Founded by computer science professor Tom Yeh and his students at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Tactile Picture Books Project has developed a technique for creating tactile editions of famous children’s books – including titles like “Harold and the Purple Crayon” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.

“The main idea is to represent 2D graphics in a 3D, tactile way on a scale appropriate for young children,” explains Yeh. “The team combines this information with computational algorithms — essentially step-by-step instructions for mathematical calculations — to provide a way for parents, teachers and supporters to 3D print their own picture books.”

Through 3D printing, Yeh and his team are able to create fully customized solutions for young readers with specific sets of needs in ways that are not possible with conventional production technologies.

“The process of designing these tactile pictures has been a rather humbling experience,” said Caleb Hsu, who recently designed the story of Noah’s Ark as a 3D printed tactile book. “In retrospect, I am struck by how deeply concerned the teachers for the visually impaired were with the individual needs of each child, because the creation of the tactile picture book for Noah’s Ark required some relinquishing of my own personal agenda. Instead of making a model that was beautiful and interesting to a pair of eyes, I was learning to consider the needs of others in an attempt to make something useful and educational to a pair of hands.

To find out more about how you can create your own 3D printed tactile picture books, head over to the Tactile Picture Book Project. To find a nearby 3D printer for producing the books, the online 3D printing service 3D Hubs connects users with over 25,000 local and low-cost 3D printing service providers.