First commercially available Braille phone launches

21st May 2014 - Fine Cut

The first braille phone to go on general sale has been released by a UK company and has been made possible using 3D printing technology.

OwnFone claims that it has created and launched the first Braille handset to be commercially available and is selling the devices for £60 each.

The London-based company employed 3D printing techniques to produce a keypad with raised text or Braille options and also offers a range of other customised options for handsets.

According to OwnFone, 3D printing allows it to deliver personalised buttons on handsets at an affordable price, with the Braille version providing two or four buttons that are pre-programmed to enable those with visual impairments to connect directly with friends, family, carers or the emergency services.

Although there have been other Braille mobile phones designed, the firm says its new model, invented by Tom Sutherland, is the first to be available to consumers, although there are other options regarding Braille labels, including screen printed versions offered by FineCut.

"Our 3D phone printing process is patent-pending," Mr Sutherland told the BBC.

Speaking to the Telegraph, he explained that talks are being held to make the handsets available in high street stores and said: "If you've got poor eyesight, you can make out the name in bold, but you can also associate names with textures. It works really nicely. It's just pushing what we can do with the 3D printing process. We've got a lot of international interest and we're looking at expanding overseas."

The technology behind 3D printing has become much cheaper and permitted more complicated applications in recent years, with companies really starting to develop products that harness its growing capabilities.

Prior to the launch of its Braille phone, OwnFone used 3D printing techniques to create simple phones aimed at children and the elderly, with a series of large buttons that could be labelled with important contacts, such as family members.

The process of 3D printing enables three-dimensional objects to be created from a digital model by creating layers of material.

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