Everyone feels a bit of amazement when they hold their first 3D printed object, at least I know I certainly did. But I can’t begin to imagine the excitement that Beyond Vision, a non-profit organization who provides employment opportunities for the legally blind, is now providing to their visually impaired employees by using 3D printing to allow them to see delicate objects like never before.
There is an abundance of things in our physical reality, such as snowflakes and butterflies, that are too fragile, minuscule, or even too large for the visually impaired to truly hold and experience. But, by using 3D printing technology, Beyond Vision is able to produce finely detailed and appropriately scaled models to help the blind touch and ultimately see these objects. “With 3D printing, you are essentially representing a 3D image in a physical form, and we thought this is a way that we can actually allow blind people to see things that they can’t normally see,” said CEO of Beyond Vision Jim Kerlin.
In order to successfully 3D print these visual aids, Beyond Vision partnered up with Graphics Systems Corp (GSC), a 3D engineering technology provider, in order to utilize the right 3D printer needed for the task. With GSC’s assistance, Beyond Vision printed various shapes and sizes of snowflakes, to allow their visually impaired employees to feel the fine and unique detail that exist within each individual one. They also 3D printed the delicate form of a butterfly, which gave legally blind individuals to truly experience the true nature of the beautifully designed creature. Even items like sailboats were scaled down and printed, allowing Beyond Vision’s visually impaired employees to feel out every single detail that makes up the model’s real life counterpart.
“A person who is blind has never had an opportunity, especially if they have been blind since birth, to know what a snowflake looks like and that every snowflake is different,” Kerlin added.
Without the sense of sight, the visually impaired are left to turn to their sense of touch in order to experience the wonders of life firsthand. Beyond Vision and GSC are utilizing 3D printing technology to bring this ability to a whole new level. By helping the legally blind to see natural phenomena, such as snowflakes and butterflies, along with grandiose sailboat designs that are normally too large to fully grasp, Beyond Vision is enhancing the experience of life for their visually impaired employees. What they are also doing in turn is proving 3D printing’s value as a tool for the betterment of our society.