Talking Tactile 3D Prints

Cell biology professor [Mike] has created a way for blind students to decipher microscope slides using 3D prints and the magic of capacitive sensing. His write-up focuses on a slide showing the anaphase stage of mitosis in whitefish blastula, a popular choice for studying cell division. When a student touches a certain area of the print, the capacitive sensor triggers audio playback to tell them what they’re feeling.

[Mike] started by turning a 2D image of a cell into a 3D print. To do this, he made the image black and white, and then inverted the colors so that the 3D print’s topography will correspond correctly. The talking part is handled by an Arduino Duemilanove and a Spikenzie voice shield. The latter has a somewhat limited amount of space, but is more than adequate for the audio labels [Mike] made, which are all less than three seconds long.

A hard copy of the 2D file comes in handy for making sure the cap sensors are in the right places. To make those, [Mike] cut up some floor protector pads and covered the sticky side with copper tape. These are held on the 2D image with double-sided tape. The 3D print sits on top, separated by more furniture pads at the corners. He labeled this scientific sandwich model with a 3D printed Braille label that reads ‘anaphase’. [Mike] has made the referenced STL file along with a few others available at the National Institutes of Health’s 3D print exchange site.

7 thoughts on “Talking Tactile 3D Prints

    1. how would you feel if you were blind and couldn’t fulfil your dream of being a lab technician? so what if they make a few more mistakes than a sighted person, at least they are trying!!!!!

    2. I feel that knowing a bit about cells allows me to comprehend the world in a way that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I am not a lab technician. To be perfectly honest the blind guys are probably not going to be lab technicians either. Who cares. Learning is fun. Let them.

  1. Talking about tactile, I had this idea the other day, what if you took two small magnets, put them on top of each other in a small tube or some such with the poles facing each other so they repel, then have the top one made so you can press it, and you got a very interesting feeling switch when you put contacts on both sides.

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