Rapid Prototyping a Clothing Rack


3D printing and rapid prototyping as technologies have been making waves in many different industries such as medical, automotive, aerospace and various manufacturing firms. However, some rather unusual uses for them has made the headlines too. Fashion, a dynamic industry in itself, can easily be called one of those sectors where rapid prototyping has created a stir. With the flexibility in customization that rapid prototyping and 3D printing provide, there is a whole lot that the fashion industry can take by adapting to these technologies. For one, every model and every client can have fashion outfits and accessories fitted to their measurements, as well as their requirements in design level. The world of fashion is ever changing, and rapid prototyping can be the way to go for the fashion industry to keep up with this change. Many dresses are being 3D printed and displayed on the ramp, some of them are Kickstarter projects that need funding. Fashion accessories like jewelry are being directly 3D printed even at home based printers. In this way, the fashion sector can easily benefit from what the world of rapid prototyping offers and advance with its own creative flair.


The Style Idea

Loopcollective has recently made it to the news by creating a sculptural steel clothing rack with rapid prototyping for a fashion store. For this purpose, this Sydney based design studio teamed up with Alquema, an Australian fashion label in order to install and manufacture a custom designed clothing rack made out of steel. This steel clothing rack was to be installed in the new flagship store of Alquema. Created using rapid prototyping, 3D modeling software and finally a sophisticated 3D printer, the clothing rack turned out to be a breathtaking and radial structure. This is now the central design feature of this Australian brand’s all new 75 square meter showroom space.


Structural Impossibility?

After they made the move to their new location in the Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, Alquema sought help from reputed design studio Loopcollective for a unique twist to their retail environment. The Founding Director of Alquema, Virginia Rouse is well known for her love of minimalistic, elegant and gallery-like spaces. Her design influence goes into the minimalistic approach of Japanese lifestyle and design. Following this philosophy of the fashion house and Loopcollective’s philosophy of looking for new technology and materials, a steel rack was designed. The director of Loopcollective Rod Faucheux envisioned a sculptural style steel rack which initially seemed impossible to construct structurally. However, thanks to rapid prototyping, this very complex and edgy structure were brought to life and are now displayed elegantly at the flagship store.

Faucheux said that no fewer than five different builders told the company that what they had conceptualized could never be built for real. Instead of becoming demoralized, these incidents only encouraged them to push forward and find a place that could actually help them to realize their unusual, unconventional new design.


Rapid Prototyping to the Rescue

This is where Loopcollective considered using rapid prototyping solutions to create their steel rack. For this, a local 3D company 3D Printing Studios was up for the challenge. They first began creating the design model using the Autodesk 3DS Max software, then moving on to creating the initial 3D renders. After the initial design was approved by Alquema, the team at Loopcollective sent the model over to rapid prototyping experts over at 3D Printing Studios. They then printed out a 3D model made of nylon. Faucheux believed that this model was the main factor that allowed the builder and the customer to understand what the team’s vision really was.


Finishing Touches

After Loopcollective was provided with the initial 3DS Max model, the company broke down this unique shape into fifteen smaller segments. These could then be optimized for the pipe bending machine of the subcontractor- SG Shopfitting. This company prepared a full sized prototype model of the steel rack on the floor of the factory. At that point, the structure was ready for production after some minor adjustments were made.

After the steel rack was finally produced, the frame of it was delivered to the fashion label’s store in the Queen Victoria Building. This was done in four pieces which were then welded together on-site and was secured tightly to the floor using some hidden base plates.

Both the companies Loopcollective and Alquema are immensely proud of what they could accomplish. Faucheux states that the end product turned out exactly like they had envisioned in the early stages of design. The director of Loopcollective was so happy that he even had a miniature steel version constructed and polished by the builders that he could store as a memento. This is a stainless steel made version fit as a desktop souvenir.

Even though this Australian design firm has worked with rapid prototyping and 3D printing projects many times in the past, this one of kind clothes rack stands as one of Loopcollective’s most edgy and daring projects of all time in the world of retail. The piece can be considered a bold statement for the fashion industry as it marries design and functionality through rapid prototyping.


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