The ad agency J. Walter Thomson in Bangkok has made it a habit to study customers’ needs even if the teams are not working on a specific project for a client. One team studied the communication needs of the visually impaired. What they found shocked them: Not only are braille printers so expensive that most people can’t afford them, the heavy paper that is required often results in bulky documents and books, which is also less than ideal. Creative director Satit Jantawiwat wanted to find a way to solve these problems. He and his team started working on a Braille embosser for the home that wouldn’t cost a fortune.
This was the start of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) project ‘Touchable Ink’. In a first step, they looked at embossing pens and embossing power that could be obtained at a reasonable price. They took the embossing powder to Dr Nopparat Plucktaveesak, head of the Department of Chemistry at Thammasat University’s Faculty of Science and Technology. It soon became clear that they needed a technology partner and approached Samsung, which contributed laser printers and ink cartridges. They also provided funds to pay for technicians to work on modifying the printers.
The embossing power worked as planned. After mixing it with ink, the team would fill ink cartridges with the special blend. They would then print on ordinary office paper. After exposing the paper to heat from a hairdryer or an iron or putting it in a microwave, the ink would become relief-like and perceptible to the touch.
The process still needs to be fine tuned to be consistent and so far works better on laser printers. However, the team at the agency ad agency J. Walter Thomson is committed to continue so that texts and labels for the visually impaired can be easily printed on an ordinary office or home printer. The agency expects he final product to be ready in a few months. The team is contacting interested printer manufacturers to make the technology widely available.