Jan 23, 2016 | By Alec

It’s no secret that the gaming and the 3D printing communities partially overlap, and we’ve already seen a number of interesting projects in which 3D printing is used to enhance the gaming experience. However, most impressive are certainly those projects that bring gaming to people with disabilities. Remember this 3D printed modular Xbox thumbstick for amputees? However, the most impressive controller modification we've ever seen has just come out of the workshop of Make Magazine’s Caleb Kraft, who in his spare time has built a special Xbox controller for one handed gamers, that can either be used with a single hand or with the help of two 3D printed foot controllers.

As you might know, Caleb Kraft has an unusual hobby. A Make Magazine editor by day, he builds custom game controllers for people with physical disabilities by night as The Controller Project (and in weekends and early mornings). He doesn’t charge for his services, and simply wants help people enjoy gaming. Understandably, 3D printing often comes up in his attempts to build these unusual setups. And as he reveals in his latest video series, this one handed Xbox One controller for the right hand is for Jesse B. “He can’t use his left hand, so I’m going to have to move the analog stick and the D pad. Now I’ve seen where people have done it all on a single controller, but personally I don’t think I could game like that. Now Jesse can use his feet, so I’m gonna do an optional footboard, which will have an analog stick and D pad. He can disconnect it and use a one handed controller too,” he reveals.

Of course, this is a very ambitious project, made all the more impressive because Caleb has to squeeze it into his remaining hours over the course of a few weeks. Furthermore, the nature of the modifications means controllers don’t usually look as flashy as a store-bought version. “My mods aren’t pretty. Frankly I don’t have the time to worry about making everything pretty. I already take forever, you don’t want me worrying about aesthetics,” he explains. But what really matters?

As you can see in the clips below, this particular project is very time-consuming and essentially revolves around the construction of two custom foodpads that hold the left analog stick and left d-pad, respectively. “I [planned] to design these in a way that they are “pods” that could theoretically be used in many ways in the future, not just feet,” this took some time, and was followed by an additional pistol grip on the right side of the existing Xbox controller, which would give Jesse the option of doing everything with one hand.

For this lengthy design process, Caleb used both DesignSpark and Fusion 360 software. Though unfamiliar with the latter software, he found it very useful for 3D printing multiple iterations. And that was necessary, as replacements needed to be made a few times. “You can see that my lack of planning keeps biting me as I overlook simple design issues and have to retrace my work,” he says. In fact, it turned out that the bottom piece for the thumb stick needed to be completely redesigned.

Caleb further revealed that 3D printing and 3D modeling is very useful when making multiple controllers for multiple people. “I have a bunch of people needing one-handed controllers. [3D printing] could cut down my time spent on the next projects considerably. I therefore really need to model parts in 3D, instead of using ThermoMorph or something like that, where I just heat it up and model it by hand. Then I’m stuck doing that for every one of the projects. That’s why I’m taking the time to make a 3D model for every part,” he says.

Though the interesting design and manufacturing process did run into a couple of problems, it’s very interesting to see the project grow. After 3D printing and assembling the footpads, all there was left to do is solder wires from the controller out to these boxes. As he explains, he hates soldering parts together again in controllers, as it can really ruin them, but as you can see in episode 5, connecting all the electronics to the right side and the external additions went just fine (after a few tries). Obviously, this isn’t something a beginning maker would like to get into and is better left to the more experienced maker.

To make the Xbox controller one handed, he actually had to reimagine its function and opted for adding a removable attachments that brings all the left-handed controls to the right side in a sort-of pistol grip. Due to time constraints, moldable plastic and hand-shaping was used instead of 3D printing. This was added to the back of the controller with the help of a couple of screws. “After creating it, I realize two main things. Moldable plastic is ugly, and I can mold it faster than I can print a new one,” he says. Importantly, all the other buttons still work, so it can be used two-handed as well.

In short, it’s an extremely impressive and inspiring result that Jesse (and any other one-handed gamer) would be very happy with. If you are in need of one of these custom controllers yourself, or would like to build one yourself, you can find the 3D printable files on Caleb’s Thingiverse. You can also contact him and ask for one, but this will take a lot of time. “Invariably, when I post about these controllers, I get emails asking for me to make one. I wish I could help everyone, but I simply can’t. If you need a controller, I can put you on my waiting list, or I’ll gladly give you a list of other places where you can get one made,” he says. Gaming isn’t just for the two-handed people anymore.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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