After French gamer and YouTuber Rami Wehbe lost the use of his right hand following a stroke, he wanted to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controller comes in two pieces, one for each hand.
The solution: His buddy Julio “Vexelius” Vázquez, an engineer based in Oaxaca, Mexico, 3-D printed Wehbe an adapter that let him play Switch games with one hand.
The Switch is Nintendo’s most modular game console yet. Its games can be played in your hands or on your television. Its controllers can latch onto the sides of a tablet or slide into a more traditional-feeling controller; they can be removed, split apart and act independently. There are very few things about the Switch that aren’t convertible — but you can’t use both sides of the controller with one hand.
This is where Vázquez’s design comes in. It’s a simple bracket that forms a right angle and has ridges for the Joy-Con to mount onto.
Vázquez showed Mic the details over video chat.
Vázquez’s design looks basic, but it took the engineer a week of trial and error to perfect, and he created “four failed prototypes before the final version,” he said.
His earlier builds were too spread out and bulky. Then he settled on the right-angle design, which better accommodates smaller hands.
In sum, designing the controller grip cost Vázquez 50 grams of filament total, which is the raw material used in 3-D printers. Rolls of filament are expensive in Oaxaca, but the design is so small that Vázquez spent relatively little on working his way to a final version. “Even with the most expensive filament, I invested $5 maximum in developing this prototype,” he said.
“It had to be a simple design, so I could send [Wehbe] the file and he could go to a store with a 3-D printer…