3D printing has many applications but some distinguish themselves by having a real emotional impact on people’s lives. The Singapore-based company Pirate3D together with the Madrid-based agency Lola has come up with a solution that makes photographs come to life for blind people. Photographs printed in 3D make memories tangible and let visually impaired people preserve their favorite memories in a way that was impossible before.


A short documentary called ‘Touchable Memories’ tells the stories of five people, including Gabor, a former director of photography, and Mario, an Italian musician, who have become visually impaired over time. “Memories for me as a blind person are almost like dreams, it’s like a gust of wind, it’s there and it’s gone”, says Daniela, one of the people featured in the film. “If I could touch the picture, I could make the memory tangible again.” The documentary shows the people’s delight when they touched and explored the 3D scenes that were printed from photographs of moments that were special to them.


Brendan Goh, founder of Pirate3D said it was a great aha-moment when someone suggested to use 3D printing technology to turn photos into touchable scenes with 3D modeling software and Pirate’s Buccaneer printer. “That’s the amazing thing about 3D technology, you get great ideas from everyone about how it can be used,” he added.


Pirate3D’s Bouccaneer printer comes fully assembled and is, according to the company, very easy to use. It exemplifies Pirate3D’s belief that there is a demand for bringing 3D printers into everyday lives. The company sees 3D printing technology as a tool that can enrich people’s lives.


For Goh, working on the project has also been rewarding: “The best moment was seeing the happy faces of the people who touched the 3D printed photographs,” he says. “It makes putting in so many hours to build this technology and business worthwhile.”