3D printing for accessible graphics – project updates

Please check back regularly for monthly updates.

Progress made

October 2021

Collaboration: Our special guest speaker at the ANZAGG 3D Printing group meeting will be Kathryn Penzhover from the Universty of Colorado to speak about the Build-A-Better-Book Project.

September 2021

Promotion: Leona Holloway (Monash University) and Alicia San Martin (Guide Dogs Victoria) will speak at the OMAA Online Symposium about the collaborative design and use of 3D printed street crossing kits for orientation and mobility specialists to use when teaching blind children about the essential concepts of street crossings.

Orientation and Mobility Association of Australasia logo

August 2021

Collaboration: At our ANZAGG 3D Printing group meeting on 19 August we discussed cataloguing, using a CNC machine as an alternative to 3D printing for 3D designs, converting from black and white photographs, and the need for bulk production of tactile rulers.

July 2021

Collaboration: Nicolas Bonne of the Tactile Universe project was guest speaker at the ANZAGG 3D Printing group meeting on 21 July. We also shared tips for getting a good fit for joints and cutting down printing time.

Tactile Literacy: We released the models for a tactile version of Boggle with braille and large print letter cubes and a tray. We also released the models for jumbo texture beads to help support concept development.

letter cubes spelling "read" and "play". The cubes are yellow with braille and large print letters on each face.boggle gametextured beads - scattered (small)textured beads - necklace (small)

Labelling: As part of an accessible tour at the Mary Quant exhibition, Bendigo Art Gallery, we tested 3D printed models with three different labelling methods: QR code, NFC tag, and electronics with touch point and inbuilt speaker.

Guidelines: We published a newly developed Accessible Graphics Formats Decision Forest, providing guidance on which accessible formats are most suitable for any given image, along with labelling considerations. The decision forest includes 3D printed models along with existing 3D models and kits, real objects, related artefacts, and many other formats ranging from descriptions and tactile graphics to sonification and soundscapes. The decision forest is published on the Round Table website:

June 2021

multi-colour letter beads on bracelets with braille on one side and indented black lettering on the otherTactile Literacy: We designed, tested and shared the models for braille and print letter beads to support braille literacy and awareness. The models can be downloaded from www.thingiverse.com/thing:4875770.

Collaboration: At the ANZAGG 3D Printing group meeting we discussed recommendations for 3D printed lines; a production workflow for creating 3D models of maps; software for modelling 3D printed textures; and we reviewed a draft decision tree for choosing accessible graphics formats. We also held a quarterly expert advisory meeting.

Guidelines: We released new guidelines on labelling 3D prints for touch readers. Thanks are extended to Ruth Nagassa for her contribution to this section and to the NSW Braille and Large Print Services for the provision of best-practice examples.

Promotion: Video recordings from the 2021 SPEVI Conference (open access) and 2021 Round Table Conference  (registrants only) were released. We delivered a presentation and a workshop at both of these venues. The SPEVI videos can be accessed at:

May 2021

Promotion: Kim Marriott presented an update on the project at the Round Table Conference, where Leona Holloway and Ruth Nagassa also ran a workshop on guidelines for 3D printing for touch readers. Related materials are available from the Round Table website.

At the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, we presented a paper on Technology Developments in Touch-Based Accessible Graphics. The associated AGRep tool provides an accessible collection of work in this area over the last decade, including research on 3D printing for touch readers.

Collaboration: At the May meeting of the ANZAGG 3D Printing group we were joined by Ka Li, who shared his strategies for non-visual 3D printing.

Guidelines: We updated the guidelines on 3D printing design software and Finishing and created draft guidelines on labelling 3D prints for touch readers.

April 2021

Promotion: We presented our 3D printing project work at the international Tactile Reading Conference.

Collaboration: At the April meeting of the ANZAGG 3D Printing group we talked about accessible options for teaching astronomy, we shared out latest creations and brainstormed strategies for adhesion.

Guidelines: We published guidelines on Finishing, i.e. preparing 3D printed models for touch readers. We also updated the guidelines on 3D model selection, design and printing by people who are blind or have low vision.

March 2021

Collaboration: At the March meeting of the ANZAGG 3D Printing group we discussed which 3D models are most popular for education of students who are blind or have low vision. We also held our quarterly Expert Advisory Group meeting.

