Prints To Convince: 3-D Printed Fingerprints To Be Used In Murder Case

3-D printing is experiencing a boom across a fascinating variety of sectors.  It can be used for construction, creating artistic foods arrangements, making clothing, or even fashioning spare parts for the International Space Station.  Now, cops have used it to help gather evidence…but is it ethical?


Every other part of you can be cloned, why not your fingerprints too?
(Image courtesy dhgate.com.)


According to the Verge, police in Michigan are currently using 3-d printing technology to help solve a crime.  A professor at Michigan State was approached by the cops, who sought to make a 3-D printed replica of a murder victim’s fingerprint.  The fingerprint, which had been recorded prior to the man’s death, would create a replica to be used to help unlock the victim’s phone.


You, part two.
(Image courtesy 3dprintingindustry.com.)

Since the investigation still being underway, few details have been released about the proceedings.  However, a number of similar efforts have been made recently.  While the public is still ill at ease over the turmoil surrounding the unlocking of the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, there is only a scant legal precedent for how to handle such situations (although a judge did issue a warrant forcing a woman convicted of identity theft to place her finger on a phone to unlock it.)

However, the technique itself may well be valid, as iPhones have been unlocked using a simple print-clone created by using a dental mold to make a cast, then filling that with Play-Doh to make a print.  This “finger” could then be positioned over a phone’s print-scanner and, weirdly enough, work.  Various experiments with 3-D printed prints have also shown to be efficacious.


"Whoops.  Accidentally hit "print poster-sized."
Let's try this again..."
(Image courtesy sandback.com.)

The police were unable to use the murder victim’s original fingerprint due to excessive decay.  While one doesn’t wish to think of having themselves printed in case of tragedy, it’s worth noting that the FBI already has a 100 million-plus fingerprint file anyway (including 34 million “civil prints” from non-criminal civilians.)  Homeland Security, U.S. Customs, and the Department Of Defense also maintain separate, extensive databases.

So basically, expect your prints to be entered into some kind of database at the earliest convenience, because dead or alive, your unique and unchangeable password needs to be as known to the feds as your face.


They're not just content with your usual ones and zeros any more.
(Image courtesy www.identityone.net.)

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