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Getting Started with 3-D Printing

Tips to get started with 3D printing

I am a COMS and TVI, and have been using a MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation since June 2014, and I presented at SOMA on my experience with 3D printing.  I have been pleased with MakerBot for its plug-and-play ease of use and great customer support. You might be able to obtain special offers by requesting a quote from MakerBot, but currently the MakerBot 5th Generation is on sale for $2,499. 

Creating 3D Models

MakerBot hosts the website Thingiverse, which is a repository of open-source and for-purchase 3D files. The vast majority of the 3D models I have made came from Thingiverse. I consulted with Heather Livingstone, a TVI at one of the VI program schools that I serve, and we selected to print items that were often inaccessible to students with visual impairment due to size, distance, or risk of danger. Be aware 3D printing is not a fast process – I printed an 18″ tall model of the new World Trade tower, and the print took about 50 hours. We printed a virus, T-rex skull, the Parthenon (ancient and modern day), ossicles, and a tapeworm (custom print I designed).

3D Printing for O&M Purposes

Custom prints require a person to have the time and patience to make a 3D design from scratch. For O&M purposes, I designed a hook pencil tip of my own design using TinkerCAD, an online computer aided design site, and plus-shaped and t-shaped intersections complete with curbs, curb cuts, and road camber. I also like SketchUp, a 3D design program that can be obtained for free with proof of being an education professional. I wish I had more time to devote to custom design so that I could make 3D models of the schools my students attend. 

3D Printing for Braille Production

In regards to braille production: when I first started with 3D design of braille I abided by BANA’s dimensions for braille dot size and spacing. I quickly found that the 3D printed braille was difficult for my students to read. I increased the height and circumference of each braille dot and provided more spacing, and my students could detect the braille dots better, but because of the spacing size my younger students had to “scrub” as they could not get the entire braille cell under their smaller fingers. 



A Student’s Perspective on BrailleNote

A boy using a video magnifier
Tips and guides

Video Magnifiers or CCTVs