A funeral home in Shanghai, China has started a 3D printing repair service in an attempt to repair damaged or disfigured corpses. Body mutilation is very common in Chinese corpses over recent years, as hundreds of people have died due to industrial accidents, natural disasters, and traffic accidents. At the Longhua Funeral Parlor, multiple layers of material are built on top of each other to create a 3D product. This technology is intended to complete the faces of loved ones when laid to rest at memorial services. With a combination of 3D printing, hair implants, and makeup, loved ones can receive reconstructed faces up to at least 95 percent of similarity.
Traditionally in Chinese funeral homes, substances such as sludge and wax were used to repair the shape of corpses’ faces. However, these substances did not recreate the skin to accuracy. 3D printing technology allows lost loved ones to look more like themselves and maintain their character as if they were living, which aids in the emotional closure of relatives. Facial reconstructions in China would cost anywhere from $620 to $776. This service, as first offered by the Longhua Funeral Parlor, is part of Shanghai’s implementation of China’s 13th Five Year Plan. Specifically in February 2015, plans were issued to develop the country’s 3D printing industry. Services are expected to grow from 3D parts, such as skin and hair, to 3D organs in the efforts to aid disabilities and organ donor shortages.
This article posed many questions to me as I thought about unveiling caskets at funeral services in my own culture. I remember gazing at faces of loved ones that appeared glossy and plastic. Although the details of a face may seem so small in the grand scale of a funeral, but I believe these are the details that can bring us the most closure as we mourn and try to move on.
I am incredibly curious as to what materials are used to reconstruct the faces, due to the price range. I also wonder how often these services are used and if they are only seen in the mortuary rituals of middle or upper class families. We know that socioeconomic status, amongst other inequalities, shapes our funeral services and death processes. Yet, I’m interested if this Five Year Plan in China serves to really aid everyone affected by China’s industrial accident problem.
Reference: Ma, A. (2016, August 01). A Chinese Funeral Home Is 3D Printing Body Parts For Damaged Corpses. Retrieved April 8, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/china-funeral-home-3d-printing_us_56fd2668e4b0a06d5804e144?utm_hp_ref=death