Feb. 25, 2016 | By Kira

A company named ENKKO has launched a Kickstarter campaign today with the goal of raising funds to manufacture high quality repair parts for the classic N64 controller. Using 3D scanning and 3D printing technology, ENKKO has created a series of repair part prototypes that extend the lifetime of the controller, and the company now hopes to create professional plastic injection molded parts to bring to market.

The M-shaped, N64 controller is something of an icon in classic gaming culture. For nearly 20 years, gamers of all ages have mastered its three-pronged grip to conquer titles such as Super Smash Bros, Mario Party, Golden Eye. Despite it’s innovative design, however, the N64 controller has one significant flaw: after extended use, the analog joystick becomes loose, unresponsive, and eventually completely useless.

It has now been 13 years since the last N64 console and controller were manufactured and sold in stores, but that hasn’t stopped dedicated fans from finding ‘hacks’, mods, or third party parts to keep using the system--all of which work, but not quite as well as the original. Now, Andrew Vargas, founder of ENKKO and passionate Smash 64 player, wants to release a complete, professional-quality and affordable solution to keep the N64 controller alive for good.

To create the most accurate possible parts, Vargas reverse-engineered the design. He bought a brand new controller from eBay, took it apart, and 3D scanned its interior. He then took it to a 3D printing company, who used SLS 3D printing technology and durable nylon material to 3D print a series of high-resolution models.

“I had a huge success in scanning the items and very happy with how the 3D prototype looks aesthetically. However, the print didn't come out as expected,” explained Vargas, who goes by the Smash 64 tag ‘Mr. Sir.’ The issue had to do with the rough nylon material used for the gear teeth and the bowl, which, though very durable and high resolution, were still not fine enough to work with the photodiode wheels. Despite that disappointment, however, the 3D printed toggle stick worked very well, and Vargas remained as determined as ever to see this project through.

Testing the 3D printed Protoype 1

With his 3D printed prototypes in hand, he decided to change his approach, and purchased a plastic injection machine to professionally recreate the parts just as Nintendo did 13 years ago.

This is where the Kickstarter comes in. While 3D printing can be a cost-effective way to produce rapid prototypes and even finished parts, injection molding requires more expensive materials, testing, and aluminium molds. In order to keep his dream, and the N64, alive, Vargas is hoping to raise $8,000 via his ENKKO Kickstarter, which will go towards creating the molds and bringing an affordable product to market.

3D scan of the gear part

Example of an aluminum mold used for a fishing gear

It’s an unfortunate reality that, as we all age, so too does our hardware, but ENKKO’s goal isn’t just about extending the life of a plastic video game controller—it’s about strengthening the entire N64 community, which spans multiple generations and every corner of the world. “The more people we can reach, the strong the 64 community becomes,” said Vargas. “You are not just helping ENKKO, but the community as we all benefit from having fun in playing our favorite N64 games.”

The ENKKO Kickstarter campaign launched today, and as of this writing, has already raised $2,100. Rewards are extremely accessible, with donations starting at just $10 to receive professionally made N64 controller stick and bowl replacement parts, so if you’ve suffered the disappointment of a worn down, useless N64 controller in the past, be sure to check it out and give your support. You can also see how 3D printing has been used to create modular game controller attachments for the disabled or 3D printed N64 case mods.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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