When it comes to finding your way around a building that is unfamiliar, the process can be quite a tedious one. It becomes exponentially difficult for those who are suffering from visual impairments. A duo of researchers at Rutgers University School of Engineering has come up with an innovative and genius method for drastically improving the situation for students at a training center for the visually impaired and blind in New Brunswick. What have they done? Want to guess? The duo made use of 3D printing – YES, the famous 3D printing – for creating a detailed braille map of the facility.
Before we get into the details, let us remind you that 3D printing is an amazing work of technology that is changing how we approach manufacturing processes while facilitating a myriad of industries. You can read about the building that is being 3D printed in Singapore or you can go ahead and check out how 3D printing is being used in India or you can also check out the amazing 3D ThingMaker that has recently been unveiled. These all applications are only a taste of the amazing potential that this technology has. It is not limited to industry actually, you can read about how it saved the life of a 2 year old!
Coming back to our original feat of 3D printing; the braille maps have been developed by Jason Kim, a senior mechanical engineering student and Howon Lee who is an assistant professor for the Joseph Kohn Training Center (state funded). The Center helps out visually impaired and blind students by providing them with 20-week training courses. These courses are free and are aimed at imparting skills to these students that facilitate them when it comes to attending college, securing jobs or transforming into independent homemakers.
The facility features maps on the wall that allow the students to move around and have an idea of where they are headed, however these maps are somewhat limited with the restricted braille labels. The fact that they are fixed to the wall reduces their functionality and convenience drastically. This led to the duo’s creation of 3D printed braille maps to help out students by making braille maps that are convenient to use and portable.
The maps were designed via SolidWorks 3D modelling CAD software. The team opted for creating an individual map for all three stories of the building. The 3D printed maps are comparable when it comes to size with a tablet computer and have been designed so that they can be carried out in a single binder. The 3D printed maps are also far more durable when compared with the conventional braille-printed on paper. These maps also feature a braille legend that allows the students for understanding the maps better.
As of now, the duo has only created a single set of these amazing 3D printed braille maps but is working on reducing the production cost so as to 3D print one for each student on campus. Considering that the 3D printers are becoming cheaper and convenient to use, the idea can also be extended beyond this Center. The team has already expressed their idea of creating similar 3D printed products for Rutgers’ campuses and also the city of New Brunswick. What do you think of this amazing initiative? Got any ideas on how to reduce the production cost? Do let us know in the comments.