A growing number of people are buying 3D images of themselves created with 3D printers to commemorate important events or preserve an image of themselves. Picture: The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tokyo - A growing number of people are buying 3D images of themselves created with 3D printers to commemorate important events or preserve a record of their appearance.

Couples, as well as parents and children, have ordered the figures to commemorate important life events such as marriage and enrollment in school.

Middle-aged and elderly people have sought 3D figures to use in place of memorial photos after their deaths, and there are also a large number of cancer patients who have wanted to preserve an image of themselves before losing their hair due to treatment with anticancer medicines.

“Unlike photos, [the 3D figures] can convey a person's aura three-dimensionally, and people can hold them in their hands,” a spokesperson for a 3D figure maker said. “We believe the uses for such figures will continue to expand.”

Ruri Suzuki, 65, in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, said she thought, “I want to leave something for my husband to remember me by” when she saw a leaflet for a 3D figure maker in October last year. It was promotional material for the Aoyama 3D Salon, based in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

Suzuki ordered a 3D figure of herself standing. She paid about 60 000 yen for the 20-centimetre-tall statue.

Suzuki has suffered from diabetes for 10 years, and has almost lost sight in her right eye due to complications from the disease. She also suffers from an irregular heartbeat. .

“My life could end at any time. I want my husband to use the figure like a memorial photo of me,” Suzuki said. “I had the figure made to express my gratitude to him.”

Ikeo Yamauchi, a 54-year-old company employee, who lives with his 87-year-old mother, Fuyoko, in Ota Ward, Tokyo, ordered figures of his mother and himself last month from the Aoyama 3D Salon. “Considering our advanced age, I wanted to leave a memento of the two of us.”

The company opened a studio exclusively for producing 3D figures in May last year. It mainly produces figures made of plaster, scanning a client's entire body for about 10 minutes to collect data. The studio has received orders from more than 3 000 families and couples.

Customers included a woman in her 60s who wanted to preserve an image of herself before she lost her hair due to cancer treatments she was to receive. There was also a doctor suffering from cancer who came from Okayama Prefecture with his wife to record a tangible image of himself in good health.

Mitsuhiro Ishizaki, 47, ordered 3D figures of images of himself and his eldest son, Kotaro, 12, in autumn last year.

“Before my son becomes independent from me, I wanted to preserve a tangible record of our family ties,” he said.

Salon spokesperson Christina Miyajima, 35, said, “So far, about 60 percent of orders have been for commemorating life events like marriages, pregnancy and enrollment in school. But recently, more people are buying figures to use in place of memorial photos after they die. Orders for this purpose are increasing, approaching 20 percent of the total.”

3D printers are expected to revolutionize manufacturing, though their potential drawbacks have also attracted attention since guns have been produced from resin.

Tatsuya Soma, chief director of the 3D Geometry Network based in Taito Ward, Tokyo, said, “It's possible to create 3D data from photos of deceased persons and reproduce their images as figures.”

Office 24 Studio, a company based in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, began production of 3D figures in October last year, and has produced more than 160 figures. Orders have come from French and Danish tourists travelling in Japan, a company spokesperson said. - The Yomiuri Shimbun/Washington Post