3D printing is powerful technology that has the possibility of changing the funeral industry as we know it.

The original process of 3D printing, called stereolithography, was invented by Charles Hull in the 1980s. Its first applications, which started out as much more expensive than today’s, were mostly in engineering and manufacturing. Today, there is talk about the first 3D printed car or gun.

There are different processes and materials used, but the main concept is the same. PCMag explains it as the “ability to turn digital files containing three-dimensional data…into physical objects.” 3D printing is revolutionizing more and more industries today with its introduction to more mainstream ideas. The healthcare industry is printing prosthetics, pills, and even “living” organs. The food industry is experimenting with it. 3D printing is changing the way we consider manufacturing. It allows us to create one item as needed as opposed to mass producing.

3D printing and the funeral industry are joining forces in the world of cremation. The rate of cremation is on the rise. The Cremation Association of North America predicts that the rate of cremation will exceed burials by 2018. 3D printing allows for personalization of custom printed urns. As mentioned in our previous article, people are opting for “living urns,” which are 3D printed urns of the person, like a statue, with a place to put the ashes. There are endless possibilities to create unique urns for yourself or loved ones.

Another way 3D printing can be used in the funeral industry is similar to how it has affected the healthcare industry—by printing body parts. If a body has been damaged in an accident or through trauma, a 3D printer can be used to repair the missing parts. This can be more realistic looking than today’s wax and makeup that may not look as accurate, especially in severe cases.

Going back to how 3D printing works, a digital file of an idea is sent to a machine that then builds a physical object of that file. This lets us print virtually anything conceivable at the touch of a button.

After the death of a loved one, families sometimes buy memorial keepsakes, like tokens, pendants, or engravings. They can be somewhat personalized, but are usually made from ready-made templates. With 3D printing, these can become much more personalized with help from the family. They can sit down with their funeral director and design a personalized keepsake. The items would be created on demand, which actually saves money because they are not being produced in a large factory. As 3D printing becomes more prevalent, funeral homes may even be able to provide these services in-house one day.

3D printing is already being introduced to the funeral industry, but high expenses and some tech glitches make it slower than other technology. But development is being made and it may be here sooner than we may think. Things have changed so much in the past 20 years that we may be using this technology along with something that hasn’t even been invented yet very soon.

Let us know in the comment section how you think 3D printing will change the funeral industry.