If you follow the 3D printing work of Make:‘s Caleb Kraft, you’ll know that he creates custom gaming controllers for people with disabilities. These have included a unique Xbox thumbstick for a player with muscular dystrophy and a completely novel controller for another Minecrafting friend with MD. Today, Kraft posted an update on Make: detailing the creation of some custom foot controllers for a friend who can’t use his left hand, but can use his feet.
In a series of videos, Kraft describes the process of designing custom controllers for his friend, Jesse, from scratch. While Jesse has use of his right hand, for which Kraft crafts a special one-handed controller, he doesn’t have the use of his left hand, sending Caleb in the direction of Jesse’s feet. By designing an optional foot controller, Jesse can either use a single Xbox device with one hand or he can opt for 3D printed foot controllers with a built-in D-pad and an analog stick.
To pull it off, Kraft uses DesignSpark, creating a face plate for the D-pad buttons and a base capable of being adjusted to the proper angle for Jesse’s feet. He then designs a casing for a thumbstick, before 3D printing it on his LulzBot Mini. The buttons and thumbstick are each connected to their individual boards, which he purchased from Adafruit.
After creating the foot controllers, he goes on to creating a single-handed controller for Jesse’s right hand. With some connectors, Kraft is able to wire the foot controllers to an original Xbox controller, following some advice from hacker Ben Heck as to how to hack the inside of the Xbox device. Thanks to the connectors, these foot controllers can be removed or plugged in depending on whether or not Jesse prefers one-handed play or playing with the foot controllers, too. He also adds an extra thumbstick to the back of the controller for single-handed play. This is attached, not using a 3D printed case, but with hot plastic, which Craft molds with his hands.
In creating the 3D models for his controllers, Kraft sought some relatively universal designs so that he could outfit the controllers for different uses, tailored to specific disabilities. For instance, his foot controllers, Kraft envisions, could be played with one’s chin, as well. With a list of players seeking custom controllers, then, he would be able to 3D print multiple copies for different requests from the disabled community.
The complete video guide is fascinating to watch, not just for the hacks and the noble cause, but because Kraft has to do all of this in the wee early hours of the morning, before his family wakes up. Drama? Not quite, but most of us can probably relate to being forced to balance work, home life, and hobbies across the limited hours of the day. Naturally, all of the designs for his controller mods are available for download on Thingiverse, altogether demonstrating how the 3D printing community is hacking the mass manufactured world to create a better world for unique individuals.