Top Ten 3D models for students who are blind or have low vision

3D printing offers a new format for access to graphics for students who are blind or have low vision. However, knowing where to start often is the hardest step in any new process. To help, this list highlights popular 3D printed models that you may like to request for printing at your school or through your accessible formats provider. In Australia, 3D printed materials are currently available by request from accessible formats production departments at NextSenseBraille and Large Print Services NSW, the Statewide Vision Resource Centre (SVRC) in Victoria, Education Queensland, South Australian School for Vision Impaired (SASVI), and BLENNZ.

See also the ANZAGG Guidelines on what to 3D print (and what not to print) and where to find 3D printing models for touch readers.

Braille and Communication

Braille Swing Cell

This model helps students to understand the relationship between the braille cell and the keys on a braille writer. In the closed position, the removable pegs inserted into the blocks represent the dots in a braille cell. In the open position, the pegs represent the keys on a brailler that correspond to each of the braille dots.

two rectangular prisms with 3 holes each, joined with a screw. They can sit together as a braille cell or swing out into a line.

Approximate printing time: 3 hours
Source: Thingiverse thing 2704904

Braille Writer Finger Guide

This model slots in under the keys of a standard Perkins brailler to help keep fingers on the correct key.

plastic base with blades between the keys on a Perkins brailler

Approximate print time: 6 hours
Printing tips: If your print bed is large enough, print the finger guide on its side for increased strength. If your print bed is too small, you may consider printing in two pieces.

Universal Core Communication Pieces

3D symbols are available for the 36 words in the Universal Core vocabulary. Shape, texture, and colour are used to mark the word category, while a tactile symbol and braille are used to designate the word. The designers suggest starting by introducing the three key words “go”, “like” and “not”.

Three 3D printed pieces with print, braille and a tactile symbol. "Like" and "Go" are red triangles with ridges on the side. "Not" is a yellow circle with half spheres on the side.

Approximate printing time: 1.5-2 hours per word


Tactile Dice

Tactile dice are handy for counting, chance & date, and games.

3D printed dice with tactile dots

Approximate printing time: Up to 30 minutes per dice
Sources: for a six-sided dice with rounded dots; for polyhedral dice with braille numbers

10 by 10 Cartesian Plane

A 10 by 10 grid with tactile markers along the axes and around each data point. Use it to plot points with push pins on top of a soft surface such as cardboard.

3D printed grid with flat axes, raised line markers on the axes, and one circle (with raised edges) per plot point. Push pins are inserted into two points.

Approximate print time: 90 minutes

Tactile Ruler

3D model for a ruler with tactile markings and hand grip

Approximate print time: Up to 3 hours
Printing tip: Note that many printers have a maximum size of around 20cm. Placing the ruler diagonally on the bed allows a rule of up to 25cm in length.
Source: A variety of rulers with measurements in cm are available from


This protractor has tactile markers and a movable arm. The tactile ticks mark every 5 degrees, with larger ticks every 30 and 45 degrees. The arm is secured with a screw that points upwards. Braille labels can be added after printing.

3D printed protractor with raised line markings and moveable arm

Approximate print time: Less than 2 hours
Source: by SVRC


Atoms with Spinning Electron Shells

These atoms are printed in one piece but have spinning parts. The braille label gives the element symbol and atomic number (without a numeric indicator).

3D printed model with flat round centre labelled "O" "8" and spinning shells with circular electrons

Approximate print time: 45 minutes for Hydrogen and Helium; 1.5 hours for Lithium to Neon; longer for larger atoms.

Place and the Environment

Topographic Map

Customised topographic maps of any area that you choose. Mountainous regions work best. For example, you could print different types of mountains, iconic places such as Uluru or the Grand Canyon, nearby mountain ranges familiar to the student, or places of historic significance such as ANZAC Cove.

3D-printed topographic map of Australia

Printing time: Minimum 3 hours
Printing tips: A footprint of around 10×10cm is recommended. Reduce the height of the base for faster printing time and less waste.

Water Cycle

Tiles to represent stages of the water cycle, with arrows for students to construct their own connections. The tiles have braille, print and tactile icons. Choose the tiles that are appropriate for your student’s level.

hexagonal tiles with tactile symbol, braille and print labels. The tiles are arranged with square arrow tiles to illustrate the water cycle with components such as sun, evaporation, condensation, cloud, rain, snow, run-off, river, ocean, etc.

Approximate print time: 2 hours per tile
Printing tips: Print tiles standing on their side for smooth braille. A brim will assist with stability but needs to be removed with a craft knife to prevent sharp edges.

General Interest

Mars Rover

Curiosity is a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars. This 3D model, produced by NASA, has a manageable number of parts that can be constructed to create a moving vehicle.


Sydney Opera House

Use this model to teach about Australian iconography, architecture, or how a tactile graphic shows only one side of a 3D object.

3D printed model of the Sydney Opera House with a tactile graphic represenation


Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was one of the top 3 requests for tactile images of people in a recent survey by the National Federation of the Blind. This model includes a braille label.

Head and shoulders of Albert Einstein with name in braille at front

Approximate print time: 6 hours at 10cm high
Printing tips: Support needed for the chin, moustache and nose

Inclusive Maps at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show took place at the Carlton Gardens from Wednesday 27 to Sunday 31 March 2019. Guide Dogs Victoria partnered with Kangan Institute and Bendigo TAFE to sponsor the Rob Waddell Show Garden and host their own sensory garden, featuring scented plants, auditory cues, beacons and braille. As an added tool for accessibility and inclusion, researchers from Monash University’s Inclusive Technology group created 3D printed maps of the Carlton gardens, the Rob Waddell Show Garden and the Guide Dogs Victoria sensory garden. Visitors who were blind or have low vision were able to use the maps to gain a better understanding of their surroundings.

3D printed map of the Carlton Gardens and Exhibition Building, placed in a garden with herbs and bee hives

Bendigo Art Gallery accessible tour and web pages

In the next phase of our project with Bendigo Art Gallery, we had the pleasure of exploring ideas for accessible art with the Gallery and vision impaired communities.

laser cut representation of "I ate the rainbow up ..." with separate layers of acrylic to represent the background, figures, faces and handsIn a day-long workshop, gallery staff, artists and community members came together to talk about why accessible art is important, who it impacts, and the best ways to make it happen.

At a special tour, vision impaired visitors were treated to a guided tour featuring four artworks in Bendigo Art Gallery’s permanent collection. Alongside vivid audio description of the artworks, visitors were able to touch the sculptures and an old frame, take the role of a character from a painting with representative props, and explore

Accessible trial web pages were also produced to enable more independent exploration of a range of paintings and sculptures. Each page included a visual description of the artwork, information about the artwork, enlarged and high contrast images, and a soundscape related to the subject matter or period.

Watch this space for announcements regarding publications reporting our research findings.