Mapping: We provided Guide Dogs Victoria with several sets of 3D printed components to help teach road crossings. They will use the materials with their clients and provide feedback. They have already requested some additional pieces and made suggestions for design refinements.

3D printed street crossing in four pieces with traffic lights, traffic and pedestrians

Education: We created a list of “top ten 3D prints” to help inspire first time users of 3D prints for education of students who are blind or have low vision.

Guidelines: We completed draft guidelines on finishing, i.e. preparing 3D printed models for touch readers. We also updated the guidelines on 3D model selection, design and printing by people who are blind or have low vision.

February 2021

Collaboration and Promotion: At the February meeting of the ANZAGG 3D Printing group we welcomed Ian Matty from Mountain Lakes Public Library Makerspace as guest speaker on the topic of accessible 3D prints projects for sighted learners.

Guidelines: We updated the guidelines on where to find 3D models for touch readers and began work on guidelines for finishing, i.e. preparing a 3D printed models for touch readers.

January 2021

Promotion: We contributed to JSPEVI and presented our work at the 2021 SPEVI Virtual Conference, where the whole team gave an update on the ARC Linkage Project and Leona teamed up with Navkaran Virdi from the NSW Department of Education to talk specifically about 3D printing for education.

Tactile Literacy: We continued to produce 3D printing designs to support the development of tactile literacy through games, with braille and tactile pieces for Catan.

Catan game pieces: hexagonal tiles with 3D terrain, discs with numbers in print and braille, and town/road pieces

December 2020

Collaboration and Promotion: At our December meeting of the ANZAGG working group on 3D printing for touch readers, we discussed approaches to deciding what to design/3D print for students who are blind or have low vision. Group members reported that they had been busy printing and designing in the last month, with learning materials such as 3D mountains with accompanying tactile graphics, maps of Parliament House in Canberra, and a school map that students can piece together.

Standards and Guidelines: We published new guidelines on 3D printing design software, giving recommendations about the most commonly used software by BLV educators in Australia and New Zealand. We also updated the guidelines on 3D modelling by people who are blind or have low vision.

Tactile Literacy: We published two new 3D printing designs to promote tactile literacy and inclusion. Both are games that can be played by blind and sighted people together. Scrabble tiles with print and braille can be used to play standard scrabble, speed scrabble, boggle, hangman or to complete crossword puzzles. The files can be downloaded from www.thingiverse.com/thing:4692311.

3D printed braille scrabble tiles with raised braille and indented print letters

Qwirkle tiles with raised coloured shapes (and an indicator for the colours in braille) can be downloaded from www.thingiverse.com/thing:4692322.

A pile of square black qwirkle tiles with six different raised shapes in six different colours. A raised braille letter indicates the colour.

STEM Education: In support of STEM education, we designed 3D printed water cycle tiles that can be used by blind and sighted students together to discuss and demonstrate their understanding of the water cycle. The files can be downloaded from www.thingiverse.com/thing:4692170.

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.

Our thanks are extended to the many partners, professionals and testers who worked with us in what was a difficult year for everyone. We wish you a safe and happy holiday break and look forward to future successes in the new year.

November 2020

Collaboration and Promotion: At our November meeting of the ANZAGG working group on 3D printing for touch readers, we gave a presentation on the ARC Linkage project.

Project team members from Monash University hosted a virtual exhibitor’s table (Zoom breakout room) at the 2020 SVRC Technology Expo and shared a video with a summary of our guidelines on touch reading 3D models.

A new Facebook group called “Blind and Low Vision 3D printing” was started by an Australian parent and already has 170 members worldwide. It has generated a lot of valuable discussion around the accessibility of 3D printing design software, interfaces for 3D printers and the 3D printing process.

Education: We designed and shared a 3D printed braille puzzle that can be used to support tactile literacy. It is available for free download from Thingiverse at www.thingiverse.com/thing:4670016.

3D printed cylinder with 6 by 6 sliding pieces, each with a braille letterComponents of 3D printed braille revolver puzzle: centre with ends; revolving disks with slots, and coloured braille sliding pieces

October 2020

Collaboration: At our October meeting, the ANZAGG working group for people using 3D printing for touch readers discussed what software we use for creating 3D printing designs. We also shared recommended designs for tactile rulers.

