How cool is this? Blind people can now see famous art thanks to 3D printing

It seems nowadays that 3D printing is capable of many things, and helping the blind to see may be one of them. Thanks to a combination of 3D printing and specially developed software, a comapny called 3DPhotoworks are allowing blind people to “see” paintings for the first time.

3D art

The brainchild of photographer John Olson, the company uses their technology to scan 2D paintings and then analysts include information that will account for the depth, contours and texture depicted in the images. The results are 3D paintings of famous works such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware and Van Gogh’s Dr. Gachet.


Olson, a photojournalist turned engineer, created 3DPhotoworks in 2008. “Photography took me everywhere and allowed me to live a very comfortable life” he says speaking of insiration to bring 3D paintings to life. “Toward the end of my second career in engineering, I realized how incredibly important images had been to me.”

I started to wonder what my life would have been like without them and what life was like for the blind without images. That prompted me to sit down one weekend, eight years ago, to develop a printing process that allowed blind people to see“.

3DPhotoworks initially kicked off a Kickstarter campaign with the ambitoius goal of $500 o00 to ramp up their operation into 3D photography. Though they haven’t met their target, they are holding exhibitions in North America. In February there will be an exhibition held at The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, with the aim of displaying 13 sculptures made from 3D printing, based on photographs taken by blind photographers with varying degrees of vision loss.

First seen on I Fucking Love Science