3D Printed Braille Puzzle Helps the Visually Impaired to Learn Words

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Learning to read Braille increases the likelihood of a visually impaired person’s finding employment or pursuing higher education by more than three times. Unfortunately, many resources for learning Braille are either ineffective or too costly for the average person. A digital Braille reading device costs over $1,000, which is unaffordable for many, particularly for the 90% of the visually impaired population living in developing countries. Instead, these people often receive very basic, outdated learning material that’s largely ineffective.

3D printing lends itself well to Braille, as has been shown through projects like 3D printed Braille Rubik’s cubes and chess sets. Now a new 3D printed puzzle has been developed, and it’s designed to help the user learn how to read Braille. Fittle was designed through a collaboration between Indian designer Tania Jain, India’s leading eye institute LVPEI, German educational toy company Ravensburger, and independent global communication group Serviceplan.

Each puzzle is divided into pieces, with a Braille letter on each piece. Together, they spell out the name of an object. Connecting marks on each piece help the user figure out how they fit together, and once complete, they can feel the shape of the object and learn the Braille word for it. Originally, the design team made the puzzles out of wood, but they realized they needed something lower-cost and so turned to 3D printing. With support from Novabeans, they decided to go with the Ultimaker 2+ for its quality, usability and price. They had tried both larger and cheaper 3D printers, but the large printers were too expensive while the budget printers could not deliver the durability and accuracy they needed.

The Fitttle pieces are 3D printed with a hollow design to minimize material usage. 3D printing also lowered the cost of prototyping so that the team could get feedback from the visually impaired community.

There are now multiple Fittle shapes, which are 3D printed and distributed across India. The puzzles are given to LVPEI’s regional centers, which pass them on to Braille learners. Users can learn how to spell things such as ‘fish,’ ‘mouse,’ ‘ship,’ ‘rocket’ and many other words; Fittle is continuously developing new shapes and plans to introduce more of them in the future.

“Feedback has been overwhelming so far,” said Christoph Bohlender, Creative Director at Serviceplan Health and Life. “More and more children are learning braille better with Fittle.”

$10,000 buys four digital Braille readers or 200 Braille books – or 16,000 3D printed puzzles plus a 3D printer. Fittle’s future goals include funding more 3D printers, creating new shapes, distributing more puzzles, and ultimately expanding to other regions. The puzzles have also been made open source for download from Fittle’s website.

3D printing has played a major role in improving the lives of the visually impaired, being used to create such things as tactile maps and tactile books, as well as learning tools. It isn’t easy to get around in the world without sight, but many thoughtful and inventive people have used technology to make it a little bit easier.

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[Source/Images: Ultimaker]

Australian man designs a 3D printable braille rubik's cube for the blind

Apr. 29, 2015 | By Alec

We’ve already known for a while that 3D printers are perfect for making custom objects for the blind. Remember the father who 3D printed educational objects for his daughter? Now one Australian 3D printing fanatic known by the sensible Instructables username of liquidhandwash has made things a bit more complicated, by 3D printing one of the most complex mechanical toys a child can have: the rubik’s cube.

As mr. liquidhandwash explains, he designed this cool-looking cube for a friend. ‘I have a friend who lost his sight a few years ago, and it got me thinking about how much that must really suck. I use my eyes all the time, I don’t know what I would do without them, he must miss out on so much. I sure would like to make his life easier somehow,’ he writes. ‘We were taking and for what every reason the subject of rubik’s cube came up. Not only had he never seen one, when he did have his sight, but he didn’t know what a rubiks cube is. You try and explain a rubik’s cube to a blind man.’

So liquidhandwash set out to make a specific one for blind people, one that relies on the braille alphabet rather than on colors. ‘So he won’t have to miss out on all the frustration exasperation, annoyance, anger, vexation, irritation, bitterness, resentment; disappointment and discouragement that comes with trying to solve that infernal puzzle,’ liquidhandwash writes full of fraternal love.

Now as you can imagine, designing a rubik’s cube for a 3D printer can be a bit of an arduous, but liquidhandwash has found a clever way around it. Using a regular rubik’s cube and a set of 81 3D printed braille tiles (one for each square), it’s quite simple to reproduce. In fact, you can simply download all the stl files on Instructables here and 3D print every single tile.

The rest of the process is fairly simple. If your original cube is covered with colorful stickers, just use some alcohol to take them off and clean the surfaces. And instead of gluing each tile on individually, liquidhandwash advises sticking the tiles onto a set of double sized tape and cutting them in individual squares that are easily attached to the cube.

Now I’m not sure if it’s necessary to stick all the tiles on in a particular fashion, but liquidhandwash assembled the braille cube in a dice fashion, meaning that every two opposite sides add up to seven (so one opposite six dots, two opposite from five and so on). The hardest part, you’ll find, is getting all the tiles on straight. ‘When you first stick them one you can push the tile around a little to get it in the right position, but the glue on the tape will quickly set so best to carefully position tile straight as you can when you first drop them on the cube.’

And that’s really all there is to it – now even the blind can enjoy this challenging mathematical toy (provided they know braille). ‘My friend thought it was great that someone made something especially for him, but has he has never learned braille he found it difficult to identify the dots on each side. But after 10 minutes or so he began to get the hang of it,’ liquidhandwash says. It’s a fun little project that will truly make your blind friends and family very happy that made the effort, though cube fanatics will doubtlessly enjoy an unusual in their collection as well.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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