Introduction: Fuse Bead Grip for Nintendo Switch Joy-Con
When we needed a grip for a pair of extra Nintendo Switch controllers, I thought it would be funny to make one ourselves. On the web there are plenty of models for 3D printing, but of course a 3D printer is not something everyone has got.
Then I realized that fuse beads can be used as a cheap, manual, low-resolution 3D printing process: you create the single layers and glue them together. So I started thinking of how to create a suitable grip by decomposing it in proper layers, while keeping the size of the original one as close as possible.
Fuse beads, also known as Hama beads, Perler beads or Pyssla, are a common toy to create simple colored structures that you finalize by ironing them. There are a lot of tutorials on the web, so I will not explain how to iron the single layers. If you never used them, I suggest you make some practice with something simpler first.
You cannot have a full lock for the controllers like in a true grip, so this model has two "pockets" where the controllers fit. Of course you can change the colors and the decorations as you like more. We had to change colors in some places because we were running out of black beads very quickly.
- Lot of beads
- Pegboard, at least 29-peg large
- Ironing paper (wax paper used for cooking is ok)
- Glue (general-purpose glue or hot glue)
- 3 long, thin nails
- Lot of patience
Step 1: Base Layer
The lower base of the grip is made of 3 bead layers glued together for better strength.
The 3 schemes show how to make the lower, middle and upper layer. From now on I will use the gray color to indicate a "don't care" color: beads that in the end will not be visible can be chosen from random colors, in order to save time and to not run out of colors.
Step 2: Central Brick
The central brick is made of 4 or 5 layers glued together. Why 4 or 5? There's a common problem with fuse beads: if you iron them too much the resulting object will be very thin; if you iron less you'll get a thicker object, that's generally better, but iron it too little and the beads will detach when removing them from the board (that's especially true for the borders).
So you have to try with 4 layers (the bottom plus 3 on top) and check that the resulting brick equals the height of a controller. If it's lower you have to add another layer, or the controller will not fit in its pocket.
Important: the base is 29-bead wide, while the brick is 8 beads. Because the brick will go in the middle of the base, it will not align evenly horizontally, but it will be half-bead aligned with the base. Keep this in mind for the next steps.
Note: the photos are slightly different from the schemes, because the first prototype had some mistakes. For example the model in the photo has a shorter brick without the two bulges at the bottom that prevent the controllers to be pushed too much inside the pocket when pushing certain buttons (and detaching the cover as a result). Trust the schemes when in doubt.
Step 3: Left and Right Walls
These are the little walls holding the controller at the left and right side. As for the central brick, make 4 or 5 layers so to equal the height of a controller.
Step 4: Assembling the Base, Brick and Walls
Now the 4 pieces we made so far can be assembled together to form the pockets for the controllers. The lateral walls align with the border of the base; the central brick is placed as follows: centered horizontally (remember the half-bead alignment), protruding vertically 4 beads at the top of the base. Actually this will be 4.5 beads, as explained below.
Gluing them may not be enough given the pressure that may be applied laterally when inserting the controllers and when handling them, so I added 3 nails from the bottom, one for every piece. Before hammering them, cut them at the right length, and drill holes slightly smaller than the nails (the center of a bead is a good place), because the plastic is quite rigid and tends to crack easily, with the risk of breaking everything apart.
Important note for the central nail: the central brick is not aligned evenly with the base, so while you can use the center of a bead to drill the base, in the brick the hole will be between beads. A safe place to drill is the empty space in the angle between 4 beads, so the central brick will have to move half bead up (the rest of the design is based on moving it half bead up, not down).
You can apply the glue and the nails together, so that the nails will help align the pieces properly while gluing.
Notice from the third photo that the controllers must fit smoothly in their space, without deforming the overall structure, otherwise when the cover will be applied they will not fit, or their pressure will detach the cover. If that's the case, you'll have to use a file to adjust the available space.
Step 5: Top Cover
The top cover completes the pockets for the controllers, covering as much as possible the surface of the controllers to hold them in place. Simply glue it to the central brick and the side walls. The decoration is not shown.
Notice that the central rectangle is 9-bead wide (not 8 like the central brick) to maintain symmetry with respect to the center.
The controllers are inserted from the top and they should stop at the right position thanks to the bulges at the base.
Step 6: Possible Improvements
Some extra layers could be added laterally below the base, to create the bulges you grab with your fingers, like in the original grip.
The low-surface junction between the cover and the side walls should be strengthened, for example applying a screw from the top (after drilling a preparatory hole).