The standard urns used in the funeral industry range from boxes to different vases, and are available for up to several hundred dollars. The industry standard size for companion urns is about 400 cubic inches. Pete Saari, a veteran technology marketing executive, was not impressed.
That’s why, after reading an article about the growing cremation industry, Saari started a design company that uses 3D printing technology to produce higher-cost, individualized urns.
The company, called Foreverance, sells customized urns for an average price of $2,500. Unique designs include everything from a replica of a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle convertible to a 22-inch tall Space Shuttle Columbia, holding the ashes of a former NASA engineer.
Saari’s business approach is a direct-to-consumer model. He’s trying to use targeted marketing to get to people engaged in end-of-life planning, and he’s reached out to affinity groups such as car clubs, travel clubs and boating organizations.
“We have a great deal of respect for funeral-service professionals, but they don’t exactly embrace change and new ideas,” said Saari.
Foreverance got some much needed free press when it produced the family-ordered black urn for Motorhead musician Lemmy Kilmister in L.A., shaped like Kilmister’s trademark black Calvary hat and emblazoned with his “Ace of Spades” tattoo and the lyrics “Born to lose, live to win.”
According to Rep-Am, Foreverance made its first appearance in January at the huge Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show. The company states that it is one of the first 3D printing companies to make a consumer product; other companies make prototypes, which are then used to take molds and produce the products.
The company is based outside of Minneapolis and currently has eight employees, including two designers and a machinist. They share a computer-aided deign file with customers, tweaking the design until the customer is satisfied.
Foreverance uses a 3-D Systems ColorJet Printer, which creates their custom urns by layering a ceramic-like material.
Although Foreverance is certainly creating a niche product, they are also aiming at a growing market. The Cremation Association of North America has said that the cremation rate has nearly doubled over 15 years, from 25% in 1999 to 46.7% in 2014.