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To Touch Digital Learning Objects, 3D Print Them Mike Kolitsky, Ph.D. Biological Sciences The University of Texas at El Paso

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3D Printing has been listed as one of the disruptive technologies ready to mature over the next 4 - 5 years but affordable 3D printers such as the Makerbot Replicator 2 are now available for the home or office. We’ll explore one potential use for 3D printing to make real and touchable learning objects which can be used for tactile learning by the blind and visually impaired. We tend to think of learning objects as being only digital as in the Merlot database but 3D printing now offers the chance to make virtual learning objects real and more accessible.

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My Replicator 2 arrived in late January, 2013 after an 8 week wait due to the damage caused by Sandy. The MakerBot store is located in Brooklyn. My Replicator 2 is below and has been modified to fit into my work area in my home office.

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What do you need to make an object with a 3D printer? 1. 3D Printer requires a stereolithographic file (stl) in which the 3D image is sliced from bottom to top and is used to build a structure layer by layer so 3D printing is sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing. 2. CAD programs can produce stl files but I found software that can make stl files from 2d photos in JPEG format called PhotoToMesh ( www.ransen com). 3. What is produced is an stl file that raises the dark areas of the photo higher on the Z axis than the lighter areas now lower on the Z axis.

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2D photo PhotoToMesh software Adjust captured image for best 3D appearance Save as stl file Use MakerWare to load stl file into Replicator 2 and adjust software for best print. Wait for stl upload and 3D printer to begin to print object. 3D printing work flow Let’s Make Some 3D Prints

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PhotoToMesh Software *Makes 3D STL files from 2D photographs or JPG images *Black or darker colors given lower Z-axis values *White or lighter colors given higher Z-axis values Example 1 - 3D Printed Business Cards in Braille Example 2 - Histology slide image - neuromuscular junction Example 3 - Gross Anatomy - posterior left leg muscles

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*Used Braille Translator for text to Braille (see http://www.brailletranslator.org / for software) Space on single card side limited when Braille symbols used so opted for “tent” card - 2 cards hinged together These are end product - how did they get made?

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Used Adobe PhotoShop to produce two 3.5 x 2 inch rectangles with background black and Braille raised bumps white to save as jpg files. *Remember that black will be saved in the stl file lower on the Z-axis and white will be higher

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PhotoToMesh production of stl file Loading stl file into 3D printer with MakerWare software

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Use MakerWare Software to load stl file into 3D Printer MakerWare prior to stl file load

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MakerWare Software Image After stl File Load Note that two Braille cards loaded onto build platform

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MakerWare software as it loads stl file into 3D printer

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3D Printing Begun

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3D Printing Done Use knife to pry 3D Print off of build platform Assemble Tent Business Card

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Assembled Braille Tent Business Card video for printing Braille with smooth bumps in vertical direction

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Braille bumps come out smoother if 3D printed in vertical rather than horizontal position double click to begin video back view of 3D printer to show filament on spool being fed to extruder 3D print examples

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General rule of thumb with PhotoToMesh software is that some color adjustment or grayscale or inverted coloration “tricks” need to be done to ensure proper Z-axis location for areas of jpg files or photo images. Other 3D Prints using Replicator 2 follow. 3D Prints using i.Materialize will then be viewed. 3D print examples

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Example 2 - Histology slide image - neuromuscular junction Original Image from Primal Pictures Anatomy & Physiology Online etext PhotoToMesh Adobe Photoshop Inverted, Grayscale (note touch up to balance light and dark coloration) Higher Z-axis with lighter color Completed 3D Print Completed 3D Print with labels Example 3 - Gross Anatomy

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Skeletal Muscle Fiber Striations (Histology) 3D Print 3D Print Labeled Original image from Anatomy & Physiology Online etext by Primal Pictures

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Simple Cuboidal Epithelium (Histology) Original image from HAPS data bank 3D Print 3D Print with labels

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Ulnar Nerve - Gross Anatomy Transverse Section at Elbow 3D Print 3D Print with labels Original Image - National Library of Medicine Virtual Human Project

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More 3D Print Examples in Histology, Cell Biology, Astronomy and Geology These stl files were sent to i.Materialize in Belgium to be made into 3D prints. Turn-around time for 3D print production was around three weeks and each 3D print cost just under $17.00 to make. If the order was more than $100.00, shipping was free. These 3D prints were made with polyamide on EOS 3D printers using Laser Sintering technology. See http://vimeo.com/14737152 for more information.

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Histology - Microscope Slides Made into 3D Prints (Bone slide) 3D Print 3D Print with labels Bone microscope slide

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Histology - Microscope Slides Made into 3D Prints (Intestinal epithelium slide) 3D Print 3D Print with labels Intestinal slide showing goblet cells which secrete mucus into the intestinal lumen

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Histology - Microscope Slides Made into 3D Prints (Adipose Tissue slide showing fat cells) 3D Print 3D Print with labels Fat Cells on microscope slide

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Cell Biology - Interphase and Mitotic Phases 3D Prints Interphase Prophase Metaphase Anaphase Metaphase Telophase used in first attempt to make a tactile learning object

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Astronomy 3D Prints (original photos from Hubble website) Saturn Jupiter Butterfly or Bug Nebula

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Geology 3D Print (original image from LandSat web site) Mississippi Delta USGS Mississippi Delta USGS with labels Mississippi Delta USGS Original image from LandSat site

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So, when does a learning object become useable? For instructional design - when it stands alone, is reusable like “Lego” blocks and delivers learning. For the learner - when they can access it! What has been shown thus far is that 2D images and computer generated graphics can be made into 3D prints - we have our “proof of concept”. So, what must be added to our 3D prints to make them useable as a tactile learning tool?

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3D Print Text to Braille directions with explanation of what structures should be identified Need some way to have labeling such as plastic or metal arrows or lines to each muscle and tendon Need to have a way to test for knowledge gained from using real learning object (a TLO) What is needed to make the telophase 3D print into a tactile learning object (a TLO)? Not all blind or visually impaired students know Braille - should also have LiveScribe audio option Let’s look at a first attempt at a telophase tactile learning object. Activate Photo Booth

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Progress toward making first Tactile Learning Object or TLO Original 3D Print “Line” Graphic Structure list in Braille Let’s look at individual components

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Steps to make a line graphic 3D print from original 3D print Original 3D Print Make Black & White in Photoshop Adjust color to desired future Z-level Line Graphic 3D Print JPEG file JPEG file

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Braille identification of structural elements of TLO Photo Booth

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Use Photo Booth To Show Actual TLO

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Should digital learning objects all be made real and accessible? What other methods exist for 3D printing of 3D objects? Where else does 3D printing fit into the curriculum? Where should faculty go who need help 3D printing? Should the library be viewed as a site for 3D printing? How does copyright fit with ability to 3D print? Is 3D printing really a disruptive technology? How can students help make what faculty need in 3D printing? Discussion Questions

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