Talking tech since 2003

The Nintendo Switch continues to be a hot seller, and I, for one, understand why so many people have fallen head over heels for it. I certainly have. In its portable mode, it manages tablet-level graphics with the type of finished-game polish found on console or PC. While docked, its visuals look more on par with the Wii U, which is just good enough for the kinds of games found on Nintendo platforms.

If I could change anything about the Switch, though, I’d give it better Joy-Cons. The nubby little joysticks are far from a joy to use, and they really limit the amount of time I want to spend playing on the go.

But I recently discovered something that might change the way I use the Switch portably — a solution so obvious that I’m surprised a major accessory manufacturer like Hori hasn’t already made something similar. It’s called the SwitchFix. And not only does it appear to make the Nintendo Switch more comfortable to use in its portable state, it also shows that product manufacturing is now in arms’ reach of just about anyone.

The SwitchFix is a 3D printed mount for the Nintendo Switch that attaches to the console’s Pro Controller, giving players a larger, more comfortable gamepad to use while still keeping the Switch portable. And thanks to its 3D printed nature, the SwitchFix is able to be made by one single person — a Phoenix-based designer named Austin Stark. It’s not difficult to imagine the process Stark might have gone through in dreaming up the SwitchFix. He played with the Joy-Cons, didn’t like them, and brainstormed a new way to play. Then he likely took some measurements, drew up a schematic, and printed the idea. Boom. Done.

Stark is now selling the SwitchFix via his website for $34.99. 3D printing made it possible for him to take his idea from the conceptual stage all the way to a finished product, all without the need for Kickstarters and huge manufacturing investments.

Don’t get me wrong — I can’t envision a time and place where there isn’t a need for mass production. Where even smaller businesses that pump out a significant amount of product aren’t doing so using more traditional means, tracking their resources using an MRP system, securing raw materials at scale, automating where they can while still recognizing the need for human labor in certain areas.

But it’s easy to forget that 3D printing is allowing individuals with ideas to realize them. These machines are good for more than putting together knick-knacks and doo-dads. They’re being used for far more noble enterprises than the printing of firearms that, so far, we’ve seen as talked about more than actually done.

They’re letting this one guy from Phoenix, Arizona create a product that makes other people’s lives just a little bit better. Not with the gamble that is crowdfunding. Not by having to sign half of his profit away by going on Shark Tank. But by simply printing it. And that’s remarkable.

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