How Animation and 3D Printing Are Transforming Forensics in Ohio

In an unexpected collaboration, animators and investigators have joined forces to create new discoveries in some of Ohio’s unsolved cases. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) is harnessing the power of technology to unveil the faces of unidentified human remains, thanks to the innovative work of Sam Molnar, a forensic artist at BCI.

How Animation and 3D Printing Are Transforming Forensics in Ohio
John Doe #3312’s skeletal remains were found near an oil well site in rural Canton. The man, believed to be 30-50 years old. (Image Credit: BCI Lab)

Traditional methods of identifying individuals from skeletal remains have limitations, especially when only a skull is available. Molnar’s expertise lies in sculpting lifelike faces atop 3D printed replicas of recovered skulls. Formerly, this process took weeks, involving CT scans and meticulous 3D printing. However, the partnership between BCI and Ohio State University has expedited the procedure.

John Doe #2027
John Doe #2027’s skeletal remains were found in 2016 in Akron. He is believed to have been between 30 and 55 years old at the time of his death. (Image Credit: BCI Lab)

Utilizing photogrammetry rather than CT, graphics researcher Jeremy Patterson and animator Dean Hensley developed a software that constructs accurate 3D renderings from multiple iPhone photos taken at varying angles. This approach allows Molnar to capture specimens on her phone and swiftly send them for 3D rendering.

This method is not only enhancing accuracy but also speeding up the identification process. Less data-intensive files are created, resulting in quicker 3D printing. The impact of this collaboration has been profound, as Molnar’s reconstructed faces have helped solve cases that have remained mysteries for decades and have provided closure to families seeking answers.

Jane Doe #3067
Jane Doe #3067’s remains were found in Cincinnati in 2018. and was between 35 and 60 years old when she died. (Image Credit: BCI Lab)

Molnar has showcased reconstructions for three cases that remain open, asking for the public’s help to identify the faces. You can see the three images in this article, so get in touch with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation if any of the faces ring a bell!

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