We’ve seen 3D printing used in facial reconstruction before. A lot of times the technology is used to learn more about the bones of not only the skull, but also the body, from long-gone historical figures, like with Lucy, the famous Australopithecus afarensis, or a centuries-old skull from the Battle of Culloden. It can also be of great use in helping discover a dead person’s identity. This story I’m writing hits pretty close to home…literally, it’s happening very close to where I live. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office just released images of a 3D printed, reconstructed head and face of a woman whose skeletal remains were found in Greene County this summer.
Authorities discovered her remains in the woods in Spring Valley Township, near Dayton, and believe she was there for three months to a year before she was found. Police believe she is Caucasian, 25-50 years of age, and stood somewhere between 5’5″ and 5’10”, but that is all they know. The only other clue was a pair of pink-striped pants found with the remains. They did everything they could to identify the woman, but to no avail.
DeWine said in a statement, “When all the DNA testing, dental records, tattoo records, and more leads have been explored, and there are still no answers, we can offer facial reconstruction to local law enforcement.”
This is the first Ohio case in years to use this specialized forensic technology. Detectives turned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), after all other leads, even DNA, turned cold seven months after the woman was found. The BCI, in turn, teamed up with The Ohio State University, to use a 3D printer to craft a model of the woman’s skull. BCI forensic artist and criminal intelligence analyst Samantha Molnar had a CT scan done of the skull at a local hospital, then took it to the Digital Union at OSU, which offers free 3D printing services and state-of-the-art video and audio studios.
It took about 72 hours to 3D print the skull in three parts: the top, middle, and bottom of the skull. They used a MakerBot Replicator and PLA filament, and OSU Digital Union technician Jay Young said it’s the first time they’ve ever 3D printed a real human’s skull there before. The 3D print is accurate to about 0.1mm. Then Molnar went to work putting the pieces together.
She used superglue and cotton balls to wrap the three pieces together, then set the eyeballs in the sockets and used clay to fill in the facial muscles, which start to give the face its shape. She cut up coffee stirrers to use as tissue depth markers, explaining that the top of your nose, for instance, would be more shallow than your cheeks. She said part of her job is just learning to read the skull and see what it’s telling her. Molnar needs to be artistic enough to create the shape with her hands and and make it look lifelike, so someone who looks at the skull doesn’t just see a head made of clay, but the face of a real person. She said her job can be pretty emotional, since she works with a lot of missing persons cases and unidentified remains, and really wants to put the right face on the skull, so the woman can be identified.
“This was someone’s daughter, someone’s family, someone’s friend, and she deserves to be identified. Now that we have her face, we hope we can soon determine her name. It is our sincere hope that this model looks familiar to someone,” said DeWine.
DeWine’s office has released a video describing this cold case and the forensic facial reconstruction process:
Discuss in the Facial Reconstruction forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: Fox News 19 / Images: Ohio Attorney General’s Office via Fox News 19]
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