MEMS Three-Way Microvalve Modules for Braille Display

Period of Performance: 06/01/2006 - 05/31/2007


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Orbital Research, Inc.
4415 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44103
Principal Investigator

Research Topics


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Orbital Research Inc. has developed unique Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) microvalve actuator technology that will enable the production of low-cost refreshable Braille displays. A low-cost Braille display will dramatically improve the quality of life of more than 1.3 million blind Americans. Refreshable Braille displays are the technology of choice for the blind since it provides tactile output of electronic information (e.g. e-mails, word documents, spread sheets, books, magazines, etc.). Yet current Braille displays are prohibitively expensive (e.g. $4,000 - $16,000 per display) and represent a serious accessibility barrier for blind individuals. Alternatively, Orbital Research's MEMS based Braille technology has been recognized as the enabler of the next generation and low-cost refreshable Braille displays. The uniqueness of Orbital Research's approach is in the use of MEMS technology to develop robust and low-cost microvalves which are used to modulate air pressure applied to an inflatable flexible polymer surface in order to raise and lower individual tactile dots. The goal of this Phase II program is to bring Orbital Research's MEMS microvalve Braille display technology to the next and final level toward commercialization and therefore support the completion of a multi-line refreshable Braille display system, and more specifically a portable Braille display with 4 lines of 32 Braille characters (total 128 Braille characters) for under $2,000. An equivalent Braille display in today's market which relies on the expensive piezoelectric technology would cost more than $15,000.