Mar 20, 2017 | By Tess

Listen up makers: MatterHackers and have teamed up again to launch their latest design competition, this time for 3D printed assistive devices and learning tools for the visually impaired. The global challenge, called Envision the Future, is inviting makers of all ages to put their design and 3D printing chops towards a good cause, and gives them the chance to win some great prizes.

Last year, MatterHackers,, and 3D printing marketplace Pinshape joined forces for the Within Reach Design Challenge, which asked makers to design 3D printable assistive devices for those with limited hand mobility. After a very successful run (with over 200 designs submitted), they are launching a new edition of the challenge, geared towards helping the blind and visually impaired.

Specifically, the Envision the Future challenge has the goal of creating 3D printable educational models which can be used to tactilely explain a concept, or assistive devices that could help make day-to-day tasks easier for those with visual impairments. Those interested in submitted a design have until May 8, 2017 to do so.

“I saw a need in classrooms for low-cost tactile models, especially for students who are blind or low-vision,” explained Mara Hitner, Director of Business Development at MatterHackers. “Meanwhile, sighted classrooms and the 3D printing community are begging for something to design and print for the good of others—along the lines of e-NABLE assistive devices. Our structure and partnerships for design challenges had proven to be successful, so better put it back to work!”

The 3D printing design challenge is open to all ages, though there will be two separate judging categories: youth (for makers under the age of 18) and adult. According to the organizers, the categories were put in place to encourage schools and young students to get involved, as well as professional designers.

Within each category, there will be three winners who will receive some awesome prizes (sponsored by LulzBot and Matterhackers). The prizes include a LulzBot Taz 6 3D printer (for adult 1st prize), a LulzBot Mini (for youth 1st prize), as well as a MatterControl Touch T10 3D printer controller, MatterHackers PRO series filament, and MatterHackers gift cards.

Taking part in the design challenge is simple enough: participants are asked to conceive of and design a 3D printable tactile model that could be used in a classroom context (any subject or educational level is accepted). They then upload their design to Pinshape’s “Envision The Future Design Challenge” page and promote their designs via social media using designated hashtags.

The submissions will then be judged by members from the Braille Institute of America, the founding members of the e-NABLE community, Matterhackers, and others. Winners will be announced after the submission deadline in May.

"For the past four years, STEM based classrooms and groups all over the world have been designing and assembling 3D printable hands, arms, and tools to assist those with upper limb differences as service learning projects for their students through e-NABLE, and they are asking for new challenges,” said Jen Owen, creator of “I’m eager to take e-NABLE to the next level by encouraging these ‘Digital Humanitarian’ volunteers to expand the impact and reach of this project to ‘e-NABLE’ the blind and visually impaired by designing 3D printing educational models.”

In recent years we’ve seen lots of amazing 3D printed devices and objects geared specifically to the visually impaired. From tactile 3D printed children’s books, maps, art, and even music notation, 3D printing is helping to facilitate learning in the visually impaired community. We can’t wait to see what types of innovative and creative 3D designs will be made for the Envision the Future challenge.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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