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 in France,” said Vázquez. “I wanted it to be a single piece, easy to print and [with] minimum filament.” He said the model uses 10 grams of filament, takes just over an hour to print and is compatible with all 3-D printers.
Vázquez admits the design isn’t perfect. “I’m listening to the feedback. I’ve seen some people in which this adapter doesn’t help them,” he said. “So I’m looking for another way to develop a different adapter for their situation. Right now, I don’t have any requests that need it, but if there’s someone with different kind of needs I think it would be a good challenge to try and see if I can help them.”
Because lots of people don’t have access to a 3-D printer, Vázquez suggested that Nintendo create an alternate controller to make the Switch more accessible: “If they coupled the ability to remap buttons with the ability to develop adapters for the Joy-Con, then it will open a lot of possibilities for people that otherwise wouldn’t buy the Nintendo Switch.”
Vásquez’s design page lets you download and print the design yourself here. It’s this page that reveals perhaps the best part of Vásquez’s controller adapter: its price tag. “I want this design to be free completely,” he said. “If there’s someone with the same issue as Rami, I want them to know that this adapter exists.”