Unless you’ve just recently watched the ’80s cult classic Mannequin, you may not have given a lot of thought to the creatures sporting the latest fashions in store windows around the world. However, these models deserve more than just a passing glance. The mannequin is more than just an elaborate method of hanging clothes, but in fact is an indicator of what is deemed beautiful by a society at any given point. Their introduction to storefronts, rather than simply as dressmaking dummies, marks the beginning of window shopping as a middle- and upper-middle class activity. During their tenure as fashion merchandising models, they have have changed in shape from hourglass to bean-pole and everything in between. Their breasts and hips have changed position and been reshaped all in an effort to most successfully support the fashion trends of the day.

The mannequin has been both mass produced for economy and the result of significant artistic investment. For the past 25 years, the Dutch company Hans Boodt has been producing high-quality mannequins sought after by the likes of Emilio Pucci, Karl Lagerfeld, and Hermès. The goal of the company is not simply the creation of a human form capable of supporting clothing, but rather to imbue their mannequins with a character and style that makes them a statement in and of themselves. These are not blanks, but rather active models requiring all details be attended, from hair to makeup to posture. Mannequin maker and owner of Hans Boodt Marco Ouwerkerk discussed the art of the team at Hans Boodt:

“Every day we challenge the human body form in search for its characters. Creating characters is our speciality, it is what we love and do best. Driven by craftsmanship, powered by innovation; it is our goal to produce highly attractive and easy to use mannequins with great finishes and outstanding poses. We constantly study anything that can influence our mannequins. New store concepts, design, and material innovations, or production possibilities. We really do take the mannequin to another level where it has never been before.”

Traditionally, it has taken around eight weeks for Hans Boodt to produce these bespoke mannequins but that timeline was always one to be struggled against. Until fundamental shifts could be made in the way that the mannequins were produced, it seemed nearly impossible to beat that schedule and still produce something of quality. However, after searching for ways to speed up their production, it was determined that 3D printing could make a significant contribution to reducing production time and expanding their responsiveness to market demands. Ouwerkerk described the impact of technology:

“In the last ten years the retail world changed drastically. Also the challenges of the modern day designer. Developing a bespoke mannequin range was traditionally a time and cost consuming process. With our current 3D possibilities we can be more creative and faster and cost efficient than ever before. We can realize a life-size proto in less than a week.”

Making the transition to utilizing 3D printing as part of their production process wasn’t as simple as recognizing that the technology existed. First they found themselves playing the role of Goldilocks with desktop 3D printers being too small and high-end industrial machines being too costly. They finally found their sweet spot with Tractus3D, which was able to create a plan for and provide them with 3D printers that were both high quality and correctly sized, as well as appropriately priced to fit their needs. As Ben Schilpeoort, CEO of Tractus3D, explained:

“We’re proud that we not only design but also manufacture true 3D printing production systems here in the Netherlands. In the tiny and lovely town of Ammerzoden, we can produce machines that make true large-scale manufacturing with 3D printing possible worldwide. Tractus3D prides itself not only on its machines, but also on the best service and support in the industry, and it is through that kind of care and attention to customers that we can let innovative companies manufacture using our 3D printers.”

The T3500 machine has a cylindrical build volume of 100 cm x 210 cm which means that the mannequins can be 3D printed, using a biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic polyester based on renewable sources such as cornstarch and sugarcane, in a single piece if desired. In addition, the ability to test prototypes and quickly make changes significantly reduces both the time invested and the cost associated with the development of these bespoke mannequins. The benefits are significant to both the producer and the consumer, as Product Development Manager at Hans Boodt Coen Viguurs stated:

“[T]he savings are impressive, but not nearly as significant as the changes that they have caused. From now on, it is going to be completely normal for fashion labels to design their own mannequins to match their clothing lines, their branding, and the look they’re aiming for. Thanks to 3D printing, we have become the dream for every creative director of a fashion label.”

Thus 3D printing has helped to bring about the next tectonic shift in the design and production of mannequins, showing just how flexible this technology is and the fact that it is more than simply another manufacturing method, but rather a tool that can reorganize the very approaches we take to creation.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or in the comments below.

[Images provided by Tractus3D]

 

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