Standards and Guidelines: We published guidelines on understanding 3D prints by touch, updated the guidelines on 3D modelling by people who are blind or have low vision, and started work on guidelines on 3D modelling software.

Mapping: We continued work designing and creating 3D models to represent road crossings.

Promotion: Kate Stephens and Matt Butler presented our autoethnographic paper on a blind traveller, which included the production and use of 3D models of a cruise ship, at the ASSETS 2020 virtual conference on computers and accessibility. The paper can be downloaded from https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3373625.3417011.

Ruth NagassaStaffing: We welcomed Ruth Nagassa to the project. Ruth is a new PhD student with Monash University’s Inclusive Technologies group. She has experience in the creation of 3D printed anatomy models and will focus on 3D printing STEM materials and labelling for touch readers.

September 2020

Mapping: We continued work designing and creating 3D models to represent road crossings.

3D printed square blocks with road shapes indented on the top and interlocking sides

Standards and Guidelines: We began work on principles and guidelines on how to read 3D models by touch.

Collaboration: At our September meeting, the ANZAGG working group for people using 3D printing for touch readers discussed how we can support one another in developing, testing and sharing our designs.

Promotion: Leona Holloway spoke about her work on the project in an episode of the RO&Ming with Lil podcast with Deverell.

August 2020

Standards and Guidelines: We released introductory guidelines on techniques for 3D printing by people who are blind or have low vision.

Collaboration: At our August meeting, the ANZAGG working group for people using 3D printing for touch readers discussed gathering feedback from teachers using 3D prints with students who are blind or have low vision.

Mapping: We spoke with O&M instructors throughout Australia about mapping tools currently used to teach street crossings and started to design our own tools using 3D printing.

toolbox with pieces to represent road, footpath, grass, people

July 2020

Standards and Guidelines: We released the first of a series of guidelines on 3D printing for touch readers on the ANZAGG website – When to use 3D printing and Where to find 3D models for touch readers.

Collaboration: At our July meeting, the ANZAGG working group for people using 3D printing for accessibility heard from special guest Jim Allan, Chair of the DIAGRAM 3D working group.

Labelling: At our ANZAGG meeting we discussed options for accessible labelling of 3D prints. We will explore the tactile symbols recommended by UBIS.

3D printed human brain with braille on curved surface, 3D printed lungs with backing plate with outline and braille labels, 3D printed globe with braille key, and full braille labels on flatter 3D prints of terrain
experiments with braille labelling on 3D models by the NSW Department of Education

June 2020

Collaboration: At our June meeting, the ANZAGG working group for people using 3D printing for accessibility discussed guidelines on when to use 3D printing.

May 2020

Collaboration: A working group for people using 3D printing for accessibility has been formed under the auspices of the Australia and New Zealand Accessible Graphics Group (ANZAGG). In May, the group held its first monthly meeting and established mechanisms to share our work. To join the group, please contact leona.holloway@monash.edu.

Standards and Guidelines: Draft sections written on “when to use 3D prints for touch readers” and “where to find 3D printing models for touch readers”.

Labelling and Interaction: Monash PhD student Samuel Reinders is exploring interactivity for people who are blind or who have low vision to independently explore 3D printed tactile models. He published a paper entitled “Hey Model” with accompanying youtube video and presented at CHI Downunder.

3D printed solar system with wires leading to base

April 2020

Progress on the project was disrupted in April 2020 due to social distancing measures. We are re-designing our research and engagement activities so that they can be conducted remotely while still achieving the same outcomes.

3D printable model of the COVID-19 virus

March 2020

Mapping: We enjoyed hosting a free public workshop at MPavilion in Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne. Participants discussed issues with accessible mapping and tried their hand at designing and testing 3D symbols for maps.
overhead photograph of table with hands exploring 3D printed tactile maps, instructions sheets and modelling clay

February 2020

Mapping: Continuing our work exploring multi-level maps, we commenced mapping of a cruise ship.

Labelling and Interaction: We shared a file for customising 3D printed braille labels with good quality rounded dots and braille contractions. The OpenSCAD file is available with instructions at www.thingiverse.com/thing:4167866.

January 2020

Leona Holloway with poster titled "3D printing for improved access to graphics". 3D prints are attached to the poster.January was all about SPEVI, with the conference of the South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment held in Adelaide. With around 200 attendees, mostly teachers in Vision Impairment, it was a great opportunity to share our work and seek involvement from experts and practitioners in the vision education sector.

