A 3D-printed head is displayed next to a photo of an employee at the Babaoshan funeral parlor in Beijing. (Photo: VCG)
A Beijing funeral parlor is offering 3D printing technology services to families so that their loved ones can leave with more dignity.
Through the technology, facial prostheses are created that can restore the faces of people who died in accidents like fire or from diseases like facial tumors.
Families need only provide a frontal photo of the deceased so their faces can be recreated through 3D printing.
The studio at the Babaoshan funeral parlor uses a computer to scan the photo and break it down into a large number of flat layers, before "printing" the layers one upon another with powered and liquefied plastics and sand, among other materials.
The whole process takes less than 12 hours to finish.
Funeral house beautician Qu Jie said that restoration is an important part of a parlor's duty as seeing their loved ones disfigured can aggravate family members' grief as they bid their final farewells.
Traditionally, faces of the deceased are attended to by beauticians, who use materials such as plasticence, plaster and oily mud to mimic flesh and restore the deceased's visage. This process can usually take several days.
For some families who want their loved ones to look more like they did when they were alive, funeral houses can go a step further to create a silica gel "skin" for the deceased. This gel "skin" once could take up to a week to make, but with current 3D printing techniques moulds can be more easily made, thereby cutting the process down to three days.
The staff said a 3D-printed face covered with a silica gel skin is far better at recreating the deceased's face - getting as close as 90 percent of the original - as it is far more precise than traditional methods done by hand.
The Babaoshan funeral parlor cremates 22,000 dead bodies every year, one-fourth of the total demand in Beijing. The 3D printing studio was established in 2017 and became fully operational this year.