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3D printing sculptures of mannequins reduces the production time from 8 weeks to 2 days.

Coen Viguurs, Product Development Manager at Hans Boodt Mannequins, states that: “3D printing has revolutionized the way we work at Hans Boodt. 3D printing sculptures of mannequins can be done at request, with an unprecedented level of quality and in a matter of days.”

Mannequins are the ultimate form of display for every clothing store around the world. When the finest brands in fashion need mannequins, they go to Hans Boodt Mannequins, a Dutch company that makes unique high-end mannequins for the most discerning fashion designers and brands. Customers of Hans Boodt are fashion labels such as Calvin Klein, Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger.

Side view of a life size 3D printed sculpture of a mannequin
Owner of Hans Boodt standing in front of Tractus3D life size 3D printers
Heads of life size fashion mannequins that are 3D printed making use of the Tractus3D life size industrial 3D printers

Challenge and solution of 3D printing sculptures

Work of Art

Few people realize that every sculpture of a mannequin is a work of art. The traditional method was to sculpt the anatomical perfection of a mannequin from clay by hand. “Designing a single figure out of clay is very expensive and time consuming, that is the same for every player in the market,” explains Viguurs. The old production process was spread throughout the high-end mannequin industry. Sculpting by hand was just the way this industry worked. The whole production process takes around eight weeks, especially when multiple designs or assemblies are required.

Time Pressure

Simultaneously, fashion brands are under intense pressure to innovate and differentiate. A mannequin became a part of the “total design” around a brand, fashion show, label or collection. Mannequins had to keep up with time. Colors, expressions, faces, and poses often had to be completely customized. Leading brands wanted unique looks to support their brands. The handmade mannequins fit perfectly into the pressure for uniqueness, but there were other pressures as well. Companies were looking to decrease their time to market and be more responsive. At the same moment, they wanted to be quicker to get designs from the catwalk into the stores. This meant that the custom mannequins had to keep pace with the time pressure of the fashion industry. The old way of doing things could not keep up with today’s increased demands.

Iterative Design and Development

Hans Boodt Mannequins is leading in the mannequin industry. Just as its customers wished to be quicker to market, so did the company. Last minute changes were slowing down development. The production time of eight weeks was putting serious pressure on the Dutch company. Simultaneously, they wanted to speed up their development and become more flexible as an organization. They started looking at alternative manufacturing processes.

CNC, Casting? What Else?

They quickly found out that their problem was a tough one to solve. Unique person sized pieces often become frightfully expensive very quickly. Technologies such as CNC could do the trick but given the size of pieces that Hans Boodt Mannequins needed the capital investment required would be significant. Material costs would also be high since in their case large blocks of material would need to be cut into mannequins. Other large processes were able to make things in inexpensive materials such as EPS foam. These parts were more manageable in cost, but they did not have the longevity, strength, and finish that met their customer’s expectations.

Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing

The company soon hit upon 3D printing sculptures of mannequins as a possible solution. Here, however, they found difficulty finding the right tools. Desktop 3D printers were simply too small. The company saw that with the right 3D printing material and design they could innovate. They knew that with some work the right 3D sculpture prints could be produced. Often high-end industrial Additive Manufacturing equipment produced parts that were too expensive. The time to print was also very long in some cases which slowed the company down. The operating costs on the AM machines and the required investment were also as considerable as the substantially costly CNC alternatives. Hans Boodt Mannequins found itself in a classic problem of a solution existing technically but not being available to them. They had heard of larger scale 3D printers that could make objects 90CM tall and higher. There were some large delta 3D printers in existence as well. However, it was not until they had found Tractus3D that their business case and 3D printing sculptures of mannequins seemed viable. This company had machines that could make the right sized 3D sculpture prints, at the right price and right up front investment as well.

Tractus Printers in Production

Tractus3D printers are made for industrial manufacturing. Not only optimized for production these machines can make the large 3D sculpture prints that companies need. The Tractus3D T3500 has a cylindrical build volume of 100 CM by 210 CM in height for example. This build size lets you 3D print large objects such as the mannequins in one piece. The combination of large build volumes and a machine designed for manufacturing is unique. There are many good 3D printers. There are some large 3D printers. There are a few 3D printers suited for manufacturing. Tractus3D, however, is a company that makes 3D printers that are

  1. good
  2. large and
  3. suited for manufacturing.

Tractus3D CEO Ben Schilperoort, “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 in through that kind of care and attention to customers that we can let innovative companies manufacture using our 3D printers. 3D printing sculptures of mannequins, like Hans Boodt does, is a great example of how 3D printing can replace the traditional production methods.”

3D printed sculpture of a Hans Boodt mannequin

Benefits

  • Make complex concepts reality by creating sculpture prints
  • Develop ideas quick and easy
  • 3D sculpture concepts can be implemented right after designing, reducing the development process from months to a matter of days.
  • Reduce costs by testing prototypes, rather than redesigning or altering existing molds.
  • Able to make entire sculpture prints at once with large volume 3D printers

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Results of 3D printing sculptures of mannequins

Large 3D sculpture prints of mannequins in a running position

Production Time Reduced from 8 Weeks to 2 Days

With the Tractus3D printers, Hans Boodt Mannequins can create a complete 3D sculpture of a mannequin in 2 days, without having to contract to outside suppliers. By producing the sculpture prints and manufacturing in-house Hans Boodt Mannequins has more control over the final product. The team can ensure total quality control and holistically understand their product. By significantly reducing production time the pressure on them has been drastically reduced. They can now readily meet very tight deadlines. Customers that would have first to be turned away because the time frame simply did not work can now be welcomed.

The first 3D print layer of 3D printing sculptures of mannequins

Every Fashion Label’s Dream

Not only purchasing costs have been reduced, implementation time cut and quality indices improved as well. Viguurs states that ”the 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 3D sculpture / mannequin to match their clothing lines, their branding and the look they’re aiming for. Thanks to 3D printing sculptures of mannequins, we have become the dream for every creative director of a fashion label.”

Designers of Hans Boodt 3D modeling mannequins for 3D printing sculptures of mannequins

Cost Reduction

This way of working doesn’t only speed up the process; the costs are around 1/10th when compared to the traditional methods. A handmade mannequin is ten times more expensive than a 3D sculpture. By 3D printing sculptures of mannequins, the company can save costs while becoming more flexible. For many people, 3D printing is still seen as an expensive technology with expensive parts. By 3D printing sculptures in-house Hans Boodt Mannequins proves that in their application 3D printing increases flexibility, reduces lead time while saving money. The savings help offset Hans Boodt’s investments in 3D printing and are being used to make the company even more innovative.

3D printing the hands of a life size mannequin

Flexibility

Because of the in-house sculpture prints, the company controls how they are made, but also when and what changes can be made with them. Design iterations and changes are quickly done in CAD and 3D modeling tools. This means that Hans Boodt Mannequins can also more quickly respond to design changes, trends and new ideas from customers. Internally more iterations of products can be made faster and less expensively.

3D printed sculpture of a mannequin in front of a large size industrial Tractus3D printer

An Industry Redefined

By turning to Tractus3D printers, Hans Boodt Mannequins has redefined an industry. Mannequins can now be custom made for one look in a very particular color. A digital design from a fashion label can be turned into custom 3D sculpture of a mannequin. Fashion designers and the designers at Hans Boodt now have more design freedom to develop cutting-edge mannequins. With Tractus3D, Hans Boodt Mannequins is proving that creating sculpture prints in 3D can be used for large-scale manufacturing of high-end items for a very demanding industry.