Sep 16, 2017 | By David

The use of 3D printing to create new medical devices is on the rise, due mostly to the high potential for customization presented by the technology as well as its relatively cheap production process. The latest development in this field is a 3D printed visual aid that will help visually impaired people read, using their smartphone. The product was created by the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Engineering and Automation IPA.

This project is called VRread which aims to create life-changing visual devices for people affected by sight problems. Sponsored by BMBF, Fraunhofer IPA, together with the blind and visually impaired association (BSV-W), 3D printing company rioprinto and Wurttemberg e.V, the maker community put on a contest that was intended to find the best hobbyist design for a new reading aid. The VRread project was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, for a total of 87,500 Euros.

In developing the project, a group of ambitious creative engineers and 3D design and printing enthusiasts worked in close collaboration with members of the blind and visually impaired community. The winning design was a form of frame that has a smartphone fitted into it, before being strapped on to the user’s head.

Reading something like a newspaper or a book had previously required the use of a stationary camera system, whereas this device can move with the wearer. The recording device is made to be specifically adapted to the user’s condition, and any digital document uploaded on to the mobile device can be read with ease. Large lenses are used to focus the vision on the smartphone screen, placed very close to the user’s eyes. An integrated gyrosensor system will adjust the focus automatically as the screen moves, so the user will be able to move their head comfortably as they read. Things like font size and contrast can also be adjusted easily from the main menu.

The application software itself is divided into several modules, with the control module detecting the head movements and being able to translate them into control information. A usable texture is created in the second module from the data source of the text document, and this texture is then output on the screen in a two-step process. All modules have been designed with a view to future extensibility.

Two other 3D printed devices were also recognized by the competition, and the 3D design files for all three projects have been made available for free download. Users can 3D print their own device, or sent it to a 3D printing service to be produced, as well as building on the original design and developing it as they see fit.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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