Additive Manufacturing Strategies

That Nintendo NX Controller May Have Been Fake, But The 3D Printing Technology That Made It Was Very Real

ST Medical Devices

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The original fake that started it all.

The original fake that started it all.

You may have missed it if you’re not a hardcore gamer, but for a few days last week there was quite a bit of gnashing of teeth over what could have been the new controller for the next Nintendo game console. Codenamed the NX, there is very little actually known about the upcoming console that isn’t speculation. It has become almost commonplace at this point for trolls to Photoshop fake mockups of future tech and pass it off as real, so when an image of a white oval-shaped controller with a full display screen and almost no analog buttons appeared it was met with a fair bit of well-deserved skepticism.

The debate had been running for a few days, and the consensus was starting to lean in the direction of the photo being a fake mockup. That is until a few days later when some high-quality images of a black version of the controller appeared, then suddenly everything changed. Over on Reddit where the “leak” originally took place there were still skeptics, but far fewer. There was mostly anger over the odd design that any fans felt would be uncomfortable to hold, but also seemed to include touch-sensitive buttons, an almost universally loathed gaming technology. Both versions of the controller would turn out to be fakes, but what makes this story a little more notable is how the second fake was made and what it means for the technology that made it.

The very convincing 3D printed fake.

The very convincing 3D printed fake.

When Frank Sandqvist, the 22-year-old co-founder of a Finnish 3D printing services provider called CNC Design, saw the original fake image he decided to try to build a real version and see if he could fool the internet with a realistic mockup of the design. It turns out that not only was it unbelievably easy to do, but it took Sandqvist less than a day to have the completed mockup done. By using some inexpensive CAD software, a Formlabs Form 2 3D printer and some smart post production work the internet was getting fooled by the fake Nintendo controller before the original fake image could be conclusively declared a fake.

The fake was designed in Fusion 360.

The fake was designed in Fusion 360.

“When I saw that Photoshopped/rendered white fake, I thought it looked quite easy to reproduce, albeit with a switched-off display. So that same night I started modeling it up in Autodesk Fusion 360. And I thought it would be interesting to see if I could fool the Internet. At the same time, I guess it could stand as a reminder to people that you can’t really believe these kind of leaks nowadays with the rise of 3D printing,” Sandqvist told Digital Trends.

The fake was quite impressive, especially given the amount of time that was spent creating it, and it fooled quite a few in the media and the gaming community, for a while at least. Eventually more informed people from the gaming industry started to pick holes in some of the smaller details, like the fact that the stickers didn’t match what was typically present on game development kits. Closer inspection of the images also started to reveal flaws in the print itself, like obvious imperfections in the analog sticks. Sandqvist had cleverly photographed around the flaws, but suspicion was growing so he decided to just come out with it on YouTube.

Printed on his company's Formlabs Form 2 3D printer in black resin.

Printed on his company’s Formlabs Form 2 3D printer in black resin.

You can see Sandqvist talk about how he made the fake Nintendo controller here:

For the most part folks on the internet seemed pretty amused by Sandqvist’s prank, and after the fact reading through the less-than-calm reaction threads and outlandish conspiracy theories on Reddit and NeoGaf before it was confirmed fake is pretty amusing. Even the press outlets that were fooled by the fake seem to be taking it pretty well. Honestly though, it probably has more to do with Nintendo fans just being glad that the terribly shaped controller isn’t really going to be what they have to use. But there is more to this story than just a clever troll or a prank.

This was made in less than 20 hours.

This was made in less than 20 hours.

Regardless of why he did it, Sandqvist was able to mockup an incredibly realistic and convincing fake Nintendo game controller in less than a day using only basic 3D design and 3D printing equipment. If ever there was more evidence that 3D printing technology, even desktop quality, can produce incredible prototypes rapidly and convincingly I don’t know where it would be. Most certainly this successful prank means that internet trolling was just taken to a completely new level, but it also stands as a pretty incredible proof of concept for 3D printing technology itself. And now you can even make your own version of the fake controller. Is this something you are interested in making? Discuss in the Fake Nintendo Controller forum over at 3DPB.com.

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