Today’s episode is a conversation with Bob Swartz, the founder and chairman of Impossible Objects. Although that title does a disservice to his resume. He literally grew up in in the manufacturing business, watching his father figure out how to design and build things; he’s been a consultant to the MIT Media lab, he’s got several patents, which he’s licensed to major corporations … through his own patent licensing company; he’s founded and operated software companies, advertising companies, telephony companies; he is a true polymath. He’s also something of a philosopher, which makes for a wonderful conversation.
As for Bob's current company, Impossible Objects, It uses a composite based additive manufacturing process - CBAM - which yields superior material properties. Like the other additive manufacturing companies we interview for this miniseries, Impossible Objects is aimed for the big boy manufacturing market – some of the users they brag about include Ford and the US Air Force. But this conversation with Bob is about much more than their customers, its about technological change, psychological lock in, economic ripple effects of new technologies, and more. AND, outside of a fantastic and fanstastical scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, this conversation has my favorite use of Marshal McLuhan to make a point. :)
If you haven’t already done so, you may want to check out episode 1 with Ben Redwood of 3DHubs, both to help you understand some of the technical terms used in this conversation – Ben goes through many of the different technologies that make up the current universe of 3D printing, and to get the URLs for some free material about 3DPrinting, created by 3DHubs. Ben also talks about the industry at large, which may give you some useful context.
One last thing – immediately after the conversation with Bob, we’ve got a quick update from Ricky Buch, so stick around for Ricky's Reports from the Edge.