Leona Holloway delivered a presentation outlining our project investigating 3D printing for accessible graphics. Leona Holloway and Debra Lewis presented a hands on workshop exploring models and techniques for producing educational 3D models for vision impaired students. Danielle Kruger delivered a presentation and shared videos documenting her work with 3D printed school maps for students. We also presented a tactile poster on our work.

All materials from the SPEVI Conference will be made available on their website at www.spevi.net/conference/. Our sincere thanks are extended to SPEVI for their generosity in supporting this project.

December 2019

Administration: We held a meeting of the project’s expert advisory group, who provided excellent guidance and offers of assistance. We also held a planning session, mapping out work and timelines for 2020.

Tactile Literacy: In collaboration with accessible formats producers at the Statewide Vision Resource Centre and RIDBC, we continue to build the ANZAGG collection on Thingiverse with free 3D models for educational use.

Design for 3D printed 25cm ruler with raised lines marking 5cm intervals and raised dots marking 1cm intervals

November 2019

Mapping: While the first map is in testing with Guide Dogs Victoria, we produced a second 3D printed map of a school building. This is our first exploration of how to represent multi-level buildings.

Two 3D printed floorplans in the same shape. Both have stairs. One has walls below it.

Tactile Literacy: We attended the Statewide Vision Resource Centre Tech Expo, where we presented a workshop on 3D printed materials for early learners and invited vision specialist teachers to take part in our survey at accessiblegraphics.org/2019/12/18/survey/. This survey is open to all people working with vision impaired children in prep to year 2. Your input is vital to help shape our research, guidelines and design of materials.

Guidelines: We have commenced extending our work on designing and evaluating 3D printed textures for tactual discrimination.

Promotion: Many of the models that we have identified or designed for touch readers are available for free download from the ANZAGG Thingiverse collection under the auspices of Round Table’s Australia & New Zealand Accessible Graphics Group. These materials have now been included in the meta-library of tactile graphics and 3D models by BTactile.com.

October 2019

Matt Butler and Leona Holloway on stagePromotion: ASSETS is the premier forum for presenting research on the design, evaluation, use, and education related to computing for people with disabilities and older adults. We attended this international Conference to present a paper on 3D printing for mapping from the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, along with a poster on accessible formats (including 3D printing) for access to art, as explored with Bendigo Art Gallery.

Promotion: As part of Diversity and Inclusion Week, SensiLab hosted a showcase of projects by Monash University’s Inclusive Technologies research group, including our work investigating 3D printing for accessibility.

September 2019

Guidelines: We continued our work on 3D printed textures, collecting additional data from people who are sighted, blind and deafblind. We are now able to make recommendations regarding the design and selection of 3D printed textures for touch readers.

Mapping: We produced 3D printed maps of a school ground and classrooms. These maps will be used by a student starting at the school in 2020 with assistance from their O&M instructor. Feedback will help inform design of further maps.

3D printed school buildings and roads on white acrylic base

August 2019

Promotion: As part of National Science Week, we were invited to take part in an event at Parliament of Victoria with the theme “ExtraSensory”. We hosted a room in which we had activities relating to 3D printed icons for tactile maps and tactile discrimination of 3D printed textures. The event attracted over 1,000 visitors with whom we were able to speak about our research and the importance of accessibility.
Extrasensory. National Science Week 2019. See, hear, smell, taste, feel, more!

Guidelines: The “ExtraSensory” event provided a perfect opportunity to collect a large amount of data to assist in the identification of a range of 3D printed textures that are tactually distinct from one another and suitable for use on accessible maps and learning objects.

June and July 2019

Administration: The project’s expert advisory group met for the third time in June.

Collaboration and Promotion: On Thursday June 20, Matt Butler spoke about the ARC Linkage Project and 3D printing for tactile literacy at VISCON in Sydney. VISCON is a two day biennial conference for educators and related specialists in education for children who are blind or have low vision.

Tactile Literacy: A survey on tactile materials for the classroom is ready for distribution.

Mapping: We toured two schools for which 3D maps will created for use by students beginning there in 2020.

Guidelines: A selection of 50 textures were designed and printed for testing in a series of tactual discrimination tasks.

