Mortuary students learn restorative arts in 3D

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Mortuary science sophomores learn to scan and do 3D printing Nov 20 in Nail. Marcella Hernandez uses an Artec Eva 3 d handheld scanner while Angel Vegasantaella holds the laptop so Hernandez can immediately see the image and keep the scanner level. She is scanning the head and shoulders of Octavio Ellis. Linda Owens

Enhancement classes open to all students interested in 3D training skills.

By Linda Owens

Mortuary students are able to learn to use a 3D scanner and printer to recreate parts for disfigured bodies for viewing.

Title III Coordinator Aaron S. Ellis demonstrated using a 3D scanner Nov. 20 for mortuary science Professor Felix Gonzalez’s MRTS 2447, Restorative Arts, class in Nail Technical Center.

If someone did not survive a bad accident and part of an ear was disfigured, 3D printing would be able to give the family the gift of viewing their family member in a restorative condition, biology sophomore America Wilson said.

“With this technology, students can scan an ear, print the negative to make a mold and pour silicone in the mold to make a new body part,” Wilson said.

Mortuary science is still slow to change and embrace this technology, Ellis said.

“The hope is to teach 3D skills to the students and as they are able to find jobs in the mortuary science field, funeral homes would be able to monetize the funding for the equipment,” Ellis said.

During the class, Ellis demonstrated the handheld 3D scanner on a seated student.

“You need a steady hand or when the image is processed there will be many abnormalities in the image,” Ellis said. “The person doing the scanning should stand 18-24 inches away. The subject, being scanned, should not move especially the eyes because it would result in looking in two different directions when the image is processed.”

The 3D data takes up a lot of hard drive space. There are 1.9 million triangles that process the image, Ellis said.

“Big triangles have less detail and will result in a smooth image but with sharp edges,” he said. “Small triangles will have more detail and it will be easier to work with the image. The final copy will make the face look better.”

The Acetic handheld scanner cost $23,000. It takes three minutes to scan, two minutes to process in the computer and four hours of printing time, Ellis said.

Mortuary science Professor Felix B. Gonzaléz holds a finished 2-inch 3D product of the face of a student in his Technical Procedures 2 class made from pliable plastic. Scanning a person’s face and neck takes three minutes. The program processes the scanned image in two minutes, and the printing of the mold takes four hours. Students can learn how to print 3D images in the 3D lab in Moody. Linda Owens

The Title III project Tenaces 3D received a $3.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for Hispanic-serving institutions, according to the program’s website

Bringing this technology to the mortuary science program for the last five semesters has enhanced the way students train in mortuary science restorative arts, Gonzales said.

“3D allows the students to make body parts faster than with the oil-based clay we used last week making masks in restorative arts,” Gonzales said.

This is oil-based clay, and wax dates back to the Civil War days, Ellis said.

Students may enroll in non-credit enhancement classes Ellis teaches.

Students will learn how to do printing, modeling, sculpting, terraining and world-building classes. Class sessions are three hours long and meet weekly for two to four weeks.

Each class is about $25-30, and most are on Fridays, he said.

“Tenaces is Spanish for holding fast and being persistent,” Ellis said.

To sign up for the enhancement classes, click here.

For more information, contact Ellis at


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