TOKYO - A growing number of people are buying 3-D images of themselves created with 3-D 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 3-D 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 3-D figures] can convey a person's aura three-dimensionally, and people can hold them in their hands," a spokesperson for a 3-D 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 3-D figure maker in October last year. It was promotional material for the Aoyama 3D Salon, based in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
Suzuki ordered a 3-D figure of herself standing. She paid about ¥60,000 (S$736) for the 20-centimeter-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.
As a result, she is often bedridden, and her 49-year-old husband, a company president, does most of the household chores, including shopping. They have been married for 26 years.
"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."
The figure is now stored in a Buddhist altar in their house.
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 3-D 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. Then a 3-D printer produces a full-colour figure from 15 centimeters to 25 centimeters high.