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Evaluation of the Use of a Non-Contact, 3D Scanner for Collecting Postmortem Fingerprints

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2016
38 pages

This project evaluated the potential for using a contactless, 3D fingerprint scanner for the capture of examination-quality postmortem (PM) fingerprints, so as to facilitate rapid identification of the deceased.


The project focused on testing the hypothesis that due to its contactless nature, the 3D scanner would be able to acquire higher quality fingerprints from PM friction-ridge detail than traditional recovery techniques. It was also hypothesized that capturing PM impressions using a 3D scanner would decrease the amount of time, resources, funding, and hazards typically involved in recovering an examination-quality digital PM fingerprint record. The project concluded that when compared to traditional PM fingerprint recovery techniques, the non-contact 3D scanner technique has significant promise in producing the highest quality PM fingerprints; however, more research is required to produce a conclusive assessment. The project team encountered a number of unforeseen variables that prevented an accurate assessment of the non-contact 3D scanner technique. The variables that prevented a conclusive evaluation of the technique included the cadaver condition, which caused poor finger ridge detail; a significant amount of motion due to many variables; unexpected logistical issues presented by the testing facilities; and unforeseen limitations of the digital scanners. Due to these issues, the project team evaluated the contactless 3D scanner for PM fingerprint recovery by 3D scanning gray castings recorded from the cadavers rather than scanning the cadavers' friction-ridge detail. This change eliminated the major issue of motion. Using this method, the team met the project goals in showing that the 3D scanner was able to acquire higher quality fingerprints from PM friction-ridge detail compared to traditional recovery techniques. Still, testing should be done in a traditional forensic setting in actual casework. 28 figures, 12 tables, and 83 references

Date Published: August 1, 2016