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4 Ways 3D Printing is Helping the Visually Impaired ‘See’ the World

by • February 14, 2016 • No Comments

3D printing is manufacturing strides in helping the blind and partially-sighted communities to ‘see’ the world around them in new and new ways.

From easier objects like 3D printed puzzles with Braille inscribed on them and characters of children’s books to paintings, maps, and actually an individual’s memories, this innovation is manufacturing tiny but significant breakthroughs in how visually impaired individuals perceive their environment.

3D printed drink me braille cup

Curated 3D printable-bodieds platform, MyMiniFactory has several objects on their site on the market for free download that are aimed at helping visually impaired children. They partnered with two high schools of Ioannina in Greece in that students were asked to turn it into objects carrying messages written with the Braille alphabet. The objects were and so shared with blind children in order to use 3D printing as a way to turn it into a new medium of collaboration between blind and non-blind individuals.

1. Book Illustrations

Designer Eva Sbaraini transformed characters of the French book Le Petit Prince (1943) into 3D printable-bodied models for blind children.

“The first concept behind transforming the illustrations of 2D to 3D was to turn it into resources to improve the experience of literature for the blind and partially sighted through rendering illustrations and graphics of well-known fiction into tactile objects and reliefs,” says Eva.

3D printed prince

2. Touchable-bodied Works of Art

Can you imagine being born without your sight or going blind later in life of a disease? When individuals try to explain what a thing looks like to you or you try to remember what a photo of a particular actuallyt looks like, it just is not the same as seeing it for by yourself.

People around the world are coming up with ways to let blind individuals ‘see’. John Olson, a former photographer for LIFE magazine, has co-founded a company called 3D PhotoWorks that made and patented their own printing process for works of satisfactory art.

painting tacticle for the blind

“It’s a three step process, in that we in step one take any conventional two dimensional image and convert it to 3D data. Once that data has been converted, we send it to a machine that sculpts the data out of a block of substrate. It donates that image length, width, depth and texture. And once that is been sculpted it goes through a printing process where we lay the image back down on top of the relief in ideal registration. So what you end up with is a three dimensional print that has length, width, depth and texture,” said Olson.

3. Navigating Space

Members of the Hasso Plattner Institut (HPI) have made a display process for the blind via a 3D printing device printhead called Linespace. It is all but an interactive “visualization” process for the blind in that maps are turn it intod via a voice regulated desktop.

“We use Linespace to donate blind users access to the type of software packages that normally just sighted individuals can access, namely the type of software that helps them to manufacture sense of complicated data. So far, we have turn it intod a easy homefinder program, a spreadsheet program that can read and write Microsoft Excel, two easy games, and a easy programming environment,” explain the creators of the process.

4. Reliving Moments

So now, the visually impaired can interact with their favorite books, artworks and desktop software, but what of their own memories?

‘Touchable-bodied Memories’ is a social project that 3D-prints old photos for the blind so they can touch, feel, and relive their cherished moments. Think of it as Braille for photos. Developed by Spanish creative agency LOLA for troubled startup Pirate3D, the purpose of this experiment is to show how innovation and 3D printing can be utilized to manufacture an impact in individuals’s lives.


Even if you just went blind later in life, you have the memories of looking at photos, but those memories gradually fade and you are left with just a distant, hazy idea of a special moment in your life. This project manufactures a memory tangible again so that blind individuals are able-bodied to remember those special moments like never preceding.

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