By DE Editors
The The Central Identification Laboratory of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), a large forensic anthropology laboratory, is using Z Corporation 3D printing technology to help identify POW/MIA remains so they can be returned to their families and rest in peace.
JPAC is printing 3D models of skulls from the CT scans of living people to refine forensics techniques for identifying remains from the Korean War and other conflicts. The techniques are used in support of traditional identification techniques such as dental records, fingerprints, X-rays and biological profile comparisons. This work promises to lead to more events like JPAC’s recent positive identification of a Korean War soldier killed in 1950.
“Our work is terribly important to history and to the loved ones of soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” says Audrey Meehan, DNA specialist and project leader for the lab. “We needed a 3D printer for preserving historic artifacts and for printing models of trauma to be used as teaching exemplars, yet it has opened up a world of valuable clinical and research applications.”
The forensic work, using a ZPrinter multicolor printer, is the cornerstone of a project to prove the effectiveness and set the protocol for skull photographic superimposition. The procedure involves superimposing images of unidentified skulls onto photographs of known soldiers to gauge potential matches. It is especially helpful in cases where DNA is not available.
“We used to send out for models that cost a fortune and looked terrible,” says Meehan. “By ZPrinting them ourselves, we’re getting a better product and saving time and taxpayer money.”
The laboratory has other applications for ZPrinting, such as helping patients at the nearby Tripler Army Medical Center. JPAC is ZPrinting skull and vertebrae models of neurosurgery patients from their CT scans. These medical models enable doctors to better visualize and plan their procedures. In a related application, doctors are using a 3D printed skull to test tumor detection equipment.
JPAC has also used the ZPrinter in the preservation of battle scenes. The lab has reproduced a jawbone from the crew of the Confederate naval ship CSS Alabama. The mandible had been fused to a cannon on the ocean floor and, after scanning, was ZPrinted. Although the remains were buried in an official ceremony as the last unknown Confederate soldier, JPAC has the reproduced model for its historical collection.
JPAC also ZPrinted the skulls and hip bones of servicemen who died in the sinking of the USS Monitor in 1862. Those ZPrints are on display at The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, VA.
For more information, visit Z Corporation.
Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.