Introduction: Write in Braille With B.E.E! - DIY Braille Embosser
Braille as a form of communication has always interested me greatly- so when I saw a contest about making Tools, I took it as an opportunity to develop an idea that I had been thinking about for the past year or so.
When researching how Braille worked and the tools that were used to generate said writing, I was surprised to see how expensive they were. It was as if there were two price ranges:
- Very expensive and very precise (we are talking upwards of $2000)
- Very cheap and not very precise
For Braille to be read quickly and easily, there are a series of dimensions one must follow (such as the distance between bumps, from the edge of the paper etc.). As such, I thought that a tool that would be very useful would be one that was cheap and even Open Source, whilst also capable of stimulating the interaction between the blind and those who aren't.
With that in mind, our team developed B.E.E (which stands for Braille Embossing Experience).
Our goal was to create a tool for embossing which could be made at home, would cost less than $5 to make, and could be carried inside a backpack without disrupting any usual movements. Most of the pieces would have to be made with a 3D Printer, so we would have to design all the pieces ourselves (as they would have to be custom made). To do this, we used Autodesk Fusion 360. We use it because it is free for students and easy to use for us.
This Instructable will detail not only the way to construct your own B.E.E unit, but also all the design process and work that it took to arrive to where to product is today.
To build your B.E.E unit you will need:
1 x Square Aluminum Tube (0.8 cm x 0.8 cm x 1000 cm)* $1.59
PLA Filament (I use two colours but that doesn't affect how it works at all)
Two part Epoxy
Ok let's get to building!
* The length doesn't really matter as you will only be using about 200 cm of the tube, these are the exact dimensions of the tube I bought
Step 1: Learning From History
Before we actually got the designing and building part of this project, we had to document ourselves and see what already existed in the market.
What we found was a lack of manually operated devices that would allow for the printing of a full A4 sheet of paper.
We discovered a Kickstarter campaign that took place a year or so ago called Vrailler that created a portable device that created Braille labels on the spot (Image 1). Here is a link to the campaign. Their very modern approach was extremely interesting and well-thought out, but it achieved a completely different goal from ours.
We looked further back and saw that no manual device had been created that would allow for precise embossing of a full A4. There were other label makers, such as the classic Dymo Label Maker but for Braille characters (Image 2).
Finally, the most classic solution is what is called a Braille Slate (Image 3). The way this device works is where we drew inspiration from most, as it relies on inserting a piece of paper in-between and then marking it. The main difference here is that to actually use it, one must know how to write in Braille as each bump is pressed in manually.
To gather most of this information, we contacted what is known here in Spain as ONCE (Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles). This is a non-profit organisation that works with people which have visual problems or are completely blind and integrates them into regular working environments and into society. They do very good things for a collective which is relatively small in Spain. We thought that by contacting them we would gather the best information as it would be coming straight from the most reliable source.
With that in mind, we set off to create a device that checked off all our requirements.
Step 2: First Ideas
The first ideas revolved around various coloured pieces, made out of plastic, that would allow for the interchangeable fit between them to generate on one side a letter in Braille and on the other the same letter in an alphabet for those who can see.
This worked with a system of pins on the inside which would be pushed by a tile with the letter.
We believed that this idea had some very interesting concepts, mostly the idea of having a tile with a letter on one side and the braille pattern on the other. On the other hand, system of moving pins made it really hard to actually assemble and use, so we started working on other ideas whilst keeping the idea of the tab and the basic format.
Step 3: On the Right Track
We now turned to the idea of embossing.
To do that with precision, we 3D modelled a rail that would allow for the movement of a piece where you could place the tile. One the tile was pressed, a series of pins with springs on the inside would move downwards: pressing down on a piece of paper and thus creating the braille pattern on the paper.
Once again, the whole idea of pins moving was way to complex and expensive to build.
Step 4: Final Idea
We continued making mockups and testing ideas until we landed on our final solution (which also happened to be the most simple):
Instead of making the pins move on the inside of the piece: have the tile itself have the braille pattern so that the place where you place the paper only actually serves as a positional jig.
This was a revolution for us, and that is how we came up with the final design of B.E.E
Step 5: Build It Yourself!
Step 6: Cut the Aluminum Tube
The first step is to cut the aluminum tube so that it is exactly 200 mm long (or 7 7/8 in)
Step 7: 3D Printing
Next, you want to 3D print all the files.
You will need to print one of each.
If you want to, you can print it in any color combination you want. In my case (and following the BEE motif), I printed the base in Black PLA and the rest in Yellow PLA.
Step 8: Assembling Everything
Before anything, you will need to scuff up the ends of the aluminum tube. This will allow for a better grip between the End Stoppers and the tube itself. To do this, it is as simple as taking some sandpaper and lightly sanding the ends.
Next, slide the Slider onto the tube.
Then, apply epoxy to the ends of the tube and place the End Stoppers on either side. You need to make sure that the orientation of the pieces is exactly the same as the one seen in the third picture (with the slide sticking upwards if you lay the End Stoppers flat).
Finally, apply superglue the the slots on either side of the Base and stick the End Stoppers with the whole assembly there.
And that's it! That is your completed B.E.E device
Step 9: Precise Movement on the X-Axis
To make sure that the slider is moved to correct amount each time to produce precise Braille bumps, a small modification has to be done to the aluminum tube.
A series of lines will have to be drawn on. To know their position, you must do the following:
- Move the Slider to where the first grooves are in the Base
- Draw a line to the right of the Slider
- Repeat for every position of the bumps
You have to do this from right to left, this is very important.
Step 10: Better Method for the Tiles
Instead of having a tile for every single letter, we developed a solution which is more compact and simple to use.
The device relies on a spinning system which houses 13 letters (so 2 devices will be need: one for A-M and one of N-Z).
Step 11: Build the Embossing Device
First, you want to 3D print the following parts:
- A-M Center (x1)
- A-M Cover (x1)
- N-Z Center (x1)
- N-Z Cover (x1)
- Bottom Cover (x2)
- Knob (x2)
- Shaft (x2)
Once you have printed all the parts, assembly is very simple:
- Place the Shaft through the Bottom Cover
- Glue the Center to the shaft whilst it is on top of the Bottom Cover
- Glue the Cover to the ridge on the Bottom Cover
- Glue the Knob to the of the Shaft once it sticks out through the Cover
Do it for the A-M Device and for the N-Z Device
Step 12: Printing the Paper
As you will see in the next step, to make sure that the positioning of the Braille is exact, you must emboss very exactly both in the x-axis direction and in the y-axis.
The x-axis is simple, as the sliding piece allows for very precise movement. To solve the y-axis, you must print the included piece of paper. I'll show you how to use it in the next step.
Step 13: How to Use B.E.E
- Insert a piece of the Braille Paper in the gap formed by the Base and the End Stoppers
- Line up the top line of the Braille paper with the top of the End Stoppers+Aluminum Assembly
- Move the Slider to the first position (by lining up its right side with the first line starting from the right on the Aluminum Tube)
- Selected your letter by spinning the Embossing Device Knob
- Insert the Embossing Device (while holding the selected letter) into the Slider and press firmly
- You have written your first letter in Braille!
- Repeat by moving the Slider to the next position to its left until you have filled the line
- Move the piece of Braille Paper up and line up the second line with the top of the End Stoppers+Aluminum Assembly
- Once finished, flip the paper around to reveal your Braille writing
Step 14: Conclusions
I know this tool isn't suited for everybody, but I hope that it will be useful for somebody or that it will maybe spark the curiosity of someone and they learn this very interesting thing called Braille.
I hope you at least found it interesting!
Grand Prize in the
Build a Tool Contest