Japan develops software for 3D printing maps for blind
Cartographic authorities in Japan have reported that they have created the special software with which users can download that allows users to download information from the internet and create relatively cheap geographical maps of the country for those who have difficulties with sight, using 3D printers.
The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) is the department in the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. It is going to work in cooperation with experts from different regions during the development phase. Their software ensures that railways, walkways and highways are clear and cannot be confused in the final version of the product. The data of the program makes it possible and easy for users to print streets with the height of about one millimeter and it’s easy to detect them with fingers.
Professor at Niigata University Tetsuya Watanabe is one of the participants of software development. He explained that they are also planning to include various features of topography such as hills and uneven surfaces so as to use these maps in courses for the visually impaired focused on emergency evacuations and tsunami- or earthquake-related evacuations. As soon as it is developed, all the maps and geo-data of Japan will appear on the Internet. Urban zone maps are going to have the scale of 1 cm equals 25 m (1:25).
To print such maps you will need a desktop FDM 3D printer with resin sheets. Each unit of material for plates measured about 15 x 15 cm will cost just 150 yen ($1.40). Scientists from GSI explained that since 3D printing has become so popular, in the near future people will be able to print maps of all the peculiar places. They still need to find out something concerning the precision level of such maps and the efficiency of using Braille to make it easy for those who have problems and difficulties with eye-sight.