Meet ANDI, the world’s sweatiest mannequin. Although it might look like a workshop stalwart from afar, a closer look reveals bundles of cables and pipes hidden beneath its shell. It is wired with sensors, connected to a liquid supply and fitted with up to 150 individual pores that open when heated.
It sounds gross, but it’s all by design: ANDI is a very sophisticated mannequin that walks and, yes, sweats, and is part of a range of body-analog mannequins developed by a Seattle-based firm. Thermometry. It recently made headlines (at least in dummy circles) because researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) are using an ANDI model to study how the human body reacts to extreme heat.
The year 2023 was the hottest since records beganAnd as the world warms, clothing designers, automakers and the military are among the groups scrambling to develop fit-for-purpose technology, whether it’s more breathable textiles or new cooling solutions. “There are people everywhere and there are billions of dollars in capital trying to figure out how to keep people safe, comfortable and fashionable, and all of those things have a link to the human thermal environment,” says Rick Burke, president and engineering manager. of Thermetrics, who has been with the company for 33 of its 35 years.
The easiest way to test that equipment would be to put a human on it and ask them how it feels, but that has its drawbacks too. “Human test subjects are very expensive and very subjective,” says Burke. (And they don’t like being set on fire.)
So, starting in the 1940s, the U.S. military began building the first thermal mannequins: human-shaped heaters to test clothing for soldiers. Let’s say the military is sending soldiers to a cold place and they need to know how many layers to send with each soldier. “If clothing can be optimized for the specific deployment environment, the lower costs and safer soldiers clearly justify the investment in testing,” Burke says.
The technology evolved in the 1980s and 1990s when sportswear manufacturers began using it to test new products, while adding more individual heating zones to mannequins added more realism. Recent developments include ANDI’s internal cooling and modified sweating function, which can be combined with a computer simulation of human physiology to mimic the body’s attempt to warm up and cool down. “Our mannequins are just a shell. They don’t have meat,” Burke says. “But we have a virtual simulation of the meat.”