In 1824, blind Frenchman Louis Braille invented the system of raised dots that would allow blind people to read with their fingertips.  3D printing is now making it possible to add it to any kind of surface. A 3D printer developed by Texas A&M University last year is capable of printing Braille onto any plastic surface, regardless of shape or size, making it easy to add onto any type of plastic consumer packaging, and a collaboration between two companies has resulted in a Braille converter for 3D models.

Reading the Braille dot system is essentially like learning a new language, however for visually impaired children learning Braille is learning to read. What those children don’t generally get to experience, though, are pictures. Picture books are standard for young children, not only helping them learn to read but also visually teaching them about the world around them.

These 3D books printed range from books on basic shapes to illustrated classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. A 3D printed version of the Noah’s Ark story allows children to feel the raindrops, the texture of the boat,  and the waves.

The Tactile Picture Book Project is team of academic researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder that create 3D printed tactile picture books for children with visual impairment and study the scientific and technical questions that arise.  The Project offers workshops for interested participants and the team invites anyone to subscribe to their newsletter to learn more about designing 3D printed tactile books. If you know a child who would enjoy one of these books contact Tactile Picture Books.

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