Tactile Map for People With Blindness or Partial Blindness Using Touch Mapper

Introduction: Tactile Map for People With Blindness or Partial Blindness Using Touch Mapper

About: I am just a regular maker interested in all sorts of things. I have a 3d printer and a cnc so I mostly use those to build my things. I have a sufficient knowledge of CAD software (rhinoceros , inventor etc) an…

I am fascinated with maps and spend most of my time looking at live street maps from google or openstreetmap. Quite recently, I came to know about an amazing web based software called Touch Mapper (www.touch-mapper.org) created by Samuli Kärkkäinen which utilizes the amazing capabilities of openstreetmap data to create 3d printable maps.

As per their website, "these maps are a wonderful aid for people who are blind or partially sighted, helping them to orient themselves and to plan routes". The idea is so novel and inspiring that it made want to write my first instructable. I also love the fact that both openstreetmap and touch mapper are open source which means anyone can use their services for free (please remember to attribute them when using their services).

I hope using this instructable, readers get to know about this amazing technology and use it for a noble cause. Lets get started!

Note: If you like what you read, It would be amazing if you voted for this instructable in the map contest here - https://www.instructables.com/contest/maps2019/


1. 3d printer* (I am using prusa i3 mk3)

2. filament for the printer* ( I am using PLA)

3. Slicer software* (prusaslicer - opensource)

4. sand paper for finishing (I am using 320 grit)

* - optional ( there is a option of printing within the website for a fee)

Step 1: Using Touch Mapper to Get the 3d Map

This is a fairly simple software to use with an amazing and smooth web interface

1. Using your favorite internet browser, just go to the touch mapper website (www.touch-mapper.org)

2. Select the language you to want to use on the drop down menu present in the top right corner

3. I suggest you to read the introduction in the home page

4. Type in your address properly in the search bar. Use comma's were it is necessary. Include the city, state, country and pin code (zip code or postal code) then click search. For reference I am using the address of a public library in my city "Museum Compound, Pantheon Road, Egmore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600008, India"

note: The address search bar used in this website uses the very powerful google search engine

5. On the landing page, you can find the map with the location marked on it with a large 'X' sign, If the location is correct then select the print parameters for your map. This includes the size (13 cm or 17 cm diagonal) and the scale ( lower the ratio, more detailed is the map with respect to your address). I have selected 13 cm (for quick printing) and 1:3200 scale (pin points the building perfectly with surroundings). Play with the options to get the best output

6. If you need more control of the map you want to create, just click the "show advance option" button and you will see a range of options to fiddle with. you can use specific coordinates for the map and also have option to create a multi part map which will be useful to create large maps with multiple 3d prints, to keep it very simple, I am not using it for this instructable

7. Drag the map on the bottom as per your needs. The area within the box will get used and will be converted to a 3d map. Click the "create tactile map" button.

8. If you have a 3d printer, click the "download printable stl file" button, your map will be downloaded in the .stl file format. No need to worry if you don't have a 3d printer, touch mapper provides this service too but for a nominal fee, just select the "order a 3d print " option and order using their printer partner

9. You can always utilize the Help section present right next to language option

Step 2: Slicing and 3d Printing

1. Once you have downloaded the stl file of the map, open it or import it in your favorite slicer software, I am using prusaslicer (download link: https://www.prusa3d.com/prusaslicer/) which is a powerful opensource slicer

note: Every 3d printer is different so I suggest you to use the methodology specified by the printer brand

2. This is a very simple print, it doesn't need supports and wont take much time to print since you can decrease your infill percentage and increase speed of the print.I am using 10% infill and no supports or rafts

3. As per the instructions on the touch mapper webpage, It is advised to print at 0.25mm to 0.3mm layer height with single shell and two top layers

Note for simplify3d users: you will need to invoke "Separate Connected Surfaces" to get a correct print

4. Use the pre-installed profile available in the slicer for hassle free prints, slice the model and preview for any defects. Then export the model as gcode which will be used by your 3d printer to print

5. Pre-heat your printer bed, add your filament ( I am using PLA white) and start printing

Note: Please be careful while using a 3d printer as the nozzle and bed get very hot and try to use it in a ventilated area

Step 3: Sanding and Final Conclusion

1. Use a good sand paper (320 grit) and sand it to get a smooth finish. Be careful as the print may be fragile at some parts , try to smooth the sharp corners of buildings and finally dispose the plastic dust carefully and finally paint a dark color on the location pointer on the map (I painted it with brown)

Your tactile map is now ready!

If you have any questions, please type them in comments, I will try to answer as many as I could. Also, I would love to know your feedback since this is my first instructable


This is a really amazing project created by amazing people. I would like to ask all of you to like and share their webpage. In conclusion I want to add that this could be an amazing community project where many people can join together and print parts of the map using the advance options (print a multi part print option) available in the website

Some 3d printers have capability to print multi color prints which would help partially blind people but we always can paint and the internet is full of tutorials on how to paint a 3d print

This project is not just confined for the use of people with blindness. This can be used to make amazing decors, can be used for educational purposes to teach kids and many other things.

If you are unable to locate a specific address then it might be due to the fact that it is not available in openstreetmap.org but you can always add the address since it basically edited by users around the world. So just add your address inside it.

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    4 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Author of Touch Mapper here. Nice tutorial, thanks! A few notes:

    - The address search uses Google Maps, even though the map content comes from OpenStreetMap. This is because Google Maps has a lot better address information.

    - There are some additional 3D printing tips on https://touch-mapper.org/en/help


    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for the information skarkkai. By the way, wonderful website you have created. Its an amazingly novel idea and its incredibly useful.
    I will edit the parts of instructable with this extra information. thanks


    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you