The Braille Monitor                                                                                              February, 2004

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Clarification of Tiger Braille Embosser Review

A Review of the Tiger Embossers

by Robert Jaquiss

Robert Jaquiss examines a tactile map of the United States produced by the Tiger Pro.
Robert Jaquiss examines a tactile map of the United States produced by the Tiger Pro.

From the Editor: This is another in our series of articles on tactile graphics and related technologies. No single technology provides a solution to all tactile graphics problems when graphics are needed, but reading the following review will give you a good sense of what is available from one producer today. Robert Jaquiss is an access technology specialist in the NFB's International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. He is especially knowledgeable about tactile graphics and their production. This is what he says:

Tiger embossers, produced and sold by ViewPlus Technologies in Corvalis, Oregon, are unique in that they produce the finest dotted-line graphics of any embosser. The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC) has three of the four available models. Here is an excerpt from the description for each model as described in the ViewPlus catalog:

Tiger Pro: Production Embosser

The Tiger Pro Embosser is the flagship of the Tiger line. It is our biggest and fastest model, with the most paper options and highest durability. The Braille speed alone makes the Pro a bargain. But the Pro has much more-–high resolution tactile graphics, compatibility with any Windows software-–there is simply no production embosser on the planet that provides so much benefit at such a low price.

• Manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP): $9,750

• Speed: Braille speeds over 100 characters per second (cps) (5 to 6 pages a minute). Mixed text and graphics average 2 to 3 pages a minute.

• Paper: Up to 17 inches wide. Any thickness from computer/copier paper to thick sheet plastic. Up to three cut-sheet stack feeders and two tractor feeders for multiple paper sources simultaneously.

• Voiced Menu Panel: For additional ease of use, the Tiger Pro can be adjusted using a fully voiced menu panel. Unlike conventional embossers, the Pro menu is in a tree structure, not command driven.

Tiger Max: Desktop Embosser

The Tiger Max is the perfect solution for customers who don't require a production embosser but still need a robust machine. The Max is the smallest Tiger embosser that will accept standard-width Braille paper.

• MSRP: $5,995

• Speed: Braille speeds over 60 cps (4 pages a minute). Mixed text and graphics average 1 to 2 pages a minute.

• Paper: Up to 14 inches wide. Any thickness from computer/copier paper to thick sheet plastic. Optional cut-sheet drop feeder for lightweight Braille paper.

Tiger Cub: Desktop Embosser

The Tiger Cub is the perfect solution for customers who require a small, affordable embosser with significant Braille speed. Faster than most small desktop embossers, the Cub is a great solution for libraries and even students.

• MSRP: $4,995

• Speed: Braille speeds over 50 cps (3+ pages a minute). Mixed text and graphics average 1 to 2 pages a minute.

• Paper: Up to 9.5 inches wide. Any thickness from computer/copier paper to thick sheet plastic. Optional cut-sheet drop feeder for lightweight Braille paper.

Tiger Cub Jr.: Personal Embosser

The Tiger Cub Jr. is the perfect solution for customers who want the functionality of a Tiger but have a very limited budget. It has the Braille speed of our original Advantage production embosser.

• MSRP: $3,995

• Speed: Braille speeds over 30 cps (2 pages a minute). Mixed text and graphics average 1 page a minute.

• Paper: Up to 9.5 inches wide. Any thickness from computer/copier paper to thick sheet plastic. Optional cut-sheet drop feeder for lightweight Braille paper.

An IBTC Assessment

The IBTC has the Tiger Pro, Max, and Cub models. All the Tiger embossers work well, are reliable, and perform as advertised.

Robert Jaquiss stands with his hand on the Tiger Pro.   The Tiger Pro Max in the middle, and the Tiger Cub is on the far left.
Robert Jaquiss stands with his hand on the Tiger Pro. The Tiger Max is in the middle, and the Tiger Cub is on the far left.

The Tiger Pro is the largest and fastest of the Tiger embossers. Our configuration includes three sheet feeders for cut paper, an output stacker, and a second tractor feed. With this arrangement it is possible to load five different kinds of paper into the Tiger Pro. The various options can be set from the printer control panel or from the printer driver on a PC. It is very nice to be able to select different types of media on the fly without reloading the printer. The Tiger Pro is much faster than earlier models of the Tiger. The ability to print on a seventeen-inch-wide roll of paper makes it possible to make good-sized maps, and diagrams. All the Tigers have the ability to emboss dots of various heights, so it is possible to fill in areas on pie charts. It is possible to distinguish between adjacent sections of a pie chart or other filled graphic. Because the Tiger is a PostScript printer, Microsoft Windows applications can easily use it for producing output.

Tigers are best used for applications that require graphics such as spreadsheets, charts, graphs, and maps. The output from the aforementioned applications is fairly easy to understand. Drawings of three-dimensional objects are harder to understand. This is partially because of the inherent limitations of embossing on paper, but partly a function of the lack of skill of most blind people in understanding how a three-dimensional object is rendered in two dimensions. (Practice can help to overcome this lack of skill.)

Another advantage of Tiger printers is that the cost of paper is very low compared to the cost of thermal expansion paper, which is required by some other graphic systems. A teacher or student can try experiments without wasting lots of expensive materials. It is important for teachers and students to experiment and look at many tactile graphics. The lower the cost of media, the easier this is to accomplish. Although the initial investment for a Tiger is higher than for alternative equipment, the ongoing costs are much less. These factors make Tiger printers a good investment.

Those interested are invited to examine Tiger models and compare with other graphic-production embossers by visiting the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments are required; visits are free. Email <nfb@nfb.org>; phone (410) 659-9314.

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