News :: The Wait Is Over! - Announcing The Official GCW 3D Printed Parts Store

Date: 2015-12-22, Editor: Surkow

Redesigned ABXY and DPAD

We are really excited to be announcing new, completely redesigned DPAD and ABXY buttons, available right now in numerous different colors on our Official GCW Store Page.

Over the last few years, a lot of behind the scenes research and development has been done to improve the buttons of the GCW-Zero. Our Industrial Design team has obsessed over the smallest details in design of the buttons and tested many different prototypes to give them a complete redesign and make sure they are the best they can be.

It took countless 3D model revisions, purchases of 3D printed test versions, and button installations to get these designs right but all the time and money invested in development was totally worth it to get these parts to be the best they can be.

We have created a store at Shapeways to show you what we've been working on.

3D Printing with Shapeways

Working with Shapeways allows us to manufacture parts on demand using their super high resolution SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) nylon powder 3D printers to print, iterate, and test different versions of button designs for the Zero with high fidelity.

These 3d printed parts are perfect for the Zero because they have a smooth surface with a desirable non-slip grip feel, unique to parts manufactured by this specific SLS nylon printer. The parts are now 100% solid instead of being partially hollow, like the original buttons, giving the new buttons a much improved high quality feel and increased durability.

What you see here is the new 3D printed DPAD for the GCW-Zero. You'll notice that there are two DPADs connected together by a thin piece of plastic forming one actual part.

Why is this? One challenge we've had to overcome is that Shapeways does not currently allow us to specify a print orientation for our parts since they use an algorithm that rotates and packs thousands of parts from different customers into their large volume printers. The print orientation directly affects the surface smoothness. A single part printed using the wrong orientation results in a tangible stepping or ridging effect on the surface of the part which is not desirable. By joining two DPADs together in different orientations, no matter what orientation the part is printed in, we are guaranteed to have at least one perfect DPAD. This same orientation joining technique is also done with each individual ABXY button. The combination of extremely high resolution 3D printing in the correct orientation creates a smooth surface curvature that is far superior to any results from a consumer FDM type, lower resolution 3D printer.

Installing the Parts

Preparing the parts for installation is easy, all that needs to be done is to trim off the thin piece of plastic joining the two parts with a craft knife or scissors and you are good to go.

To achieve different colored parts, Shapeways prints the parts white and then dyes them another color in controlled batches. The color of the dyed parts will hold up during normal use, but if you sand or cut the parts, the white plastic will show through. This is why the two connected buttons are connected on the back faces of each button. When trimmed, the white patch of plastic will not show after installation.

Because replacing the buttons is definitely a task for the DIY folks, we thought it would be fun to give a few ideas of what you could do with this leftover second part! Think of it as your own DIY copy of the button to test a custom paint job, sand the surface to create custom button curvature, or Dremel in some grooves for grip. It's for you to experiment and have some fun! We look forward to seeing all your cool DIY creations, so please share them with us!

The Fine Details

DPAD Details Explanation

Here are some specific improvements that were made to the DPAD.

First, classic console controllers were studied and tested and one thing that was noticed was how much intentional wiggle room there is around the buttons. Because of this the dimensions of the DPAD are now smaller increasing this wiggle room and allowing the DPAD to move around freely and follow the motion of your thumb. This gives a huge improvement to the feel of the DPAD.

The height of the DPAD has been increased slightly for a better tactile feel.

The DPAD is now solid, which makes it a lot more durable, especially the pivot point on the back of the DPAD which is under constant stress during gameplay. This pivot point has been reinforced by making it thicker and by creating a curved transition where it comes out of the back of the DPAD.

Another improvement is that the bottom of each DPAD direction has been given a slight incline so that when you're pressing down on the silicone keypad, it contacts the circuit board with a flat surface instead of pressing the keypad down at an angle. This lets more surface area of the DPAD contact the keypad and circuit board which decreases the chance of a missed button press during gameplay.

ABXY Buttons

Like the DPAD, after studying the controllers of the classic consoles the amount of wiggle room in our ABXY buttons was increased slightly. When creating more of this space between the button and hole it occupies, there is a fine balance between creating enough for freedom of motion but not making the button rock too much. Because of this, lots of different versions were printed and tested to find this balance. We've come up with a design that maximizes the size of the button but creates just the right amount of wiggle room, resulting in buttons that simply feel awesome!

Probably most importantly, the tops of the buttons have been rounded more on the edges so that you're now able to press each button from the side, so you don't have to be so precise by pressing them on the top to get a button press. As an example, now it's much easier to hold one button down to run in platforming games and still press jump with the tip of your thumb! You're even able press a button by sliding your thumb, putting pressure along the front of the console and continuing to move over a button to press it, all without even picking up your thumb!

Another improvement is that each button is modular, meaning that each button can now be swapped into any ABXY button location. Each button was given one keying tab instead of the original design where each button had one, two, or three keying tabs which prevent rotated button text and swapped buttons positions during manufacturing. During a button press, these keying tabs rub against the inside of the button channel creating a very small amount of friction. Before, each button had a different amount of friction because of the number of keying tabs on each button was different. Now, each button has only one keying tab, which keeps the buttons from rotating and also reduces the friction in the button channels so that each button feels the same during a button press.

Another major benefit of modular ABXY buttons is that now for the first time you're able to install different colored buttons in any button slot to suit your own personal style or honor a classic design!

Another improvement to the original buttons is that the outer edges of the ABXY keypad contact disk have been rounded which further reduces the level of friction in the button channel. Also, the thickness of the contact disk has been slightly increased which reduces any rattling the buttons had at rest by allowing the silicone keypad to hold the buttons securely in place. This improvement makes the button presses feel much more solid.

Check Out Our New Store!

So to wrap things up, we're really excited to be announcing that the new, completely redesigned DPAD and ABXY buttons are available right now in numerous different colors on our Official GCW Store Page. We also came up with simple black and white template images with some of the actual colors from Shapeways which allows you to experiment and try out different button color options in your GCW-Zero in your favorite picture editor. Please share your awesome custom creations with us on the Dingoonity forums, Twitter @gcwzero, and our Facebook page! We want to see who comes up with the coolest design!

Our 3D printing store is a great way for us to keep researching and developing new hardware designs and get them out to you as quickly as possible. Your interest in future developments keeps us going!

Thank you!

We want to thank you, our GCW family, for making this console what it is today. We've been so excited and inspired by all the kind words, awesome community projects, and new indie games you have created. We're hoping to continue to help the GCW-Zero grow and mature by fine tuning the hardware. We hope you really enjoy this first step in that journey!