A lot of printed handouts kids get in class are pretty uninspiring. But when Neal McKenzie made a custom 3D-printed version of a worksheet about fossils for a visually impaired high school student in a science class, he didn’t realize he would quickly have a frenzy on his hands.
McKenzie, an assistant technology specialist for the Sonoma County Office of Education in California, says the sighted students in the science class couldn’t wait to try their classmate’s version, which included not only 3D fossil shapes, but different textures to represent the time periods of the fossils’ origins.
“All of the other students wanted to work with our blind student, because it was just a lot more fun to go tactilely through the packet as opposed to just look at a black-and-white picture,” he says.
In recent years, additive manufacturing technology has not only transformed several industries, but captured the curiosity of many lay people as well — like the students who couldn’t wait to get their hands, literally, on the fossil worksheet.
For visually impaired people, who experience much of the world through touch, 3D printing is more than an industry or hobby. It’s a passport to a richer world.