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Digitally controlled Braille and tactile graphic jet printing

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BrailleJet (Digitally controlled Braille and tactile graphic jet printing)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2018-10-31

Problem:
• 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision.
• About 90% of the world's visually impaired population live in low-income settings. 82% of people living with blindness are aged 50 and above.
• Every five seconds one person in the world goes blind. One child goes blind every minute. It is estimated that over seven million people become blind every year. These people have difficulties to integrate and to become an equal member of the society, and have access to basic written information; knowledge and culture, which results in disclosure, form the employment market.
• The number of visually impaired people is continuously increasing in Europe and at the same time these people do not have the possibility to have full access to available visual content. They are restricted by the availability of content in Braille or tactile format.
Answer:
BrailleJet offers a multifunctional device (printer, scanner & photocopier) at an affordable price to be used at home freely and simply. BrailleJet uses a novel powder depositing method that allows the accurate placement of powder on a normal sheet of paper that is fused onto the surface to produce a tactile print. The operational model of our technology (buy the device, use normal paper and change the cartridge) is very similar to the inkjet operational model and therefore the commercialisation of such product can be modelled similarly to inkjet printers. Assistive technologies at present are usually available only in specialised stores, whereas BrailleJet will also be available in large electrical stores.
The project started on the 1st of October 2016 and the first year has been very successful. The consortium members (CERC, ALCHEMIE and KWSP) has been very active and they have been supported by the subcontractors very closely. The consortium held officially meetings every 3 months starting with the kick-off meeting on the 3rd of October 2016 but numerous other bilateral and Skype meetings also took place when it was necessary.
The work started with the product specification that laid the foundations of the development. The product specification focused on the technical specification taking into consideration the user requirements but additional work was carried out to rebrand the BrailleJet project, so the final product will be called b.my.jet. This was done to make the product more attractive for the primary targeted market (blind and visually impaired) but also to allow its commercialisation for other areas that we have investigated.
The major technical development started in Month 3 and the powder optimisation, the printer head development and the fuser development ran in parallel. It was an iterative work as different setups were tested on a specially created test rig. By Month 7 we managed to find the optimal solution, but as the mechanical structure development evolved we carried out further improvements on the printer head and optimised the powder accordingly. By the end of the period we have built an alpha release prototype consisting of the paper feeding mechanism, the printer head moving mechanism, the printer head and the fuser. This was tested and based on the findings we started to build the first prototype with housing and develop the software in parallel. The 1st prototype was tested in Month 17 and we found that some improvements are needed before it can be validated fully. Therefore a 2nd prototype was built that included a number of improvements and the result was a fully functioning multifunctional device.
All the technical work has been supported by commercial and communication activities. We have been quite active in this area and as a result we have reassessed the market and identified alternative applications of our technology. We have updated our business plan accordingly. We have carried out a number of communication activities (webpage: www.bmyjet.eu www.bmyjet.com publications, events, etc.) and as a result we have received quite a bit of interest from organisations and people who want to use and/or distribute our product. We have also entered some design competitions with our printer and won 3 international awards.
The project was completed with 1 month delay on the 31st of October 2018.
B.my.jet is based on a powder deposition system. This technology allows depositing well-controlled amount of powder onto a surface in a wide range of quantities and sizes. This is achieved using controlled vibrations, which results in making the powder behave like a liquid. Without fixation, the deposited powder structure is normally mechanically vulnerable (which may be acceptable in several applications such as dosing in chemistry), but in this case the deposited parcels need to be fixed. We use a special method for the thermal fixation of fusible powder on the surface, which results in a certain solidification, but the general shape of the deposited material does not change radically.
The powder, which we call “dry ink” can be easily added by replacing a so-called powder cartridge. It contains sufficient amount powder to print 300 pages (on average). The cartridge is designed for “blind usage” so it can be changed using a very easy procedure. The powder level is checked automatically and acoustically alarm if replacement need.
An open source braille translator software is integrated which allows b.my.jet to convert text to printed Braille instantly. Liblouis software suite provides an open-source braille translator, back-translator and formatter for a large number of languages and braille codes. It is a set of libraries designed for use in any of a number of applications, both free and commercial. It is written in C so that it does not require a runtime environment and hence can be used in applications written in high-level languages such as Java and Python.
The Book-scan function has been ergonomically designed for the specific target group. When normal book-scanners are used for scanning books, the user has to hold the book in place during the process. This can be very uncomfortable and difficult for a blind person. We designed a folded surface so the book is fixed and does not need to be held in place during scanning. Similar solutions could only be found in industrial book scanners, so this clever solution puts this advanced industrial technology in the home of blind people.
The primary users for b.my.jet are the visually impaired people but we have collected other possible use cases for education and alternative applications enhancing the societal impact of the development.
• Braille/Moon printing
• Simple graph printing
• Map printing
• Diagrams printing
• Photo printing
• Photocopying text
• Photocopying graphics Education
• Creating embossed art
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