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Facial Reconstruction for Funeral Viewings

Facial Reconstruction for Funeral Viewings

During the period when we were hand making face cosmetics, the result usually could not satisfy family members of the dead. Sometimes they would criticize our work if the cosmetic is not close enough to original face. That makes us feel very bad. Now with 3D printers, we don’t need to spend the whole night beside the body. Meanwhile the pressure from hygiene issues also reduced. The similarity of cosmetic improved lot as well. I believe now our work can satisfy the family member of dead.

Qu, Jie
Facial Cosmetic Maker

Established in 1958, the Babaoshan Funeral Parlor is one of the oldest of its kind. Babaoshan is recognized for its high standard of service and provides service to high level leaders and individuals, as well as being the only authorized institution for foreigner funerals.

Cosmetic Maker with a finished mask.

For an industry that requires a great level of attention to detail and nuanced features, 3D printing has been implemented to capture the resemblance and care that's required. 

Before including 3D printing, the industry’s traditional methods included:

  1. Using filling and stitching materials to directly work on the face and body.
  2. Hand making masks that contributed to high levels of variation.

By applying 3D printing, the company was able to

  1. Increase the accuracy and resemblance of mask and face
  2. Reduce labor time by automating and reduce overall production time by 57.14%

Company: Babaoshan Funeral Parlor 
Industry: Funeral
Interviewee: Qu, Jie
Title: Cosmetic maker


In certain cases, holding a funeral is not possible due to the circumstances of the death. In cases where the body suffered from a degenerative illness or a serious accident, the viewing of the body may only increase the sadness of their living family. Makeup, styling, and cosmetic reconstruction are used to return the face to a state for viewing. To accomplish this, Babaoshan has integrated their 3D printer into their process in creating a mask.
First the cosmetic maker will 3D print a model of the cavity and the patrix which is a model that will be used as a mold.  They will begin this by importing photos of the face into a software which is used to reconstruct the 3D geometry of the face. The maker then makes any modifications before creating an and printing the .STL file. Using the die cavity and Patrix prints, the maker will cast a silicone rubber face mask. Lastly, makeup is added to the mask to complete the face.

Cosmetic model setting up finished face model in ideaMaker software

Costmetic maker observing the printing process on the N2. Previously printed masks see on right.

Before 3D printing, cosmetic makers would repair damage by hand. They repair and reconstruction of external face damage was done by utilizing different materials such as plastic clay, plaster and wax and more. This involved many invasive procedures such as stitching and filling. The cosmetic process require makers execute high-level of intensive work. Even with this level of care, the result usually does not meet expectation of living family members.

Another option was to create a mask. Hand-created masks left room for variation and thicknesses sometimes were not even-distributed. Additionally, the artistic production process is exhaustive on the makers.  After 3-4 hours with the masks and face, the similarities and differences become harder to differentiate.

Monitoring of printing process

Print in progress with customized support structures.

Now employing the aid of the Raise3D N2 printers, Babaoshan is able to print a precise replicas of unique faces. The printers large size allows them to print a full size mold in one run, and the easy-to-use system allows new makers to master the N2 in only 30 minutes. Additionally, the time that’s spent on mask production is greatly decreased. While the team still has to consider the printing time required in the process, printing is passive time that does not need to be labored.  This allows the cosmetic makers direct their time and energy into the makeup and processing as opposed to the mask making. These 3D printing masks are much more efficient, realistic, and provide a perfect fit. 

Printing time for a face mask averages 10 hours. After make-up, the reconstruction can finished in a total of 12 hours.
Taking the wait time of casting and mold making, the new mask-making process takes 3 days.
By comparison, a completely handmade mask will take 1 week.
This reduces the overall time by 57.14%