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Ashes to Filament : 3D Printing for Death

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Ashes to Filament : 3D Printing for Death
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Exotic filament blends are coming to the 3D printing market every day, as startups around the world are competing to produce new filaments for 3D printers. These new filaments often combine the 3D printable properties of PLA with the desired artistic or performance qualities of the composite material.

3R3DTM  is a Spanish Basque Country startup company that is developing a wide range of 3D printing filaments.

They have agreed to send 3D-PT a set of filament samples which will be reviewed in a future blog.

Among the samples they provided, a filament called “Reincarnation” caught my eye. It is not every day reincarnation and 3D printing come up in the same sentence.


Reincarnation filament is a mix of PLA and ashes from burnt paper.

Reincarnation PLA + Paper Ash filament
Reincarnation PLA + Paper Ash filament

The resulting filament uses the paper ash as the fill product to produce a dark colored filament.

In talking with 3R3DTM, it turns out the paper ash version is a prototype filament. 3R3DTM is using the paper reincarnation to test the viability of producing a filament made from the cremated remains of pets.


Day of the Dead

As the USA prepares to celebrate Halloween and Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), 3D printers are cranking out ghoulish decorations and sugar skulls for the upcoming festivities.

While these 3D printed decorations are nice, it does bring a morbid question to my mind.

Sugar skull from
Sugar skull from http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:174202

If 3D printing is so helpful to us during our life, why can’t it be useful in our death?


All composite filaments are made by mixing the primary material (be it metal or conductive carbon) with a plastic binder such as PLA. Other companies mix organic materials such as beer waste or hemp to produce biodegradable filament blends.

What if we could use the same method to mix cremated remains with a plastic binder to produce a memorial filament?

There are many different ways for people to carry the cremated remains of a loved one with them.

It is already possible to turn ashes into diamonds or to mix the remains into cement reef to produce a living memorials. With this in mind, I wonder if it would be possible in the future to produce a memorial filament by mixing plastic and loved ones ashes.

Death mask of Joseph Smith, from http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:851284
3D printed death mask of Joseph Smith, from http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:851284

In this way a filament can be easily shared with family members, or be used to 3D print a memorial lithopane or death mask of a loved one.

A memorial lithopane of Alan Turning, which can be 3D printed with a memorial filament
A memorial lithopane of Alan Turning, which can be 3D printed with memorial filament.

If family members are all given a section of this memorial filament, they can then 3D print their loved ones in a form that best honors the deceased.


Memorial Filament

This also begs the question,

How much filament can be produced from the remains of an average adult?

According to Wikipedia,

“ Ashes of adults can be said to weigh from 4 pounds (1.8 kg) to 6 pounds (2.7 kg), but the first figure is roughly the figure for women, and the second, for men. The mean weight of adult cremated remains in a Florida, U.S. sample was 5.3 lb (approx. 2.4 kg) for adults (range 2 to 8 lb or 0.91 to 3.63 kg). This was found to be distributed bimodally according to sex, with the mean being 6 pounds (2.7 kg) for men (range 4 to 8 lb or 1.8 to 3.6 kg) and 4 pounds (1.8 kg) for women [emphasis added by author] (range 2 to 6 lb or 0.91 to 2.72 kg). In this sample, generally all adult cremated remains over 6 pounds (2.7 kg) were from males, and those under 4 pounds (1.8 kg) were from females. “

Composite filaments like Colorfabb  BambooFill is 20% bamboo and 80% PLA, while other composites like Proto Pasta Stainless Steel PLA is about 70 % steel and 30% PLA.

For this I’ll estimate that a memorial filament will be about 50% cremated remains and 50% PLA.

A 378 cm length of 2.85 mm PLA has a mass of 14 g , or 0.04 g / cm


This means that for the average adult male (2.7 kg of ashes), you can have approximately 5.4 kg of memorial filament. When divided by 0.04 g / cm, this equals 1350 m of 2.85 mm filament.

For the average female (1.8 kg of ashes) you can have approximately 3.6 kg of memorial filament. When divided by 0.04 g / cm, this equals 900 m of 2.85 mm filament.


By both of these measurements, the ashes of a person would produce a large spool of memorial filament. This could   insure that all family members have a chance to take a fair portion of the remains with them.


Cremation tags used to identify remains.
Cremation tags used to identify remains.

Laws & Regulations

To comply with US laws to identify cremated remains, crematoriums must place a metal disk with the crematory name and an identifying number in the ashes to  be identified. To make sure that these memorial prints comply with the law, a digital tag file can be included or shared with the family members, so the information can be imbibed into the print. Crematoriums can also stamp out multiple copies of the ID tags to give out with the memorial filament. This will ensure that the 3D printed item is properly identified as a memorial and complies with the law.


While 3D printing is used to help with the practical and fun things in life, I do not see a reason that 3D printing cannot be used to help us when we die. As new filaments come to market, it would be interesting in the future to see 3D printing incorporated into our burial practices. A memorial filament can transform ashes back into a meaningful 3D prints for a family member to have a new way to remember a loved one.


Win 2 Rolls Of Filament From ProtoPasta By Designing An Urn Or A Ghost!

DISCLAIMER: Please check all state and local regulations with regards to handling of cremated remains, and the production of a memorial filament. Check with a lawyer before attempting this method. Ask permission of the filament manufacturer before running cremated remains through their filament extruder. Also get permission of the 3D printer owner before printing with memorial filament.

The article presented here is a proposal for an alternative death practice that has yet to be tested or approved. Please consult with your family, a funeral director, or mortician for all of your end – of – life decisions.


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Written by 

3D-PT is a small 3D printing company started by a science teacher with autism. He has a background in CAD and science education, and believes that 3D printing can be used to help the world. 3D-PT develops products for people with autism and other disabilities. 3D-PT is also developing 3D printable products for education. 3D-PT is online at 3dpt.club Twitter: @3dfidgets

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10 thoughts on “Ashes to Filament : 3D Printing for Death

  1. LoL, that was creepily funny but very informative!

    1. I’m glad it made you think about your impending mortality! I think we should consider how to dispose of ourselves in the future. Recycling our ashes into a 3D print does not seem like the worst idea ever.

  2. Any explanation as to why the competition on gleam is now marked as “disabled”, with 20 hours to go??? https://gleam.io/kOCEP/design-a-halloween-urn-win-filament

    1. We Will check it and get back to you asap.

  3. There is so much about these 3 D printers I don’t know. Thanks for informing me.

    1. When you think about it, people are already printing “standies” as sculptures of themselves.. so a natural progression can easily be printing the self, with material containing yourself.

    1. Not really when you think about it. We die, our body decays and is recycled by nature. Why not recycle our ashes into some material that can be repurposed into a useful 3D print? This way you can keep a memorial for a loved one without the mess of ashes.

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