Braille E-Reader

An affordable Braille e-reader

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It took thousands of years to get from the invention of writing to e-readers. Louis Braille introduced what became his eponymous writing system at fifteen exactly 199 years ago in 1824 and, thankfully, we did not have to wait for thousand more years to see appear what we could describe as braille e-reader.
If electronic braille display exists, they are not cheap, the present project introduces a new design that has the advantage of being built with both cheap, off-the-shelf components, and 3D printable parts (printable on entry-level FDM and SLA printers). The total cost of the device should be between $50 and $100.

The working principle:

Imagine a couple of rails one on top the other, those rails are static. Imagine now a pin with only 1 wheel in its middle, the pin is perpendicular to the rails and is taller than the rails. The pin is either riding on the top or bottom rail (and can change rails on strategic “switch point”) and is driven by a rigid outer belt. The top of the pin here is the braille dot which is either raised (i.e. the pin rides the top rail) or lowered (the pin rides the bottom rail). Now imagine that the rails are actually not linear but, in a circle, to get a display of, virtually, infinite length.

This system has the advantage that the user cannot push the raised pins down as their height is stopped by the rail. This means that the switch from one rail to the other cannot occur on an area exposed to the user. One other advantage of this display is that the user only has to place his fingers and the display moves itself (at a custom speed).

As of right now, the problems I have identified are:

  • Somewhat tight tolerances on very small mechanical parts
  • The achievable compactness might not be sufficient to be an actual handy device for day to day use


Animation of the working principle in linear display

Graphics Interchange Format - 297.19 kB - 05/22/2023 at 17:51



Animation of the working principle in circular display

Graphics Interchange Format - 1.54 MB - 05/22/2023 at 17:50


  • Project timeline description

    Virgile-Colrat05/22/2023 at 17:52 0 comments

    The added value of the device is really, only the braille display. This means that the first step is to design and build a proof-of-concept of the display. After that first step, the goal is going to build a complete braille e-reader that should be “field-testable“, meaning a device I can lend to a few blind people to get some return of experience.

    In terms of timeline, as of right now, I only have an idea and a few drawings. I expect to finish the proof-of-concept display by the end of May 2023 and the field-testable unit by the end of August 2023 to get first return of experience by mid-September.

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