How 3D printing revolutionizes the world of visual impairment
Additive manufacturing has been a game changer in many industries. It can save our lives with 3D printed organs, help us to build more efficient airplanes, or improve the production process in the automotive sector. 3D printing gives us some amazing opportunities to develop new technologies and reach beyond the impossible.
Now it’s time for a new era for people with visual impairment. It can bring a remarkable change to improve their lives and empower them with everyday basics. In this blog post, we will talk about some of the most impressive projects such as 3D printed art or how Additive Manufacturing helps with the development and education of blind children.
Feel the shapes
A father of 8 found inspiration in 3D printing to show the world to his blind daughter. Jason Walker started teaching Leila more about the surroundings thanks to home 3D printing. Jason 3D prints different items for his daughter to learn shapes, the understand quantities and to develop a better understanding of the surrounding world. Through Additive Manufacturing Leila is now able to be more independent, learn not only basics such as what’s the shape of an apple, but she even says she can see through her fingers.
Think of a globe, we’ve all seen one during geography class. Now imagine you close your eyes and you try to find Mexico. The globe is round, but the map itself is flat, you have no reference on where is a specific country. With 3D printed objects visually impaired people can now learn geography, such as what’s the shape of a state and where it is positioned.
3D printed education tools
Visual impairment can be a big obstacle at school as we’re lacking the correct methods to fit with the children’s needs. But this teacher from the Sonoma County Office of Education used 3D printing to overcome challenges his visually impaired students had to deal with. Neil McKenzie, the Assistive Technology Specialist, came up with a fairly simple idea- 3D printed models with cut outlines of letters and shapes.
Those tools allow the child to remember shapes and then replicate them. 3D technologies were used on several steps along the way: 3D modeling of the teaching boards and elements, that way they can be reprinted multiple times, and of course 3D printing which allows quick and affordable results.
3D printed memories
Going to school also means meeting new people and making friends. Blind people ‘’meet you’’ not only through smell and the melody of your voice but also through touch. They can learn the shape of nose, lips, hands. But once the school is over, it might be hard for visually impaired students to keep any record of what their friends looked like. To help keeping the memories alive Seoul National School for the Blind 3D printed Touchable Yearbook. Now, the students can recall fun memories of their friends any time they wish.
Another project on bringing some recollections back is Touchable Memories. Thanks to 3D modeling and 3D printing people with visual impairment can now relive their childhood memories, see their past, or even see themselves on the pictures for the first time in their lives. Through 3D printing technologies, their memories will be unforgettable. They will be kept alive forever. How remarkable is that?
Tactile Graphics made with the 3D printing technology
Reading books stimulates your imagination, we always create images with the words we read, but we usually have some type of hint on how the characters or surroundings look like, either on illustrations in the book or on the book cover. But the task might be a bit harder for people with visual impairment. To overcome those struggles 3D printed models of illustrations were made. It allows the blind people to not only listen and imagine things but also incorporate the author’s vision of the characters.
Additive Manufacturing in museums
3D printing has been helping people with visual impairment for a while, it allows them to see art through touch. But Spain’s Prado Museum went even further and made the ‘’Touching the Prado’’ exhibition, the only one in the world to incorporate both the texture and the color into their 3D printed replicas of famous paintings. “Since I went blind, I’ve been to museums maybe twice,” says Guadalupe Iglesias, 53, who lost her vision to retinal disease in 2001. “I can listen to the audio guide, but I have to imagine – remember – what the paintings look like.” Now, thanks to Additive Manufacturing she’s able to enjoy art again.
The museum also allows people without visual impairment to experience how the artwork feels by giving them blindfolds. “I think it’s a really cool way to experience art even if you’re not visually-impaired. I like art, and I’ve always kind of wondered what art feels like,” Isabel O’Donnell, a 20-years-old student from NY, says. “Touching paintings seems like a really cool idea. It’s more like what the figures would feel as if they were real.”
3D printed start up Feelobject
Another interesting project is a French start up called Feelobject which 3D prints maps of different places to help the visually impaired get more familiar with their environment, whether at work, home or in transportation. Sylvian Huin, the cofounder and president of Feelobject had a few words for us about the importance of 3D printing technology for visually impaired: ‘’3D printing plays a vital role in this device thanks to a very specific design, only possible with this technology. We have with the Toulouse research laboratory developed “Seek to See” specific symbols so that they can be decrypted intuitively by the poor and blind. The fineness, the precision of these symbols, the robustness and the quality of the touch are essential in the use of the product. Customised, on-demand, cost-effective manufacturing is only possible with 3D printing. It’s good because we have exploited our 3D printing know-how and its potential that we have been able to create a simple product to use.’’
3D printed cultural heritage with Sculpteo
We’re also proud to be a part of an amazing project to show the cultural heritage of The Saint- Andre abbaye to visually impaired people with 3D printing. In our blog post, we interviewed the project coordinator Manon Sartou. She explains where the idea came from, what adversities they came across and how they reached their goals thanks to Additive Manufacturing.
Additive Manufacturing provides us with undiscovered possibilities, from playing the main role in education for blind people to 3D printed memories. It can help to improve the standards of lives for people with visual impairment, allowing them to enjoy art or read books. We can use 3D printing to make the world more accessible and equal for everyone.
Have you heard of other 3D printing projects that helped to change someone’s life? Leave a comment. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news on 3D printing!
Featured photo credit: Hernando Rodriguez/Courtesy of Prado Museum