3D Printed Skulls Become the Newest Tool for Forensic Artists

University of South Florida’s (USF) FL Institute for Forensic Anthropology & Applied Science (IFAAS) welcomed forensic artists from all over the United States in October. The team of artists was brought in with the hop of resolving cold cases that have in some cases been open for decades, including one that dates back to 1967.

The artists collaborated with the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to reconstruct the faces of nine cold case victims. The forensics team scanned the original skulls and printed 3D replicas for the artists to gather the information needed to create a sculpture likeness of the victims.

Joe Mullins, the man behind the idea of creating the team of artists to work from the 3D skulls, has 15 years of experience with NCMEC. He spent the last eight years trying to bring in outside artists because medical examiners would not allow them to use real skulls collected in a criminal investigation. The use of the 3D replica skulls allowed the artists to have the exact information to work from without violating the medical examiner rules. Mullins first used the 3D printouts in New York in 2015 and USF is now the second location to take advantage of this technology.

Dr. Erin Kimmerle, Director of IFAAS and USF anthropologist, created the 3D printouts and worked with the forensic artists to develop the facial reconstructions. Dr. Kimmerle’s team used chemical isotope testing and skeletal analysis to provide additional information in trying to identify the victims.

A press conference was held at the end of the week at the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building where updated information on the victims was released along with a showing of the facial reconstructions. Guest speakers also took to the podium including Mark A. Ober, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.