3D printing has kind of become mainstream, as even the FBI works with the technique. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation ordered a Statasis Objet24 3D printer, and paid 19,999 dollars for it. We know this for sure, because there is an online solicitation by the Department of Justice for the acquisition of a Stratasys Objet24 3D Printer for the FBI.
NextGov.com wanted to find out more about the FBI’s plans with the 3D printer and decided to e-mail them. FBI spokesperson Ann Todd told the media platform: “The 3D printer is cutting-edge technology that will be used by the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center to enhance their capabilities in exploiting improvised explosive devices.”
In the synopsis of their solicitation, the Department of Justice also came to a justification why they wanted to buy the relatively expensive machine: “The Objet24 Desktop Personal 3D printer is the only instrument capable of producing the high accuracy and resolution results to meet Agency testing standards. The printer also is the only one capable of meeting FBI support data recovery and thermal environment requirements. The Objet24 model is the only 3D printer that satisfies all the technical requirements of the FBI.”
Whether this is the first 3D printer by the FBI or not, it clearly indicates that the technique has become very important for investigations. Will it help them to fight terrorists? Well, there is a pretty good chance for it, as earlier examples with police departments working with 3D printers (and scanners) have turned out to become successful.
The U.S. Roswell police department works with Faro 3D scanner to scan complete environments during major accidents and crime scenes. A Faro 3D scanner is a 3D scanner, which uses a laser to capture information. The data can be opened on a computer and what will appear is a 3D image of the whole crime scene. Police officers can basically “fly” through the whole scene and zoom in to have a more detailed view of a person or object. Roswell Police Detective Scott Stevenson has even said that the scanner enables them to document scenes within the accuracy of a couple of millimeters.
Another example comes from anthropologist Mark Shriver of Pennsylvania State University , who found a way to create a 3D printed mugshot from a DNA sample. When a criminal would lose only one little hair at a crime scene in the future, the police will still be capable of creating a 3D mugshot.
As good as it sounds, the technique will not be used any time soon. Peter Claes of the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL) writes that it could take a bunch of years before this technique will be implemented: ”I believe that in five to 10 years time, we will be able to computationally predict a face.” That, however, does not mean Shriver will put a hold on his research, as he is only just refining the technique.
Last year’s December, the Japanese police did something similar, but with crime scenes istead of mugshots. They created a 3D model of a crime scene, which took place in Tokyo 13 years ago. In late 2000, a family was murdered in their home, but the police had failed to identify any suspects. Using 3D printing techniques, the police was able to add another dimension to the search for the perpetrator. Because of 3D printing techniques, depth was added to the models of the crime scenes, helping viewers to visualize the crime scene on a more punctual level.
Image credits: André Gustavo Stumpf.