3D Printing: Will it Help Families Honor Their Loved Ones Through Personalization?

Posted April 5, 2016

5 min read

Much has been said about the potential of 3D printing, but when you sort through the hype, 3D printing has already impacted several industries, and has the ability to influence almost every industry.

“3D printing democratizes manufacturing, so instead of having to set up a massive line to produce many of one item, individuals using only a digital file, and a relatively simple device can manufacture many different products—one at a time,” says John Hauer, CEO of Get3DSmart, a consultancy which helps companies capitalize on opportunities with 3D printing.

Thanks to the Internet, the process is simple: all it takes is a blueprint of some kind, the substance for printing, and a 3D printer to create objects. While 3D printing may be most popular in creative and manufacturing fields, it is quickly being adopted across every industry. “In the future, people are going to want the output more than they’re going to want the machine,” says Hauer. Hauer says McKinsey & Company reports that by 2025, 3D printing could have a $500 billion economic impact.

The 3D Ecosystem Means Personalization

3D printing enables the ability to make specialized products in a way that traditional methods are not able. Not only can be 3D printing create more specialized products and allow for greater personalization, it can be more cost effective.

3D printing for prototyping (or experimenting) includes the low-cost ability to do trial runs of products or concepts. Users can modify or change a product, then print it again, and result in very low cost- sometimes less than the cost of shipping a product. All of these benefits have the ability to allow anyone the tools to create low-cost, personalized products to consumers.

Creating More Meaningful Services Through Personalization

For the funeral industry, imagine being able to offer families more personalization and customization than ever before thanks to 3D printing. As more and more people look at funerals as a way to celebrate their legacy, personalized touch points will become integral to the creation of this unique and memorable experience.

3D printing already has roots in funeral service. Foreverance has gotten much attention over the company’s custom designed and 3D printed urns. As more and more people choose cremation, these individually created urns are increasing in popularity. The company’s showcase of urns they’ve made include urns made in the shape of an elephant, civil war cabin, a book, guitar, dove, piano, a cowboy hat, ballet slippers, a fish, and a ’57 Chevy Classic car. Another company, UPD Urns has found success in offering 3-D printed, sculpture bust urns.

There is real opportunity in specialized, custom jewelry (already available across other industries) and casket corners that could be made unique for each and every memorial service. “You can see why someone might want to have a copy of a family heirloom, or they might want to bury or cremate the loved one with the copy of the family heirloom,” he says. Families would see the value in adding elements to a service that were truly unique and still affordable – especially if they have the ability to collaborate in the creation of those personalized pieces.

A One-of-a Kind Offering

Hauer says it isn’t just personalization, but it is also the idea that they have access to entirely new products, and that they can see their customized product be created - right in front of them - in many cases.

“When 3DLT [Hauer’s previous company] launched fine jewelry with Sears, we surveyed over 4,600 Sears consumers…We asked them what they thought was so compelling about 3D printing. If I ask that question in an open forum, inevitably, somebody will say customization or personalization. 17 percent of the respondents said that was what they found most compelling,” he says.

But nearly 50 percent reported that it was the ability to have access to new products they wouldn’t have otherwise that was most compelling.

“The third response that we got from customers (about 15 percent of the 4,600 people) was that it was the ability to watch 3D printed products being made online or in store which was most enticing to them.”

This could also be done with casket manufacturers. In the future, manufacturers could provide a generic casket that funeral homes would be able customize right on-site —without ever having to take on excessive inventory. Funeral directors could provide past examples or simply suggest ideas based on a loved ones’ description of their family member. All of these customizable options to help families tell a loved one’s story can be designed and printed quickly using 3D printers.

In some cases, people planning their own funeral could make decisions about how they wanted their own memorial jewelry, urns, or a personalized casket to look. In the future, expect 3D printing to provide a low cost way to provide an even more personalized and memorable experience for families. “Imagine if you’re no longer printing the urn but the person’s ashes are the object, like a statue or whatever else you want? That’s possible today,” Hauer adds.

About John Hauer

John Hauer is a 3D printing visionary, founder and CEO. As a C-level executive with 25 years of experience in providing strategic and innovative leadership, Hauer’s experience spans across startups, turnarounds, joint ventures, and acquisitions at small, medium and large technology companies in print, eCommerce and retail.

Hauer has worked in a variety of verticals including retail, consumer packaged goods, and manufacturing, among others, including the 3D printing industry’s first for-pay marketplaces for 3D printable products, as well as the launch of 3D printing as a new product category with several of the world’s top retailers.

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