Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

BrailleJet Report Summary

Project ID: 733157

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BrailleJet (Digitally controlled Braille and tactile graphic jet printing)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2017-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

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. 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 (patented by one of the partners) 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.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

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. We are also planning an improvement to the fuser depending on future tests, although the present solution is working very well. 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 is being tested and an updated prototype will be ready for Month 15. The software development (b.my.jet driver & GUI) has also started that will be completed when the final prototype is ready.
We have also made advancements in the housing design ensuring that the final product is ergonomic for the targeted users. Extensive discussions were held with the blind community so we could design something that is user friendly (finger friendly design). Although testing has been continuous during the optimisation of the printer components, the extensive validation will be carried out once the final prototype is ready. We have started to plan these activities.
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.
Overall, both the technical and non-technical activities are heading in the right direction.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The BrailleJet project result (b.my.jet) is going to be the first powder-based digital printing equipment on the market. The existing Braille printers are almost exclusively based on the method of dot embossing, namely making dots into the substrate in a way which is similar to the manufacturing of dry seals. We are developing a complex system that is capable of doing what competing products can, but with added functions and at a more affordable price. b.my.jet is a cheap machine which is available for home use and is quick and quiet, capable of printing wide range of sizes of dots and tactile graphical images with flexible resolution (according to the sensitivity and needs of the user) due to the novel technological approach used. Another benefit of our disruptive technology is that any white sheet available in retail stores can be used. The inclusion of scanner will allow the conversion of text to braille and figures to tactile graphics, so b.my.jet can work as a “photocopier”.
Furthermore, the distinctive business model that will allow BrailleJet to be distributed just like inkjet printers will truly make it stand out from other competitive products. For all these reasons, b.my.jet opens a new era in the development of Braille printers and opens up the possibility of printing Braille and tactile images at home just like a multifunctional device.
There is a serious business potential in the variability of the dot size and tactile graphical images, which is not only useful for learning Braille reading, but also allows for the blind people with less developed tactile sense (for instance those who lose vision in old age) to increase dot size and produce bigger Braille fonts.
Apart from the commercial potential in b.my.jet, there is also a huge social impact of our development. Even though all people have the right to access available visual content, in reality the blind and partially sighted people are restricted by technology and economic limitations to practice this right. The main reason behind it is that currently available technologies are not able to meet the needs of blinds, or the retail price of them is very high. This is also true for the Braille and tactile graphic contents. Due to these factors in most cases, these technologies and contents are only available at blind associations and specialist schools.
Our multifunctional printer device gives a solution for the blind and partially sighted people to get access to visual content at an affordable price and gives complete freedom for them to print and “see” whatever and whenever they want from the privacy of their own home. Therefore, in b.my.jet is a tool, which really provides the enforcement of equal opportunity for the blind and partially sighted people.
Furthermore the number of blind and partially sighted people is high both globally and in Europe. On average 1 in 30 Europeans experience sight loss and the average unemployment rate for these people of working age is over 75%. In addition, according the statistic of EBU, currently only 5% of all published books in the developed countries and less than 1% in the developing countries are ever produced in accessible formats - such as braille, large print and audio – that partially sighted people need for equal reading enjoyment. If we investigate this situation in the field of other visual contents (pictures, drawings, etc.), we will see that the situation is much worse.

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