• Kyodo

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A father’s grief over the loss of his daughter has spawned a new industry: figurines of deceased relatives made with 3-D printing.

The work of an Osaka-based printing company, the models are already proving popular and are helping families recover from bereavement.

A plaster figure of a young, lively girl with a big smile and open arms, wearing sneakers and a shoulder bag was created upon request of the grieving father, who lost his daughter in a car accident about two years ago.

It looks as real as if she had just jumped out of a photograph.

“I never imagined it could bring us this much relief,” the father said, holding the figure of his daughter at his home in the city of Zentsuji, Kagawa Prefecture, in March. “This figure makes me feel her presence more than a picture, so I often end up talking to her.”

The father was overwhelmed by grief when his 11-year-old daughter, Miku, was run over on her way home from school by a driver under the influence of kiken (banned) narcotics in January 2014. She was pronounced dead soon after being taken to a hospital.

The father came up with the idea for the replica when he visited a store selling 3-D printed figures about two years ago, when such technology was becoming popular.

He was told that only four photographs would be needed to create a replica of a pet, but when he went to various printing stores with photos of his daughter, they were reluctant to create her likeness, arguing that 3-D printers cannot depict human emotions and expressions.

Objects created using 3-D printing technology are based on computer-generated data files, which are sent to the printer. Store clerks told him that, to convey facial emotions, picture files would need to include faces taken from various angles.

The father kept searching even though all of the photos of his daughter showed her face-on.

The only company that accepted his request was Osaka-based Roice Entertainment Inc., which specializes in 3-D printing, including the production of figures based on photographs and sketches.

“I didn’t think it would be possible but we accepted the order because we felt it was important,” said Roice Entertainment President Koichi Furusho, 40.

It took about four months for the firm to create a figure of Miku, imagining the profiles of her from right, left and rear angles. Furusho corrected the figure dozens of times, showing prototypes each time to the girl’s father and getting his feedback.

Furusho recalled the father instructing the firms’ designers, “The forehead should be smaller” and “the eyes should be close-set.”

In February 2015, about a year after the accident, the figure was completed. Furusho felt rewarded when he saw how happy the father was.

“The cost is really high but we’re going to accept orders from anyone who needs our service,” Furusho said.

Furusho has worked hard to train his employees on 3-D figure modeling. They are now able to produce a 20-cm-tall figure within two months — at a cost of ¥108,000.

About a year ago, the company started promoting its service of printing figures of deceased people on its official website. It has received about 50 orders; most came from parents who had lost children.

Furusho and his co-workers listen carefully to the stories of the loved ones who have passed away prematurely.

“We had not imagined that with 3-D printing technology we would be able to bring such relief to people. We want to continue to help.”

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