3D printing has changed the world of how we create today in so many ways. Allowing for self-sustainability in innovation, everyone from the home hobbyist entrenched in DIY to the engineer working for an automotive company can make designs, objects, prototypes—and so much more—even houses. Many are newer to the technology and may be working on ideas that are completely new and extremely challenging.
That was the case for the Greneker team, headquartered in Los Angeles. Innovators since 1934, Greneker has always been known for their novel techniques in creating mannequins. 3D printing is a new endeavor for them though.
“When I started with this business, we would get together as a group, we would look at the trends in the marketplace, and we would develop a line based on what we saw happening in the marketplace at that time,” said Steve Beckman, President & COO of Greneker.
“That was done with clay sculpting, so we would start with armatures and clay, go through the process ourselves, create an entire line of mannequins, and really just kind of rolled the dice and hope that it would sell to that market,” said Beckman.
“It was a very long process to develop a line of custom mannequins,” Beckman said. “We would have to spend a great deal of time upfront with a client trying to figure out what they were looking for, what the poses were, what the dimensions were, what sizes these pieces were. The armatures would be set up by hand, the sculpting would be done by hand in clay. It would require several visits of the client on premises before we got an approval to move into the molding process to begin production.”
On working with athletic apparel manufacturers:
“The poses are either accurate or they’re inaccurate,” Beckman said. “If you try and put a golf mannequin in a golf shop and he is not in the proper position, the mannequin will be ripped apart by patrons.”
They streamlined the creating and 3D printing process as they learned more about what worked.
“We started to look at digital as a way of creating these pieces, and creating them precisely and accurately,” Beckman recounted. “We’ve now moved from clay sculpting to everything being 3D printed, which has helped us in a myriad of ways.”
3D printing at Greneker began with a CubeX, and then other small 3D printers. After that, they graduated to the re:3D Gigabot 3D printer, which has provided advanced solutions in fire stations, veterinary practices, and many more impactful applications.
“We selected the printer based on, again, the human body,” Beckman explained. “We’re a mannequin manufacturer. We wanted larger printers to be able to print torsos and legs.”
“Before 3D printing, it would’ve been just unthinkable to make a mannequin in a day,” said Daniel Stocks, senior sculptor at Greneker. “Now it’s actually possible.”
Speed in creating the mannequins is one of the greatest benefits Greneker experiences in 3D printing, along with the digital process overall.
“We save time throughout the entire process,” said Beckman. “Instead of having clients visit, we can have video conferencing now, which accelerates the initial consultation period greatly. The client can sit on the other end – whether they’re across the country or across the world – and in real time we can make those changes and those tweaks to make these pieces exactly what they’re looking for.”
“With 3D printing, we take the digital model and we’ll produce a scaled model, usually about 18 inches tall, and then we can send that to the clients,” said Beckman. “They can make sure that all the measurements fit where they like and that the posing is what it needs to be in. Once we get the sign-off at that point, then we produce a full-scale 3D print.
“With this new process, the model goes in front of everybody, so it’s there for everyone to look at. You get a much, much tighter buy-in much more quickly.”
“If I have a large project and I have three sculptors working on it, because it’s three sets of hands, it may not look identical,” Beckman explained. “With the digital design, we don’t have to worry about that. The design is the design and you can move it, change it, scale it, but it’s always the base design and it’s always obvious what it is, no question.”
The added Greneker goal now is to be faster and more cost-effective in development.
“The marketplace is requiring speed to market. Everything has got to be done sooner rather than later,” Beckman explained. “When we would sculpt and create a new line by hand, the process could take upwards of six months in preproduction. In 3D printing, now we’ve reduced that process to where it can be as short as just a few weeks.
“Right now, we’ve just finished realizing our first set of goals with 3D printing. Our future goals: we’re going to bring in as many printers as it takes to be the absolute fastest to market as we can be. We want to stay ahead of our competition.”
You can read more about Greneker and their innovative projects here.
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