3D Printing Being Used to Solve Unsolved Crimes

Shows like Law & Order and CSI have turned forensic science into a mainstay in modern fiction, but the actual technology used to solve crimes today is even more mind-blowing than people see on TV. Among the tools used by modern forensic scientists is the 3D printer, which is now being used to help solve murders and other cases that previously had no clues available. Here’s a look at how some unsolvable cases are being helped with 3D printing.


Generations-Old Mysteries

A selection of nine cases, mostly from the Tampa Bay area, has been selected to be investigated using 3D printers as an aid. The oldest of these cases comes from 1967, meaning that investigators are digging up unsolved mysteries that are almost half a century old. Several major institutions are involved in these investigations, including the Florida Institute for Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science at the University of South Florida, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and the Florida Sheriff’s Association. The reconstructions will occur at the University of South Florida, while the NCMEC and Sheriff’s Association will provide collaboration in hopes of getting the best results.


Replication of Face and Bone Structures

To solve the cold cases, 3D printers will work to reconstruct the faces of the nine victims, including two children. That means that instead of relying on old photographs to try to solve the murders, police and investigators will have access to a 3D replica of the exact way the victim looked at the time of their deaths. At the moment, these victims are all unidentified; by creating as accurate a replica as possible, police will be able to figure out who the victims were. This will allow them to make connections with the people who knew them, possible habits that they might have had, and much more. In short, the more information that the police have, the better equipped they will be to finally close these cases.


Documenting the Process

Because this is one of the first times that 3D printers have been used to make replicas in an attempt to solve cold cases, the process will be carefully documented every step of the way. Forensic artist Joe Mullins will preside over the replicas to make sure that they are as accurate as they can possibly be. To help police out with the solving of these cases, new skeletal analyses and chemical isotope testing processes will also be performed, giving police more resources than they have ever had before when it comes to these cases. Whether the process succeeds or fails, the University of South Florida will be able to use the entire experience as an educational opportunity that might help police in other states.

With a huge number of murder cases lying unsolved in cold case files throughout America, police need every advantage they can possibly get. The proliferation of 3D printing is a game-changer in many regards. Whether this process meets with success or not, the ability to replicate skull and bone structures will undoubtedly play a part in solving crimes in the years to come.