Tactile copies of rock carvings from Nämforsen in both full scale and 50%, 3D-printed and hand carved in stone slabs.Foto: (CC BY)

2. Tactile accessibility

The word tactile describes the transfer of information or sensations by touch. As many cultural heritage objects neither can nor may be touched, a 3D model can be a way of creating an accessible tactile representation of the object.

3D models can also be used as prototypes for the manufacture of copies in other materials. For persons with visual impairments, the ability to use a scaled-down model to also feel the object with their hands can be crucial for understanding a larger object.

Full scale handcarved copy of a rock carving from Nämforsen, Sweden, together with a 3D-printed 50% model of the carving. The small, tactile 3D-model makes the carving easier to grasp and understand for a visually impaired person.Foto: (CC BY)

Tactile translations can also be done using 2D objects, such as photos or paintings, by turning them into reliefs with varying depths and structures. One common method is to use swell-paper, which can turn an image into a relief through heat treatment. Another way to make 2D pictures tactile is to create “collage” pictures. Photos can also be made tactile and visually accessible by adding transparent relief layers on top of them.

Swell-paper imageFoto: (CC BY)
Collage imageFoto: (CC BY)