By Paul Dunne
From Eleanor: Paul Dunne is a Shapeways Crew member and the C3PO (Chief 3D Printing Officer) of Blindesign, a company based in Ireland that works to empower blind and visually impaired people through 3D design and printing. He is a recent graduate of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and has an exhibition of his work on view there from June 13 through 20. We first met Paul at a meetup we held in Dublin back in April!
Blindesign embraces change in how we develop and acquire 3D printed products. It also enables a social benefit to blind and visually impaired people by carrying out creative workshops with the blind to create forms and drawings of how they see the world. These creations are then scanned and developed into 3D printed products and jewelry that are available to buy in a wide range of materials on Shapeways. The finished designs are the tangible aspects of the empowering experience from the workshops.
However, there is a motto among the visually impaired and blind at National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), a charitable organization that provides services and support for people with sightloss. It starts by them asking a newbie, like I was at one time, “Do you know what VIP stands for?”. To which I answered, “Very important person.” They replied, “Yes, but also visually impaired people.” I was very struck by how powerful a comment it was. I could feel the pride and energy in the room when the connection was made.
I wanted this project to emphasis that although the participants who I work with throughout this project are visually impaired or blind, they and their creations are the very important parts. I did this by making VIP spaces to keep the ‘Very Important Pieces’ that were made by hand and then to have the ‘Very Important Prints’ made with Shapeways.
Second task was to create products out of clay. So they made scale models of their interpretation of a chair, a table, a bowl, a door and a coin. Also, one participant, Eamonn, made his initials.
Third task was to make sculptural pieces by squeezing pieces of clay in their hand, creating simple elegant forms.
A few examples of what we created:
White containers: Shapes are generated by the visually impaired participants and are 3D scanned. The shape is digitally developed into storage pieces by dividing them up into 5 sections and hollowing them out. The organic forms stack neatly on top of one another. Holes are added for aesthetic reasons and also reduce the cost of manufacture. Each model is unique, and they tell different stories. Understanding this, an individual and emotional connection is made between the piece and the end user.
Twirl lamp: The clay shapes which are created by the participants are 3D scanned and developed into lamps. The design is 3D printed as one piece, with ‘ball and socket’ style connections already in position when manufactured. The lights would be housed in shelled sections. The lights power on when the segments of the shape are twirled apart. The more it is twirled, the brighter the light gets. Future developments in material science may one day allow for the lamp and its light be printed together.
I’m also working on an open-source Braille Game to aid the blind in learning braille. The games range in size, with the larger ones more difficult to use to improve standard of literacy. On average, a staggering ninety percent of blind people can not read braille, and that percentage is higher in developing countries. The ability for blind people to read and write are essential to improve one’s education and employment opportunities. This open-source product is an design aspect to Blindesign. Committed designers are invited to collaborate on the development of educational products that help visually impaired and blind learn Braille. Files for this design are available on Grabcad.