May 8, 2016 | By Andre

There is a tremendous amount of good taking place in the 3D printing community these days. The cost of functional prosthetics has come down thanks in part to 3D printer enthusiasts inhabiting the eNABLE network and similar endeavors, for example. Then of course there are stories about the likes of Yogo the dog and his custom fitted 3D printed limb.

A new project has surfaced on hackaday about low-cost innovations that aim to spread the use of braille literacy for the blind. And if you consider the typical restrictions preventing further adoption of braille, these developments might have far reaching; even life-changing implications.

Braille literacy in the United States has been dropping for decades. 50 percent of legally blind school children in 1960 could read braille. A 2007 Annual Report has that number down to around 10 percent today. Furthermore, there is a direct positive correlation between literacy rates and higher employment rates to the visually impaired so a wider adoption rate is important. Unfortunately, financial restrictions associated current day braille readers is keeping a wider usership level down.

In development for 3 years now, hackaday user Vinjay and product designer Paul D’souza hope their Refreshable Braille Display and Braille Keyboard will turn that tide back around.

At the project's core, there are two devices. The display, which will allow the users easy access to braille literature, relies on a series of pico-motors to trigger the correct combination of cam followers that are directed through the 3D printed mechanism. It is a light-weight, quick to 3D print device. It is battery and Arduino micro powered by design but the exact electrical specs are not complete.

Also, thanks to a clever approach to design,  the braille reader can be 3D printed on most entry-level FDM 3D printers (with the design files available free to download) from the project’s creator dropbox). A couple of M8 screws is everything left to hold everything together.

The Brail Keyboard, on the other hand, has a primary objective to allow the visually impaired to communicate with the digital world. Conceptually allowing the use of braille shorthand, it is designed to further lower the potential barrier to learning braille. For now, this project remains in the very early stages of product development.

While both projects appear relatively basic from a mechanical perspective, there is a lot to learn and a long challenging road still lies ahead. But thankfully, after a call from the project's creator for suggestions on how to move things forward, the comments at the bottom of the hackaday article started piling up with informed opinions.

It looks like Vinjay is on the right track to bringing his Refreshable Braille Display to existence. And as things seem to be unfolding, it appears an interested following of project contributors is beginning to form. I'm sure we're in for some exciting developments in the months to come.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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PAUL DSOUZA wrote at 6/16/2016 6:33:37 AM:

while I have been supportive and impressed with Vijays efforts in trying to produce a rapidly prototyped Refreshable Braille Display thus far, I was just informed by my patent attorneys that that I need to let it be known that before this Refreshable Braille Display project is taken forward further it must be made known that all of the features published thus far are covered under a patent application filed at The Patent Office, Chennai, by myself on 05Nov2014 …5559/CHE/2014 . The said patent application for a Refreshable Braille Display covers the use of micro-motor actuated pins, the pin cantilever design, the mechanical stop to limit rotor rotation, motors with rotors or cams, mounted vertically or horizontally used to lift pins directly or via an interposer, low force selector etc. I prototyped just one of the variants covered by the patent that I deemed to be the most feasible and cost effective. Amongst the people following'this project on this open forum there might be some who believe that this design is open source, and that prior arts and patents do not exist. I was advised that this impression needs to be corrected immediately. The public must be informed and know that if anyone wants to exploit features of this design, they would need to get in touch with me or my patent attorneys (Origiin IP Solutions LLP), as rules require that even the Patent Office be kept informed of activities in regards to patents.

Axeman wrote at 6/15/2016 9:14:04 AM:

This is strange ... I know Paul, he's not a product designer but an inventor and also the fact that he has been working "ALONE" on this for about 6 years now. To my knowledge Paul is not working with Vinay as the article suggests. The mechanism looks similar to what Paul has developed and I think Patented so its surprising to see this on Hackaday being entered. Anyhow, I guess I'll send this to Paul and he could probably take it up with whoever.

Sean Tikkun wrote at 5/12/2016 5:16:41 PM:

These devices have existed since the 1980's. Individuals who are blind had PDA's since before laptops or visual PDA's existed. Search for Braille 'n' Speak. Since the 1960's braille has become more widely available and yet schooling has become decentralized for individuals who read braille. Causal research is needed, to solve this problem, though I applaud the attempt to create a new device that will hopefully bring the price point in line with an touchscreen mobile device.

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