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3D Printing and Facial Reconstruction Help Identify Eight Victims from US-Mexico Border

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Artists from New York are using facial reconstruction to help formally identify the remains of eight dead men who were found on the US-Mexico border. The skulls were 3D scanned in Arizona and sent to New York for 3D printing and reconstruction.

Since 2000, there have been 1,004 people found dead in Arizona, USA, who have never been formally identified. Now, artists from New York are the final hope for identifying eight men whose skulls remain with the medical examiner of Pima County.

The artists are from the New York Academy of Art. To help identify the men, they sculpted facial reconstructions. However, this process is complicated as the students only have a 3D printed skull to work from.

But, the motivation is strong as they’re helping to provide answers for the, presumed migrant’s, families. “If we can’t raise any other leads in any other way, then putting a face on a skull is usually a positive thing to do,” said Bruce Anderson, the Pima County medical examiner.

With 3D printing technology, facial reconstruction is a cheaper and less time-consuming process. The skulls of the eight men were scanned in Arizona by Faro, a 3D technology company.

These scans were then emailed to New York and 3D printed by a medical examiner. Clay and other materials are then meticulously added to the skull until a face is formed in front of the student.

Facial Reconstruction

Providing Answers for Families

Answers to these eight cases are likely to be difficult to come by. The reason being that when a migrant is missing, families are often reluctant to contact the authorities.

Another big reason is the lack of information collected on missing people who were last seen crossing the border. Without a central agency, it can be very hard to trace the person back to their family.

“We provide answers to families. They are very painful answers, but they are answers owed to families. In our office here, we make no distinction between American citizens and foreign nationals in doing everything we can to identify a person and determine a cause of death,” Anderson explains.

The New York Academy of Art first held a forensic sculpture class in 2015. Joe Mullins is a forensic artist who teaches the class. He has also worked for 18 years at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “Just because they died trying to come here that doesn’t mean they should lose their identity,” he adds.

The class is five days and, by the fourth day, 3D printed skulls become fully formed faces. Mullins explains that the room is silent and it’s clear when a reconstruction is complete. He explains: “I stop when I see someone staring back at me.”

After the face is complete, they’re added to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, where hopefully someone will recognize them.

Source: The Guardian

Facial Reconstruction

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