The University of South Florida is asking students to help in the resolution of cold cases – by using 3D printing technology to produce models of human skulls that can then be used to undertake facial reconstructions.
Skulls are scanned using CT scanners and the resultant digital files can then be downloaded to remote 3D printers to render close to exact replicas of the skulls. The forensic artists are then able, with tentative information provided by anthropologists to re-create an approximation of the appearance of an individual.
The use of 3D printers avoids the needs for transporting of human remains and addresses many of the issues surrounding the ethics and legal issues of sharing such materials. The use of such technology could also mean that large teaching and training resources could be made available globally.
The Tampa Bay Cold Case Project has more information on the approach and the course held at USF.
The National Center recently had success with the accurate rendering in the “Baby Doe” case this summer – in which a toddler was found in a plastic bag on a Massachusetts beach. The reconstruction of the face helped authorities identify the girl – and arrest the mother and her boyfriend in connection with her death. You can read more about this case and the facial reconstruction here, at Forensic Magazine.
Forensic dentists are often involved in the identification of cold cases. The use of post mortem profiling enables, in combination with anthropologists, key elements of the demographics of a missing person to be established. For example, skull features that can indicate that an individual was male will reduce the total population of missing persons to be searched, and if their ethnicity can be established – this further narrows the focus.