Before a body is viewed at a funeral or a wake, it has to be prepared. And if the face has been damaged, repair is often in order. Wax, plaster, and cotton are the customary materials of choice, but now Chinese undertakers are using 3-D printing to perfectly reconstruct lost or damaged features, and even missing limbs.
The Longhua Funeral Parlor in Shanghai now has a 3-D printing studio, to help repair bodies which have been damaged in accidents, fires, or anything else that has destroyed the original person. "It is difficult for relatives to see incomplete faces or bodies of their loved ones when they attend memorial services," Shanghai Funeral and Interment Service Center official Liu Fengming told the Shanghai Daily, "and makeup cannot always sufficiently repair them."
As a technology, 3-D printing is now common enough that it is no longer a gimmick. Instead, it's just another way to make things, one which is often more accurate, and certainly more reproducible, than crafting objects by hand. The Longhua Funeral Parlor offers this new kind of reconstruction as an option, at a cost of around 10,000 Yuan, or around $1,500. Even in cases of extreme disfigurement, the success rate is claimed to be around 95%, but the catch is the process takes up to a week.
The service offers an extra option, too. According to Liu, relatives can choose to have the deceased rendered as more attractive, or younger than they appeared in real life.
But it's not all vanity—or whatever vanity is called when projected onto others. The Longhua Funeral Parlor's facility was used last year to repair the faces of firefighters who had been killed in an explosion in the Tianjin Port.
However, this new technology fares in the future, hopefully the Chinese undertakers will be using biodegradable printer filaments in their work, otherwise future archeologists are going to make some very intriguing discoveries.