Re:3D Brings Graphs to Blind Economics Students

Makers at Syracuse University are 3D printing graphs for blind students to use in economics classes using Re:3D's Open Gigabot 3D printers.

Imagine if you were talented in math but were unable to see visual representations of numbers, such as graphs. Today, braille and assistive technologies allow visually impaired students to venture into many fields. However, one particularly difficult challenge is for blind math students using graphs. Graphs are difficult to represent with braille but often used in textbooks and exams—Samantha Snabes’ Gigabot project is helping blind students to access this vital information. 


One student at Syracuse University ran into this problem in his economics class. “Economics has to do with a lot of trends that can only be seen by looking at graphs,” his professor realized, so he reached out to the Syracuse University makerspace.


So the makers at Syracuse decided to 3D print graphs that the student could touch. “It took a few weeks of experimentation to get different heights and elevations, getting feedback from the student of what he could perceive was the best feel and sensitivity. We finally got a blend of height and resolution that was acceptable,” says one makerspace representative.

How Gigabot Made It Possible

The key, however, was using a 3D printer that could handle the size and intricacy of these graphs – so they used re:3D’s Gigabot 3D printer.

“We use the Gigabot because some of these are quite large, and if they do get complicated, we have to make them big enough to where the resolution can be perceived.”

Re:3D makes large-scale, industrial-strength 3D printers at an affordable price. There are many 3D printers in today’s market, but most are small, consumer-grade machines — otherwise, they are prohibitively expensive.

“Gigabot is the most affordable large-scale industrial 3D printer on the market.”

Samantha Snabes, founder of re:3D, always wanted to help the world – she even considered starting a charitable foundation. So when she founded re:3D, she crafted the company with a socially-driven mission to develop products that help people.

The company draws many nonprofit customers. The company promotes charitable uses of their machine with special prices for nonprofits, schools, and makerspaces. In this way, Samantha feels “our reach is actually so much wider; we’re enabling a whole network of people to do something good.”

A Life Changed Through 3D Printing

The visually impaired student found the graphs helpful and assistive in understanding economics, and he excelled on his final exam for the class. Now, the makerspace prints new graphs each semester to help the student in his classes. With new technologies such as 3D printing, the world is becoming a more inclusive place for every type of individual.

You can find out more and access the design files to build your own Gigabot here.


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