Interview with Steve Hoover – CEO of Impossible Objects
Steve, we understand that you have been the CEO of Impossible Objects since June 2022. How have you settled in? What is your background and experience that has gotten you to where you are today?
What are you most proud of during your time at Impossible Objects so far? As the CEO and leader, what do you see in the company’s future? What is your growth strategy?
I am incredibly proud of the growth we have achieved in the Electronics Tooling market. When I came onboard, the team had identified this as a great application for our 3D printing technology because of our material properties – high temperature and chemical resistance coupled with high strength and lightweight large parts. When I saw how well the technology matched the application, I accelerated and intensified our focus on and investment in this opportunity. As a result, today we have a rapidly growing business in this application and are making a real difference for our customers. I am incredibly proud of our team and what they have accomplished.
For readers who may be unfamiliar with Impossible Objects, can you please tell us about the company? What need was there in the industry that caused the company to originally be founded? How has it grown and evolved over the years?
At its core, Impossible Objects is an additive manufacturing company that leverages material science to build both 3D printers that are faster than the competition as well as 3D printed parts that are stronger and lighter and are suitable for a variety of industrial applications. Founded by Bob Swartz and located in Northbrook, IL, Impossible Objects has built a revolutionary 3D printing technology, Composite-Based Additive Manufacturing (CBAM.) Our technology is faster and more capable than anything that exists on the market. The two primary barriers to full-scale additive manufacturing adoption have been the material quality and painfully slow processes. Our CBAM technology addresses both and the advancements made in recent years proves that we have an opportunity to go well beyond 3D printing and begin to rival conventional manufacturing.
Can you explain a little about your CBAM technology and why it is so different from conventional additive manufacturing?
CBAM is unlike any other 3D printing technology. The process itself is inherently different than the material extrusion, sintering, jetting, or other processes available on the market. By combining long-fiber fabrics (vs. short or chopped fiber) of carbon with high-performance thermoplastic matrix materials, such as PEEK, we are capable of building parts with improved functionality. We’ve seen significant advantages vs. the competition with better static dissipative properties, chemical resistance, and overall strength. Furthermore, the technology itself can 3D print parts much faster (10–15X), which enables us to expand past prototyping and enter volume production capabilities. Something 3D printing has promised for years but never quite delivered on.
We also understand that your new solder pallets have won numerous industry awards. Can you tell our readers about them and why they are unique?
These awards represent our commitment to the electronic tooling market and are unique because of the value we are providing to our customers every day. 3D printing is not a commonly used technology in solder pallet design/production so we consider ourselves pioneers. Typically, it’s a major challenge to break into a new industry; however, our experience has been very, very positive.
Impossible Objects is known for valuing its people, performance and technology. How does this focus help the company be successful? How does this mindset play into your growth strategy?
We wouldn’t be where we are today without the commitment and dedication that our people pour into this business daily. From engineering to customer service, our goal is to embrace a high level of excellence in every department. Because of this shared vision amongst our employees, it’s easy to see how proud and determined our team is to deliver high–quality results on the engineering floor and on behalf of our customers.
Our strategy is simple: happy customers. When the team understands the mission, it’s easier to drive action and keep ourselves accountable. Are we doing our best to satisfy our customers? Have we been thoughtful in our product design? What challenges can we proactively solve, and what can we do to become a partner, not just a supplier.
What strengths does Impossible Objects provide to customers that make the company stand out from competition?
Our technology benefits, such as speed and performance, are clear differentiators that enable us to solve problems for our customers faster and more efficiently. However, it’s more than that. We genuinely care about our clients, and I personally believe that our intimate, customer-first approach makes it easy to do business with us and allows us to truly build long lasting relationships. Their success is our success.
In your opinion, what are the most significant ways that the global COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way we do business today? How will Impossible Objects continue adapting to this “new normal,” and what potential benefits could this bring to your customer base?
COVID-19 upended our way of living and exposed many weak spots in the supply chain. Domestically and internationally, we felt the pain and are still not out of the woods. By offering an on-demand manufacturing solution that is agile and easy to use, we position ourselves as a strong alternative to the status quo. Either manufacturers will hunker down to weather the storm or invest in new technologies that will help them navigate the “new normal.” I wish we could be the silver bullet solution for everyone (we’re not), but I can confidently say that our goal is to learn with our customers, collaborate, and make meaningful strides in the right direction.
What would you like our readers in the electronics manufacturing industry to most know about Impossible Objects?
We want to collaborate. As newcomers in this industry, we are constantly learning and adapting on behalf of our customers. We invite you to join us on this journey, bring your ideas, or open the door to listen to ours. You are the experts in your field so help us to help you. There is no project too big or too small, challenge us to solve your problem and let’s change the way we make things.