DIY 3D-printed tactile maps

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Thursday, 14 April 2016 12:45pm

The expansion of affordable 3D printing into the mainstream has meant that people needing tactile versions of objects or printed material can access them more easily.

Man using a 3D printer connected to a laptop

Early adopters of the technology have been schools where diagrams, images and other visual information can be printed out for vision impaired students.

The latest service aimed at the general public is Touch Mapper which allows anyone to create a tactile map of any outdoor area. The service allows the person to input any location and then choose different scales and map sizes. The program puts a tactile marker at the location selected. The options allow for printing your own map for free on a 3D printer or ordering a map from Touch Mapper at a cost of around $55.

Typically the service is used for creating a tactile map around a person’s home or workplace and could be used when staying at a new location. The maps include roads, buildings, railways and water areas, and the north-east corner of the map is raised so that it can be properly orientated.

According to blind blogger Fred’s Head the Touch Mapper website is accessible to screen readers.

There are also a number of websites that have free 3D files for printing out different objects. Thingiverse is an example with a wide-range of objects.    

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