Though it is an invaluable service to those who need it, even funeral directors aren't immune to the somber nature of the business.

That's why William La Pierre, a second generation mortician from Yorktown, N.Y., has also opened Mini 3D ME, a 3D printing business.

"The funeral business is a wonderful business, but it's also very sad, so he wanted to have a more positive impact on the community," company spokeswoman Chelsea Waller said.

Being passionate about technology, La Pierre, who has lived in Yorktown for 40 years, bought a 3D Systems ProJet 660 in October, and started making happier mementos of his neighbors' lives.

"This specific printer allows us to create quality products with unimaginable details on our figurines," Waller said. "For example, tattoos, facial expressions, clothing logos, buttons, clothing wrinkles are all characteristics that we are able to replicate from the person to our figurines."

As you might guess, Mini 3D Me, can scan patrons and print miniature 3D models of them. They come in 4 inch, 6 inch and 8 inch options.

That's not all it offers though. Christmas ornaments were big around the holidays and people love La Pierre's unique card holders.

He scans the customers' hands into the system and then prints them in the right size and shape to hold business cards. La Pierre even printed a little frying pan that holds cards for a local chef.

Another big seller has been shadow boxes, which feature a 3D printed model of someone in front of a background picture. The whole package is framed and hung on the wall, like a portrait, only with a 3D printed element to it.

"We can make any background you want," Waller said.

For instance, you could have a 3D printed model of you standing in front of the Taj Mahal.

One of the key notions behind the business was 3D printed wedding cake toppers, which definitely falls in line with the sentiment of commemorating the happier moments in people's lives.
"Instead of buying figures that don't look like you, you can have something that is identical to you, you can have them in any pose you want and the details of the bride's dress are really awesome," Waller said. "Plus, you can keep it forever."

However, that end of the business hasn't exactly taken flight yet. "We are going to our first bridal show this weekend, so we're hoping it will pick up," Waller said.

Just to be clear, Mini 3D ME has nothing to do with La Pierre's funeral business. Some have had the mistaken impression in the past that you could have a 3D printed model of your deceased loved one made at the funeral home. That is not the case.

"They are completely separate," Wallers said.