3D printing is a technology that has stepped into our lives not very long ago and is already breaking through roofs and shifting paradigms in our society. It has found military, biomedical and industrial uses and is being used by individuals to helps them create objects that they need or visualize. However, are you aware that 3D printing has also found educational and social applications? Blind people rely on their sense of touch for reading and even visualizing. That is exactly why 3D printing is being touted as the next big thing when it comes to 3D printing of objects that can be used for educating blind persons.
Think3D is an Indian 3D printing platform that has taken huge leaps when it comes to helping out blind persons. It began an initiative for the digitization and 3D printing of all the educational images and diagrams collected from school books to facilitate with the education of the visually impaired students. The project is being worked upon in collaboration with a school that is attended by over 500 blind and visually impaired persons; Devnar Foundation For The Blind.
Think3D is a big 3D printing platform that is based in Hyderabad, India. It was created back in 2014 by Raja Sekhar Upputuri and Prudhvi Reddy. Apart from providing a myriad of 3D printing services, it is also working on creating awareness regarding the potential that 3D printing offers in India. This particular project to help out visually impaired and blind students aims at looking beyond profits while imparting a positive impact in the society.
The two founders came up with the idea of helping children that suffered from blindness or visual impairment while they were searching for a social project to work on. This idea led them to Dr. Saibaba Goud who is a leading ophthalmologist and co-founder of Devnar Foundation for the Blind. Prudhvi recalls, “We explained him about 3D printing technology and how it can be used to create 3D visual aids. He became very interested in this whole project. He assigned a faculty member as our point of contact for this project and supported us all through.”
Following their discussions and combined experience of working with children, it was crystal clear that a lot of them had to struggle for understanding things. For instance; understanding biology without having charts and illustrations to refer to can be quite a hassle. Professor R. Parameshwaran explains that normal children are able to understand better because teacher can show and explain by making use of diagrams, however for a blind child things become quite difficult. The reason being that blind children are only able to visualize via their sense of touch. He further said, “We do have few visual aids in the laboratory. Those are bulky, non-portable and are prone to damage easily. Moreover, creation of such visual aids is an expensive proposition. So, we are commissioning such models for very important concepts like Blood Circulation System. If we can get highly portable and durable models at low cost that will be a huge benefit for these students.”
Once it was determined that 3D printed parts can actually help out teachers when it comes to explanation of basic concepts, the Think3D team invested their time and efforts for a total of 45 days during which various digital and 3D printed forms of different concepts from physics textbooks were created. All of the 3D printed models are small but yet durable and most importantly; easy to handle. It turns out that these models were quite a success at Denvar Foundation for the Blind. One of the models was about the concept of Light Rays and a student said, “This is a light ray hitting the lens and reflecting back. I can visualize which ray is coming from right, which one from left, which one is parallel and which one is perpendicular. This model helped me visualize it very well.”
Following this encouraging response, think3D started tackling biology textbooks. Prudhvi said, “I was really surprised to see that one guy could teach the human eye anatomy and the student could instantly recognize the cornea.” Teachers have claimed that teaching students has become quite easy for them while students are better able to grasps too. Think3D has plans of continuing this amazing approach in order to help with special education. Here’s to 3D printing that is helping us in so many ways!