3D Printed Braille

Wanted to pull out this nugget from the fantastic post by @mcantino over at Virtual maps for the blind and visually impaired:

Anyone have other good resources for 3D printing Braille?

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I have some additional resources to accompany the links that were already shared.

Creating 3D Braille Labels Slides

Video Tutorial: OpenSCAD Braille Labels

Video Tutorial: Tinkercad and Braille Labels - Beginner

Video Tutorial: Tinkercad and Braille Labels - Advanced

These aren’t very polished, but I think there’s enough information there to help people get started with the OpenSCAD braille generator. This has been my go-to 3D braille tool for several years, and I’ve been getting great results.

I have done some 3D printing and laser cutting using this braille font. I typically use this font for embossed tactile graphics, but with some minor modifications it prints pretty well.

Because the OpenSCAD tool has worked well for me, I haven’t investigated alternatives for a while. I did a quick review of the top Google results, and TouchSee kept coming up. This tool looks pretty interesting, but there are a couple issues to be aware of.

TouchSee

Pros

  • This tool is very easy to use. Type in the text you want, and you immediately see the label generated below. Click the download button for an stl to 3D print.
  • Lots of translation options. For most English-speaking countries, you’ll want to use the “Unified English - Contracted” option at the end of the list instead of the default setting. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of all the translation options, but I did look at the Spanish option. I’ve transcribed a some Spanish braille, and everything generated by the Spanish setting seemed correct, as far as accented vowels and punctuation. It does seem to miss the contraction for a double-l. There’s probably a work around for this.
  • Sizing options are interesting and might take some investigation. They’re almost all different braille-signage standards for buildings, but there’s also an “embossed on paper” setting. I think braille for signage is slightly larger than typical embossed braille, if I remember correctly.

Cons

  • Mesh issues. When I imported a test label into Tinkercad, the model was distorted underneath and around the braille characters (picture below). When I sliced labels in Cura, I got a message that the models were not manifold. The models ended up looking okay after slicing and would presumably print well (picture below). Mesh issues can complicate adding these labels to other models, and distortions on the labels may make the final printed label unusable. There are tools to repair models like this, but that’s an extra step.

OpenSCAD label vs. TouchSee label

TouchSee label sliced in Cura (sorry for the low contrast)

  • Translation errors. I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of the labels, but I did catch a couple errors. In the screenshot below, the words “of” and “the” are joined together. This is accurate for an older braille code, but in the current code, these words should be separated. You may want to check the translation against a trusted translation tool. Braille Blaster is free and pretty solid. I’ve also had good results with this online braille translator recently (use “Unified English Braille Code 2”).

“creation of the braille label” translation screenshot

  • Character limit. Not a huge deal, but it’d be nice to have the option for longer lines. The limit is 31 characters, which is the length of a line of braille on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper. Braille paper often has 40 cells across the page, but 31 should be plenty for most printing applications.

Other than TouchSee, the only other 3D braille tool I came across was a tool by Lumi Industries. They have an article posted on their site demonstrating a few models, but they look kind of rough. It’s hard to tell if the braille printed nicely on the final model, but the mesh previews look really messy, as if there are mesh issues similar to the TouchSee labels.

Hopefully this will help others get started with 3D printing braille!

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