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Map content

Maps contain the following:

  • Roads of all size. Pedestrian roads are raised more than others, because they are more important for the blind.
  • Buildings
  • Railways
  • Waterbodies (with wavy surface, but narrow streams as lines)
  • North-east corner marked to indicate correct orientation
  • In a 3D-print the selected address (or entered coordinates) is marked with a cone

Touch Mapper tactile maps are optimized for clarity and the practical needs of people who are visually impaired: the 3D-printed maps are not a true-to-life representations of the area.

Larger area and indoor maps

Touch Mapper currently supports only maps that show each street and building in the area. Maps that cover larger areas, show ground elevation, or indoors areas could be supported later. Notice that by selecting "Print a part of a multipart map" you can cover a larger area by printing multiple maps. There are mass-produced country scale maps for example in American Printing House for the Blind Shop.

Map data source

Touch Mapper uses OpenStreetMap data. Although this is usually an excellent source, accuracy of the maps cannot be guaranteed. The most common problem is missing buildings. If important features are missing, you may freely add them to OpenStreetMap. Unfortunately commercial map data sources like Google Maps can't be used, because they don't allow required type of access to their data.

Commercial use

You are welcome to use Touch Mapper for commercial purposes, such as printing and selling the maps. I only ask that you let your customers clearly know that the maps come from, both in advertising and packaging. I also hope you'll let me know if you start offering a service based on Touch Mapper.

Uses and benefits

Tactile maps can benefit many different user groups.

  • People who are blind or partially sighted: better orientation and route planning
  • Outdoor tourist attractions: better service for customers who are blind or partially sighted
  • Public areas such as parks and playgrounds: tactile maps can help visitors who are blind or partially sighted to enjoy the park more independently.
  • Orientation and mobility specialists: to help clients to build a mental map of an area more easily

Printing maps in multiple parts

If a single map isn't large enough to cover the required area, for example a long road, you can make multiple prints and lay them side by side on a flat surface. Select "Advanced options" and then "Print a part of multipart map". In this mode, there will be no borders around the edges of a 3D print. Also, there appears arrow buttons for adjusting the selected area by 100% (that is, map's diameter) in each direction, which makes it easy to select adjacent areas for the maps.

3D printing

The map can be printed by almost any 3D printer, including affordable hobbyist devices.

If you print at a 3D printing service other than Playful Pixels, the most important thing to pay attention to are the roads. Some services may consider them too narrow to print.

If you print using your own 3D printer, use layer thickness of 0.25 mm or 0.3 mm. The base is 0.6 mm thick, and it's enough to print it in two layers. Two top layers and one horizontal shell are enough. You may want to print the top layer quite slowly to get smooth surfaces. If you use Simplify3D slicer, you will need to invoke "Separate Connected Surfaces" to get a correct print. Printing time for a 17 cm map with the base printed in two layers is around 3–4 hours.

About Touch Mapper

My name is Samuli Kärkkäinen. I created Touch Mapper after learning about the challenges faced by people who are blind or partially sighted when travelling independently, and realizing how 3D printing combined with freely available map data can help. I have integrated Touch Mapper with Playful Pixels' 3D printing service to make getting high-quality maps as easy and affordable as possible.

Later I added support for graphical brailler embossers and swell paper printers (SVG and PDF files). If you have access to a tactile printer that doesn't work well with Touch Mapper, let me know, maybe I can add support for it too.

Information about new features and relevant events are posted to Facebook and Twitter.

I want to make Touch Mapper as good as possible, and user feedback is key in that. If you have any questions or suggestions for improvement, please