Feb.1, 2015 | By Kira

There’s already a CSI: Miami and a CSI: New York, but CSI: 3D? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Florida-based company 3D Printed Evidence is bringing 3D printing technology into the courtroom to help law practitioners solve complex cases, from car accidents to medical malpractice.

Josh Weinberger, a former Stetson University College law student, started 3D Printed Evidence just a few months ago when he realized there was an untapped market for 3D printing in litigation. They are partnered with local 3D printing and 3D scanning service provider The Forge.

The company is focused on creating exact replicas and scale models of crime-related evidence, and all products are designed with the legal community in mind. Currently, demonstrative evidence is used in courtrooms to fairly and accurately represent a real object that is of importance in a case, such as a scan of a client’s bone or even an entire crime scene. Investigators and scientists have used dental stone to create casts of footprints, for example, or large-scale replicas of fingerprints with colour-coded ridges. Cardboard cutouts, computer animations and other types of replcas are also common practice. “If you can actually see something and hold it, it makes it that much more real, especially when you’re talking about medical malpractice cases and things get complicated,” he said. However, “3D evidence gives the jurors the advantage of tactile perception, of actually being able to hold an object in their hands.”

The process of creating a piece of 3D printed evidence is quite simple, particularly since most of their models are made from start to finish in-house. At the scene of the crime, investigators can use advanced photogrammetry software such as the PhotoModeler Scanner or 3DReality to create a dense and accurate surface model of the object or scene. Alternatively, digitized models can be made from photographs taken on digital cameras. They then ensure that the model is made into a continuous volume exactly to scale and accurately matches the real object down to a millimeter before printing from a selection of materials and mediums. Once printed, it can be used as a training aid, a test tool, or simply as tactile piece of evidence.

“You can take an x-ray or a medical scan and print out something that is an exact replica of your client’s bone,” said Weinberger. “You can get the exact replica of what you’re talking about, versus something that kind of replicates it.”

Some examples of the types of demonstrative evidence that have already been created include model organs for medical malpractice cases that show whether there is a deficiency with the person’s body rather than with the medical applications involved, or 3D printed footprints and fingerprints that provide more accurate and well-preserved pieces of evidence that jurors can debate on. The possibilities, however, are endless. Models can be scaled-up to reveal tiny distinguishing marks, or entire crime scenes can be scaled down to give the jurors a bird’s eye view. Either way, having physical, tactile and accurate evidence is a surefire way to strengthen your argument and possibly win the case.

Future uses for this technology include having police officers use 3D scanners immediately following car accidents. The officers can scan the entire scene and then have it printed onto a 12-by-8 inch plastic framework, preserving each vital detail before they can be spoilt or erased by time.

Currently, models cost from around $200-$400, which is quite affordable considering the cost of computer animations or other forms of evidence. And although it’s more than you’d spend on a poster board, the level of detail and accuracy could make all the difference.  “I don’t know if it’s due to lack of knowledge and understanding about the technology, or a misconception about how much 3-D printing costs, but it’s not incredibly expensive,” said Weinberger. “We can provide better models than what a cardboard cutout provides, and cost-wise, we’re actually in the same realm. Once they see the printers and see the models, everyone is blown away.

3D printing is already becoming a fixture in medicine, robotics, graphic design, and even the fashion industry, however the use of 3D printing for forensic investigations and court purposes is still very new. The Forge and 3DE hope to see that change in the very near future. “It’s my projection that 3-D printing becomes as common as cardboard cutouts in the courtroom,” said Weinberger. “It’s my hope that the younger generation will use this technology. I feel it does provide something that’s not there currently.”



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Conan the Plasterer wrote at 2/1/2015 9:19:57 AM:

I assume the crime in the last image was someone stole the engine

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