At first glance, the use of 3D printers might seem like a luxury or something that’s limited to just architectural models. However, a recent use of these printers has showed them to be invaluable in a variety of ways including in efforts to solve crimes and to identify the bodies of missing persons.
In fact, a military lab in Oahu, Hawaii is using 3D printing to identify the remains of POWs or prisoners of war and soldiers who have gone missing in action. The lab is called the Central Identification Laboratory of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. Instead of relying on traditional methods to identify bodies, the lab is using this printing technique to develop three-dimensional models of remains. Traditionally, this lab would use a superimposition technique to identify bodies. This involves overlapping a photo of the missing person with the recovered skull. Both images would be resized and adjusted to fit together and then it would be determined whether or not there was a match between the two.
However, since scientists have only photographs to rely on for this method, it’s not always reliable and not always accurate. That’s why 3D printing is such a great way to identify bodies. With the help of a 3D printer, the lab is making 3D replicas of skulls based off of CT scans of living people. These are then compared with photos of the living people so they can better understand and refine their superimposition technique.
Typically, it would take about 45 hours for the printer to produce a replica skull. But this is amazing since it can save scientists such a significant amount of time later on.
This news just points to a further increase in the appreciation of 3D printing in medicaland scientific fields. Beyond the identification of bodies, it could also be used for planning surgeries and creating models on the spot for diagnosis, evaluation, etc.
Really the uses of 3D printers are numerous and varied and should be appreciated. This is science and technology at its very best for the greatest ends possible. That should be celebrated. It’s not all about making models of buildings or small toys and such as is often talked about with this kind of product. Instead, it’s all about potential and discovering things that were previously inaccessible to people. This is what 3D printers can bring with future, we’re looking forward to it.