Funded by: Unesco 4 All project
PI: Fabio D’Agnano
Team: Xavi Aure, Cecilia Mandrile, Sonny Lightfoot, Tom McDonagh

Project Partners:
X23 (Italy)
Tooteko Srl (Italy)
5 Senses LTD (Malta)
Typhlological Museum (Croatia)
Galerya Rakursi OOD (Bulgaria)
Camera Oficial de Comercio Industria y Navegacion de Granada (Spain)
European Museum Academy (EMA)

The UNESCO4ALL TOUR project was undertaken with the aim of producing replicas to be displayed at UNESCO World Heritage sites to aid visually impaired audiences. The scope of the research was to develop a accessible, innovative, transnational cultural tourism products and experiences by integrating tactile exploration with audio data for this target audience.

Researchers tested a high-tech “ring” detection of Near Field Connectivity (NFC) tags integrated into 3D printed artefact replicas. NFC sensors located on tactile surfaces are triggered to communicate wirelessly with a smart device (through an app for tablets or mobile phones).

A team at the Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) led by Fabio D’Agnano found innovative solutions for the production of three dimensional models for tactile exploration. This required translating real objects into digital models through photogrammetry, digital 3D modelling and digital sculpting.  Digital models were then built using a variety of materials and techniques including Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) routing, laser cutting and engraving, and resin 3D printing. One of the main challenges was to create a precise replica of an artefact, of considerable size and at reasonable expense. In addition the material used needed to be easy to maintain and pleasant to touch.

In some instances a combination of techniques achieved better results and overcame the specific limitations of individual techniques. The digital milling cutter (CNC routing) method easily creates objects but is restricted to a limited range of shapes. Geometries with undercuts are not possible. Resin printing achieved excellent results but is expensive and limited to small scale model reproductions. Testing of combined models produced with both technologies achieved more optimal results.

Unfortunately the materials investigated have different characteristics and the research did not produce the level of detail required for tactile exploration. In order to obtain a homogeneous material that satisfied this requirement a silicone mould was used for casting. A detailed explanation of the process is available in the video.

Replicas will be sited at four UNESCO World Heritage sites and findings will be disseminated via conferences and public talks in 2021.

Images by Renato Vukić

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