May 2019

Collaboration: The Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities Inc. is a major project partner. Their annual Round Table Conference for 2019 was held in Brisbane with the theme “The Changing Landscape for Accessible Information”. On Sunday 5 May, project Chief Investigator Matt Butler of Monash University delivered a feature presentation about the project entitled “Partnering for Progress”.

Mapping: On Monday 7 May, Leona Holloway and Matt Butler (Monash University),  Tony Starkey (Royal Society for the Blind) and John-Ross Barresi (Guide Dogs Victoria) presented a hands-on workshop demonstrating a collection of 3D-printed maps of the Round Table Conference location and surrounds. Approximately 70 people were in attendance, providing feedback from their perspective as touch readers, accessible formats producers, teachers, O&M instructors and technology providers.

Neighbourhood maps of South Bank Brisbane. One includes many more buildings than the other.

Guidelines: Work continues on creating a variety of textures that can be incorporated into 3D prints. At a SensiLab Open House evening, we trialled a “mystery box” activity asking people to find matching textures by touch. It was a surprisingly difficult task! This activity will be extended for more formal trials and the upcoming Extrasensory evening as part of National Science Week.

Tactile Literacy: We have started collecting and designing 3D materials to support vision impaired students in their first year of schooling. These materials include: braille swing cell; braille fidget cube; braille word cubeMAB blocks; tens frame; number lines; fraction pies; tactile coin for flipping; braille dice; tactile dominoestangram puzzle; 3D shapes with equal volume; tactile ruler; 3D maps of familiar places; data grid. Please let us know of any further materials you think would be useful at this level.

April 2019

Mapping: Throughout April we focused on analysing the results from the mapping study run at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in March and writing a paper for an international conference submission. We were also busy preparing materials for the mapping workshop in May.

March 2019

Administration: The project’s expert advisory group met for the second time. Bruce Maguire joined the group on behalf of Vision Australia.

Map of Carlton Gardens with felt grass, a 3D printed building and fountain, and 3D printed icons for food, drinks, etc. Mapping: “Immerse Your Senses” was the theme of the 2019 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show,  held at the Carlton Gardens from Wednesday 27 to Sunday 31 March. We created an accessible map of the Show with 3D-printed icons, along with handheld models of the Rob Waddell Show Garden and Guide Dog Victoria’s sensory garden. Over the course of the event, we collected feedback on the maps from 10 visitors who are blind or have low vision.

February 2019

3D printed model of a cat with spherical head, triangular ears, and cylindrical legs, body and tail
How many cylinders are there in the cat?

Tactile Literacy: We conducted our first school visit, discussing the materials required for touch readers in their first years of primary schooling. Suggested materials included:

  • tens frame for placing counters
  • MAB blocks with outward-facing lines
  • braille number line
  • fun “find the shape” activities

January 2019

Collaboration: Research Assistant for the project, Leona Holloway, joined the DIAGRAM working group on 3D tactile standard. The group meets fortnightly and has a focus on 3D printing for education for students with vision impairments.

December 2018

3D printed braille swing cell with removable rods for the braille dotsTactile Literacy: Face-to-face brainstorming meetings were held with production and teaching staff at RIDBC and SVRC. Some of the main areas they suggested where 3D printing could assist in tactile literacy:

  • Braille swing cell
  • Braille games
  • 3D shapes – solid, cross-sections and nets
  • Games matching 3D objects with tactile graphics

November 2018

Mapping: Work commenced on creating TinkerCAD components for modelling street crossings.

Standards: Began modelling of 3D-printable textures.

3D printed textures - short raised lines, domes and flat dots

Administration: The first meeting held with the project’s expert advisory group. The project team is joined by representatives from partner organisations (the Department of Education and Training, Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities, Guide Dogs Victoria, the Royal Society for the Blind) and peak organisations from the print accessibility sector (Vision Australia, Blind Citizens Australia, Queensland Tactual Mapping Committee). Meetings will be held quarterly in March, June, September and December.

October 2018

October 2018 marked the beginning of the three-year project investigating the use of 3D printing for access to graphics by people who are blind or have low vision.

Standards: A shared document was created on Google Drive with tips and tricks for printing for accessibility. This is a working document that will be continually added to throughout the project. It is not yet ready for release but please contact leona.holloway@monash.edu if you would like access to evaluate or add to the document.