Oct 2, 2015 | By Kira

Planning a funeral after the death of a loved one is already an intensely difficult and emotional affair, yet imagine doing so with the burden of knowing that graveyards are in limited supply, and the cost of a single plot can be as high as $62,000 (400,000 RMB). China has the largest population of all countries, yet the morbid counter-fact is that they also have to deal with the growing problem of urban death and a lack of graveyard space for proper burials. Though an uncommon practice today, funeral platform Yiko is trying to promote cremation as a more affordable and sustainable alternative by offering customers personalized, 3D printed urns.

Yiko founder Ma Lei had previously worked in a hospital and in real estate, both of which gave him insight into Chinese funeral culture and the stagnant funeral industry. “The funeral industry has been declining for a long time, but it’s also a huge market place.” After 10 years of contemplation and planning, he set up his own funeral platform, which offers complete funeral packages—from organizing organ donations, to purchasing cemetery plots.

The increasing problem, however, is that there are fewer and fewer cemetery plots to sell. “There’s no room for graveyards in China now,” said Ma. “In ten years, there will not even be enough graveyard space for Shanghai people.”

In order to help relieve some of the burden from Chinese graveyards, and save customers from spending up to five figures on a six-foot hole, Ma is trying to change perception of burial customs and raise awareness about cremation. To encourage clients and make the experience feel more personal, he has designed a range of 3D printed funeral urns that can be customized with the deceased’s name and a personal message. The urns are in the shape of a house that sides on a cloud, depicting the heartwarming Chinese perception that when the deceased go to heaven, they live above the clouds.

Each urn costs roughly $1,7000 (11,000 RMB), and along with the cremation ceremony, takes 12 hours to finish. Whether families decide to take the urn home, or display it in a special place, they can rest assured knowing that the vessel will last for up to 1,000 years, and respectfully commemorate their loved one for as long.

“Chinese people are not so familiar with cremation, and we want to help them change this perception,” said Ma. The large Bhuddist population, which believes in the concept of rebirth, has helped him build a more positive image, but he still has a long way to go.

Though Yiko’s 3D printed urns were a direct response to China’s situation, with world population on the rise, it is certain that more and more countries will begin to face the same problem. 3D printed urns and other funerary products could help put people at ease, creating a truly personal and customized experience that respectfully preserves their loved ones without putting a strain on the family’s wallet, or on the country’s dwindling resources.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications





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