A low-cost Lego Braille printer was built by an industrious 12-year-old, using nothing more than a Lego kit, some basic hardware, and a thumbtack. Shubham Banerjee has christened the new printer the Braigo and while the demo is pretty slow moving, it crushes the costs of other Braille printers currently on the market.
Currently, Braille printers can run in the thousands of dollars, but the most expensive component of Banerjee’s printer is the Lego Mindstorm EV3 kit that he built the printer from. The kit runs approximately $350 in most stores selling the kit. Banerjee constructed the low-cost printer as part of a science fair project and believes that the printer can be used in developing countries.
The controller for the Braigo is designed to scroll through the Braille alphabet, and the tactile letters are printed using a thumbtack. Banerjee opted for a thumbtack as a print head after testing a drill bit and the tip of a pencil. The results are printed on a roll of calculator paper, and the printer runs slowly, but Banerjee has proven that the concept does work. Each Braille letter takes approximately five to seven seconds to print.
Banerjee, the 12-year-old that built a Lego Braille printer, says he reworked a printer’s basic hardware and software model to come up with the basic design of the Braigo. Banerjee has also decided that he wants to make the printer open source in order that those who are as industrious as he is can develop their own Braigos. He also posts regular updates about what he’s doing with the Braigo on the Braigo Facebook page. The Facebook page was developed January 18, 2014, and Banerjee has gained a fan following of sorts, with 791 Likes gained so far on the page.
He’s offered those interested in how the Braigo was developed close up shots of the print head and its housing, so that people can develop their own version of the printer. One of the chief concerns by the public who has become aware of Banerjee’s design is whether or not the printer falls apart easily. Banerjee carries the printer easily, and admits that the design does not fall apart easily. According to the Braigo Facebook page, the World Health Organization has estimated that there are 285 million people worldwide who suffer from some degree of visual impairment.
While the design of the Braigo is quite simplified, Banerjee continues to work on improving his design with a view towards making the printer and the software that accompanies it more accessible for those on a budget. The going price for a basic printer starts at approximately $2,000 while more advanced models range upwards from that. The cost of Braigo v1.0 is approximately 80 percent of that.
Banerjee, the 12-year-old would-be engineer who came up with the design for the Lego Braille printer, hopes to ultimately develop a printer that will print full pages of Braille text for students and readers alike. He is currently a student at Champion School in San Jose, California, a preschool, elementary school and middle school designed specifically to meet the needs of gifted students. The school prides itself on its child-centered approach to education.
By Christina St-Jean