1.8 degrees giving you about 200 steps to do one complete turn.

A nice breakdown of how a stepper works (that even I could understand) can be found at Digikey

The A4988 driver board that I bought on Amazon, allows you to use half steps, 1/4 Steps and 1/8 steps... meaning if 200 steps are too crude, using a half step gives you a resolution of 400 steps, and so on. The speed can be defined either in the code on the microcontroller or by using the on-board potentialmeter.

I chose a NEMA14 Stepper Motor, mainly because of the round form factor and because it was just the right size to fit into the habitat section (that is, after I shave the ears off).

Here is how the stepper, driver board and the arduino are cabled:
A4988 Stepper Motor Driver.png

In my case the arduino will be reduced to a single ATmega328P (PU) microcontroller chip and the wires soldered directly to the pins.

Disclaimer: Contrary to common practice, I am not an Amazon affiliate and do not earn jack if you click on the link and buy. ;)
 
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Pinout translation Arduino board vs ATmega328P

ATMEGA328P.jpg

just for reference, once you have an Arduino environment on an ATmega328P, here are the respective pins:

Pinout-Atmega-328P-vs-Arduino-UNO.png


It may look complicated, but it really isn't. The digital pins are what I generally use for LEDs. You just wire the power IN pin of an LED to (for example) digital pin 7 on the arduino and the other LED pin to ground through a resistor. Then in the code you just command Pin 7 to repeatedly turn on for a second and then turn off for a second. And there you have the perfect Nav Light that any Enterprise would be proud of. :)

A few of the digital pins have a PWM function (Digital Pins 3, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11), which among other things allows you to even define and/or change the brightness of an LED in your code dynamically.
 
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Yeah, the idea in itself is not so hard, but only once you get into the details you begin to see all the constrictions. I was wracking my brains as to where to put the stepper motor... like I mentioned above, if it weren't for the LEDs that need to go in the moving part, it actually would not be all that difficult.

In case anyone is wondering what a slip-ring is, the slip-ring is needed to transmit power and/or signals over a moving barrier. I am sure there are still others but basically they come in two different formats, depending on how you want to transfer your current: Horizontal (or Pancake) or Vertical.

The principle is the same though for both: you have a ring of conductive material (i.e. copper) and like the needle of a record player a corresponding mate that keeps the connection alive throughout the turning
View attachment 1657151
The horizontal slip (above) uses less space in the horizontal axis and the current transferring is applied to conductive rings spreading upward. or perpendicular to the turning motion

View attachment 1657152
The vertical slip-ring does the same but the conductive rings are spread out along a line parallel to the turning motion.

Once I seal everything up, there is no way I will ever be able to get to the slip-ring ever again. Because these are moving parts and a certain amount of friction (and wear & tear) will be involved, it is important to me that the slip-ring will hold out for an eternity of turning without the conductive copper wearing thin. For this I am constructing my own slip-ring using slices copper tubing to form the individual rings in a vertical slip-ring.
Love the project and look forward to WIP photos....(y) I used a vertical slip-ring (rotary joint) in my B-9 build for the torso and it has stood up just fine for all these years. I used a 12 wire version, it takes the power from the battery in the legs and for the two motors for the tracks up to the main body and has not given the old boy any problems....(y)(y)(y):)
 
Setting up the Stepper Motor

so both my Stepper Motor and a driver board have arrived. The difference between a DC and a Stepper is that you can move a stepper "step by step" and can control which direction as well as the speed of each step by means of a microcontroller (e.g. arduino) and a driver board (here an A4988). Most steppers are of the 1.8 step angle type, meaning each step moves at 1.8 degrees giving you about 200 steps to do one complete turn.

A nice breakdown of how a stepper works (that even I could understand) can be found at Digikey

The A4988 driver board that I bought on Amazon, allows you to use half steps, 1/4 Steps and 1/8 steps... meaning if 200 steps are too crude, using a half step gives you a resolution of 400 steps, and so on. The speed can be defined either in the code on the microcontroller or by using the on-board potentialmeter.

I chose a NEMA14 Stepper Motor, mainly because of the round form factor and because it was just the right size to fit into the habitat section (that is, after I shave the ears off).
;)
Good choice going with a stepper motor, I've used them for years in many of my builds, just be very careful of the heat, stepper motors run very hot,
by using the 4988 stepper motor driver, good choice, you can easily control the current (heat) to the motor with the small trim-pot on the board, start low and bring the current up slow and check the motor's temperature, it may take a while due to the motors mass so take your time, I also added small "dip-switches" to my boards to easily select step and direction. If I may ask, are you bread-boarding the ATmega328P to keep things small? If so a Pro-Mini should work for your motor controller, you will need a FTDI board to flash it but it comes off when your done and can be bought for under $3.00, if you don't mind paying a bit more there are Arduino boards with built-in USB ports, I've used two smaller boards for some projects, hope this helps, unless you already knew this, then I'll back off....:)
 

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okay...this is fabulous I look forward to following....

I will be keeping my eye on this one.

This will be interesting…

Way over my head to attempt, but I'm going to follow with great interest! Love the show!


Hi, Thanks for tuning in and I am glad to have peeked your interests. There isn't a lot to see yet. As you can see much thought is going into the planning. On top of that, experience has taught me the hard way to test things as far as you can before you start cutting and gluing.

Now that my stepper is here I will be primarily busy with writing code to get the right speed for the habitat section as well as programming the LED lights that need to blink. For the latter it will means devising a whole concept, as in the series, you really do not see many lights at all. But of course they must be there. I mean space can be really dark and the same principle is used today (whether wind generators, airplanes, high bridges, etc) They are all lit up on extreme edges from every perspective to be a danger warning for any other occupants of the same airspace. Well that gives me a couple chores...
  • determining which nav lights should blink and which should remain constant. (it has to please the eye in the end, and absolutely EVERYTHING blinking would be a distraction)

  • Blinking is not just blinking - You have lights that blink regularly (i.e. ON time equals OFF time) and strobes where you have a quick flash and then a longer period of OFF time, then you have my personal favorite the DIM ON/ DIM OFF variation. And to top it off, all of this blinking needs to be calculated so that all of the patterns stay in sync with each other.

  • Colors - Again comes the pleasing of the eye, everything in red, white or whatever alone is too monotone, and yet on the other side, it should not simply look like a multi-color blinking x-mas tree. Aside from that, you kind of have to think of a color concept that would make sense in our physical world,

  • And then last but not least there is the technical side. All the wiring and fiber optic cables inside the model need to be routed (and fixed) so as not to interfere with the turning (or worst case, get caught on something somewhere down the line and everything on the inside gets ripped out, like spaghetti on a fork).
 
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