Canadian Engineer Uses a Nintendo Controller Hack to Run His 3D Printer

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nes 3d printer hackJeff Payeur, an engineer from Montreal, Canada, is a fan of Pronterface, a versatile GUI to upload GCode and instruct 3D printers, but he’s not as enamored of using mouse clicks to manually control them.

He’s also the kind of guy who likes to take on DIY projects like building his own arc welder from parts scavenged out of a microwave oven, so he was undaunted by the idea of coming up with a way to use his old Nintendo hardware to good effect.

Payeur says using a mouse to send instructions to a printer is “counter-intuitive and inefficient,” so he’s found another way to take on the task.

The system uses Printrun, a full suite of host interfaces for 3D printers and CNC devices which consists of Pronterface, the fully-featured GUI host, Pronsole, an interactive command line host or Printcore, a standalone, non-interactive GCode host.

pronterfaceAs both Pronterface and Pronsole let you interactively control your machine, slice objects directly from the host, print objects, upload to SD cards, and run SD prints — and Printrun supports both serial and ethernet connections and has been used on a wide range of 3D printers and CNC machines, he found those tools an ideal point of departure for his project.

He says, though he’s discovered a way to accomplish his goal on the web, the available solutions generally required building a physical remote controller from scratch with switches on a PCB and then “playing around” to find ways to send serial commands to the printer using an external UC or the Ramps printed circuit board.

“I wanted a simpler way to do it,” Payeur writes on his website. “I already Had a Nintendo USB remote ready to be used.”

Payeur says the best part of the project is that “it is really simple to adapt to any other USB HID, Windows-compatible joystick – or even a keyboard – to do the job.”

“This is where Autohotkey kicks in,” Payeur says. “Autohotkey allows you to intercept about any keyboard, mouse, or joystick events — or any combination of the above — and emulate mouse moves and put scripts in between. It create resident scripts that can run in the background.”

4His technique uses the emulated mouse clicks which are relative to the Pronterface app itself, so he says it shouldn’t click in ways other than those intended.

Payeur says his main requirement was to make his NES controller an intuitive way to send instructions to his printer, so he documented the basic function and key combinations to make it happen.

You can check out Payeur’s entire project on his website here, and the site also includes a script to put you that much further ahead.

Have you ever hacked existing hardware and adapted it for your 3D printing work? Let us know in the Nintendo Controller Hack 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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