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When the niece of healthcare worker Marije Van Der Windt was pregnant, she and her designer partner Katja Van Groningen had an idea: to scan her niece’s body with Artec Eva. They shared the result, and the idea took off from there.
Statues come in sizes ranging from 15 to 20 centimeters. (Photo courtesy of Bellyprint)
“So many people who saw it loved the idea,” Groningen says. And so the pair embarked on a new business venture – digitizing pregnancy with 3D scanning, and the subsequent fashioning of a statue for women to hold onto. When the business was first launched in 2016, they had about three customers a month. Today, they’re visited by about five to seven women every day and have made almost 2000 statues of pregnant women during their third trimester. Their marketing method is mostly word-of-mouth and Instagram, though the patronage of a famous Dutch singer certainly helped spread the word around.
Before Bellyprint became their passion, the two women were already accustomed to using Artec 3D scanners in their business ventures. They first acquired an Artec Eva scanner for scanning wheelchair-bound people, creating a size chart, and designing clothes for this market.
A lightning-fast 3D scanner for professionals, Eva is also the most popular among Artec scanners. Ideal for medium-sized objects – in this case, the better part of a human body – Eva is a structured-light scanner, which makes it entirely safe to use with people, while providing accurate scans in high resolution. From art conservation and recreation to the digitizing of ancient artifacts and customizing parts for planes or cars, Eva provides an all-around solution for capturing virtually any surface.
Women are scanned later in their pregnancy to fully capture the changes in their bodies. (Photo from @Bellyprint on Instagram)
What you may also notice is that the statues are made without heads. This is a combination of two things: a stylized throwback to classic statues like the headless statues you can see in ancient Greek or Roman art, along with a measure of privacy. “We wanted to make it a little more anonymous,” Groningen says. “By removing the head, our customers are able to be less self-conscious, and allow themselves to be more personal.”
Now, a combination of Eva and Artec Studio are used exclusively for the creation of statues ranging from 15 to 20 centimeters, plastic to metal, with or without hands, and priced from around 200 to 400 euros per statue. The data is processed primarily with Artec Studio, though in the event that the head is also printed, software specializing in triangle meshes, MeshMixer, is sometimes used for sculpting details such as hair. Following this, the processed data is sent to the 3D printing company Ultimaker. From scan to statue, the simplest version of these figurines can be completed within two to four weeks, whereas a larger, bronze statue – which the women who run Bellyprint personally polish themselves – can take up to 12 weeks, factoring in a longer process of metal coating which is applied on top of 3D printing, and delivery.
The statues can be made with or without arms, and in various poses. (Photo by Bellyprint)
Without the use of 3D scanning, the pair says that their business model simply wouldn’t exist. “It wouldn’t be possible, and not for this price,” Groningen says. But while their idea is all their own, they’ve seen their share of copycats – “Our biggest challenge is that you can’t protect an idea.”
But what makes Bellyprint stand out, she adds, is their business ethos. “We have a combination of backgrounds in healthcare and fashion design,” Groningen says, adding that this gives them a unique and expert perspective on the human body – especially when it comes to pregnant women. “You can see the difference in our work compared to those of others.”
And it isn’t merely a statue that their customers walk away with, but an experience they can treasure for years to come. Some women have even returned to have statues made during their second or third pregnancies. “When women come to us, we need to build trust – they know what’s happening, they know it’s going to be intimate,” Groningen says. “You don’t just talk about the weather when you’re taking off your clothes and are about to be scanned!” she laughs.
Joni, who was scanned while 34 weeks pregnant with her first child, says that having a statue which she can now display in her living room is something she treasures. “I really wanted to preserve this moment in my life,” she says. “I think I'm going to miss my belly once the baby is delivered, and this is a beautiful way to keep a memory of this time.”
For Joni, the process itself was special. “I was really surprised that making the scan was so quick, and what was captured was much more beautiful than I expected,” she describes. And the beauty goes well beyond the scanning, too. “This is a life lesson for me, that I am beautiful, I shouldn't be so hard on myself,” she adds. “I'm so proud of my body, the way it looks and the wonder of what's growing in me.”
Els Rappard-Oostland of Artec Ambassador 4C agrees that Bellyprint is something different. “What is so special about Bellyprint is that they were our own first client with the idea to build a business around pregnant women,” she says.
“It is fantastic for pregnant women that they have a 3D statue of their pregnant belly, and what’s just as great is that they have a tangible memory to keep, and to show to their child later on.”
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