Mar 14, 2017 | By Tess

China’s funeral industry has started adopting some high-tech elements, such as 3D printing and robots. 3D printing is being used to manufacture accurate facial reconstructions for corpses, and the robots are being used to decontaminate funeral parlors. Both technologies are aimed at making the undertaker business more automated.

Though the dead occupy a significant role in Chinese culture, those that prepare and work with the dead are seen less favorably. The undertaker profession, though necessary, has remained taboo within the nation. Rather than tackle the taboo by addressing misconceptions and preconceived notions about what undertakers do, China’s funeral industry seems to have found a solution through an increase in automation in the profession.

One funeral parlor in Beijing, the Babaoshan Funeral Parlor, recently unveiled its new cleaning robot, which it is using to decontaminate rooms. The robot, which is about a meter tall, is capable of detecting and measuring the size of the room it is in, and then sprays a hydrogen peroxide disinfectant aerosol that covers the whole room. According to the funeral parlor, the robot is a more efficient and thorough cleaner than a human counterpart.

“Now, it is more safe for our families,” said Qu Jie, an employee at the Babaoshan Funeral Parlor in reference to to the robot cleaner.

In addition to the cleaning robot, the Babaoshan Funeral Parlor has also integrated 3D printing into its day-to-day tasks, making it the first funeral parlor in Beijing to do so. The 3D printer is used specifically for making reconstructed facial masks for disfigured corpses to help families who want an open casket ceremony.

Prior to 3D printing, it would take undertakers several days to reconstruct a person’s face using cement and plaster. With additive manufacturing, however, the process of making a complete facial mold can be cut down to a mere 12 hours. According to Deputy director Li Yuguang from the 101 Research Institute of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, 3D printing not only makes the process faster and most efficient, but can also be done by just about anyone.

“After scanning a 2D photo of the deceased into the computer program, a worker can generate a full 3D digital model of the deceased person's face with just the touch of  a mouse button,” he explained. Being able to complete a facial reconstruction in less than a day helps to speed up the process of body preparation for the funeral, which in turn, helps to lessen the risk of spreading germs and viruses.

This is not the first time we’ve seen 3D printing used in a funeral parlor, as the technology has also been adopted in Shanghai, where the Longhua funeral home has been using 3D printers to reconstruct faces and body parts for corpses for at least a year. The Longhua funeral home was reportedly the first funeral home to integrate 3D printing technologies within China.

By increasing the automation within the field of funerary services, China is reportedly hoping to cut back on the number of workers necessary. And while this may seem counterproductive in terms of job creation, perhaps making the funeral service industry more high tech will help to dispel taboos surrounding it, making it a more favorable career.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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