May 19, 2016 | By Benedict

Recently, we came across the heartwarming story of Miki, a visually impaired woman, and her boyfriend Domenico, both from Como, Italy. 3DP s.r.l., a 3D printer supplier, gave Miki a 3D printed model of Domenico's face as a baby, based on a 40-year-old photograph.

3D printing is already used in several ways to improve the lives of the blind and visually impaired. 3D printed tactile maps, 3D printed, blind-friendly smart glasses, and 3D printed braille readers have each contributed to the cause, but there are endless new ways in which additive manufacturing can be used to make life a little easier for those who see a little less well.

Domenico and Miki, a couple from Como, Italy, lead a normal life together, except that the visually impaired Miki cannot see. This makes life difficult in many ways, but in others Miki has the same capabilities of those with perfect eyesight. To “see” Domenico’s face, for example, Miki can simply feel it. But there’s a problem with that: she can see his face now, but has no idea what he looked like as a child!

According to Domenico, this was causing some sadness for Miki, who was naturally curious about her partner’s history: “For a long time, she was continuously telling me ‘it is a pity that I can see your face now, but I can’t see a single photo of you when you were small, while other girlfriends can see photos of their boyfriends as kids,’” Domenico explained.

Domenico sympathized with Miki’s predicament. Knowing a bit about the 3D printing specialists at 3DP s.r.l., a local 3D printer retailer, he wondered if a 3D printed model of his younger face could be created. “We received a phone call from Domenico, who requested that we create a 3D model of himself using a 40-year-old photograph,” recalled Alberto Canali, co-founder and managing director of 3DP s.r.l.

With the help of digital artist and sculptor Simone Rasetti, Canali was in fact able to turn a photo of a five-month-old Domenico into a 3D printed model. Rasetti took the old photograph of Domenico and, using Pixologic’s popular ZBrush software, turned that image into a realistic 3D model of Domenico as a baby. When the digital model was complete, Canali used a Zortrax 3D printer to create the 3D printed model.

Miki was reportedly delighted with the 3D printed model, as she can now “see” young Domenico just as she can see him in the present, by feeling the precisely printed contours of the object. “When I miss him, this 3D model is a perfect way to think about him, as if I’m looking at his picture,” she said. “I do not see him but I can touch him through my 3D sculpture.”

Canali’s colleague Asanka Withanaarachchi, co-founder and research manager of 3DP s.r.l., believes that this kind of process can—and will—be used more and more to improve the lives of the blind and visually impaired: “You can talk about a tree and you can talk about a car, but [blind people] would not understand what it really means,” he said. “So I think the 3D printing industry itself will change the way that blind people see the world. Not in the future but in the really, really, really near future.”

Now that Miki has a 3D printed model of Domenico as a baby, she longer has to worry about missing out on an important part of a relationship. Who knew 3D printing could be so romantic?



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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