We’ve all considered, in a time of empathy or passing curiosity, what it is like to be blind. Most of us worry about how we would get dressed, eat, and get around. But if someone close to you is visually impaired, you are probably well aware that those are actually the things they master, while other aspects of life are definitely left wanting. And there’s just no way that being left out of life and so much it has to offer can feel good, motivating many who are blind to stubbornly rise to the challenge of finding different ways to communicate, learn, and experience.
For one couple in Italy, finding a way to share photos became a challenge—and ultimately, a gift. Many of us have had that desire to see what our partner or spouse looked like as a child. As you grow to love someone, it’s easy to become curious about every part of their life—and being able to go back decades and take a look at their face before it became etched with a few wrinkles, or before the hair began to salt and pepper, has a certain degree of romantic fascination about it.
Domenico lives in Como, Italy, where his girlfriend Miki is also located. Miki has been blind since birth, but she became very interested in the idea of seeing what Domenico looked like as a boy. That might seem like a simple request to honor in most cases, but for his girlfriend, Domenico had to get resourceful.
Domenico got in touch with an Italian artist and digital sculptor, Simone Rasetti. He was able to use his considerable talents just by using a 40-year-old photo presented by Domenico, showing himself at five months old (cue in one big collective awwwww right here). He made a reconstruction of the face digitally in Z-Brush, and then uploaded it to Z-Suite software so that it could be 3D printed on a Zortrax 3D printer. Miki was included in the whole process, including being able to understand how the 3D printing process works by gently feeling the inside of the machine as the sculpture was being fabricated, letting her hand move back and forth for a moment as the layers were formed. It wasn’t long before the sculpture was finished and in her possession for good.
Not only did Miki learn about how Domenico appeared in the past, but she was also able to learn about a very helpful technology of the present and future—and she certainly had more of an education regarding 3D printing in a very short time than most do. With the help of Zortrax software and hardware, Miki is able to ‘see’ her boyfriend and indeed this type of printing should become more and more common. And by the way, the sculpture of Domenico as a baby can be described with one word: adorable!
We have already seen 3D printing being used in many ways to enhance the lives of the blind, from delighting children with yearbooks that let them see their friends faces, and tactile books that allow them to experience stories more enjoyably, to offering 3D printed musical notation, maps, and much more. As the list grows, the blind have much greater insight into some parts of life that we of course take for granted.
While this case study from Zortrax, one of the leaders in 3D printing manufacturing offering the very popular M200 3D printer, is informative, it’s undeniably inspiring—and the project was a wonderful display of everyone’s generosity in time and effort. The best part of it all? Domenico gave the 3D printed sculpture to Miki as an engagement gift.
“When I miss him, this 3D model is a perfect way to think about him, as if I am looking at his picture “ says Miki. “I do not see him, but I can touch him through my 3D sculpture.”
Congratulations to the lucky couple. We thank both Miki and Domenico, and Zortrax, for sharing such a heartwarming story—and one cute baby!