Mannequins have been used for hundreds of years by artists, tailors, dressmakers, window dressers and creatives to display and fit clothing. Whilst many mannequins today are mass-produced in factories, the expensive ones are unique, made by hand by a sculptor who is an expert in human form.
The traditional way to make a mannequin prototype is with clay. A sculptor will study a human subject, or a suitable physical model, and replicate what they see in clay. This is the case with high-end handmade prototypes. Prototypes made in the factory are often clones, made from cardboard-mâché which is layered into a mould and then baked solid. They are then finished with linen.
In either case, making mannequins is an expensive business and producing high-quality prototypes takes weeks at a time. It can take up to 8 weeks from design to prototype, so there are massive potential savings to be made by reducing this.
A customer of Builder 3D printers, who are a well-known manufacturer of mannequins for luxury boutiques in Amsterdam, London, Paris and New York, has done just that with 3D printing. With the help of the Builder Extreme 1500, they are able to manufacture prototypes in just a few days from design to production.
The Builder Extreme 1500 is a large-format 3D printer with an enclosed, heated build chamber. It has a build volume of 1100 x 500 x 820 mm (XYZ) and can print PET, PLA, PVA support material, flexible filament and special filaments. It has a dual-feed extruder and can print at 10 – 80 mm/s. The surface quality of printed models is excellent – as you can see in the video below.
They mainly use 3D printing to make prototypes, but they have also moved onto small-series production for select mannequin models. These are for smaller boutiques who only need one or two of the same mannequin or slight variations across models. Because the design team are able to make mannequins within a day or two, small series production with 3D printing has become a good selling point for them.
Here’s a video of a mannequin being 3D printed:
That particular mannequin is a 1:1 scale model, printed with a 0.4mm nozzle at a layer height of 0.2mm with the Builder Extreme 1500. The torso section of the mannequin was printed in one piece, with the arms and legs printed separately. This enabled the team to print without support material and speed up the post-processing time.
Although some traditionalists might say the making of mannequins is an art form, the use of 3D printing does not detract from that. The process is still a mesmerising one and making prototypes by hand still has its place in the industry. 3D printing is, however, a useful tool for speeding up the design cycle and getting products made faster. No other production method offers this level of design freedom, or as high-quality results.
3D printer: Builder Extreme 1500.
This story was first published by Builder 3D. If you it, you can find more like it at our art and fashion page.