Dr Jordan Brandt plays the role of futurist, working on things like the World's first 3D printed car, Autodesk's open source framework and their 3D printer. In an exclusive interview with Krishna Bahirwani, Dr Brandt, Manufacturing Technology Futurist, Autodesk, reveals his journey to becoming one of the most established figures in the 3D Printing world
Tell me about your journey from Horizontal Systems to Autodesk.
Obviously it's a big change going from a startup to a large company, but the amazing part was that we were able to tap into such broad resources and deep expertise. With such a focus on products and technology, we often forget about how many brilliant people there are behind the scenes making it all happen. On a personal level it allowed me the freedom to investigate other areas of research that I didn't previously have time to do, which is what brought me into the current futurist role.
You have experience in diverse fields ranging from architecture and aerospace engineering to cloud computing, was this your intended career path or is this something that happened organically along the way?
I wish I could say that it was part of a grand strategy, but it was really just a result of following passions and opportunity. There were many great mentors, friends and colleagues over the years that influenced my direction. Regardless of the domain, the common theme for me has always been designing and making stuff, whether it's building a business or a mobile factory. I've never been a firm believer in industry verticals, and technology is accelerating a convergence across engineering disciplines.
If you had to hand out one life lesson to those starting out in technology, what would it be?
Creativity and passion are your best assets. Use them purposefully.
Tell me about your work in 3D Printing?
3D printing is an increasingly broad domain; my near term focus is in additive, or augmented, manufacturing in which 3D printing complements existing digital processes. Injection molding, composites fabrication and casting are all being revolutionized right now and the opportunities really seem endless. Too often we idealize the Star Trek replicator and forget how the technology is transforming industry today.
What can this maker movement that seems to picking up pace, mean for India?
I can't think of a place better suited to be revolutionized through makers than India. I've only spent a week in Mumbai, but the resourcefulness and creative solutions that I see in the streets is amazing. This morning we did a tour through Dharavi that demonstrated the power of natural born makers. Those slums are really a network of micro factories; clothing, aluminum, pottery and plastics all being manufactured and recycled right in the heart of the city. In particular I think there is great opportunity to manufacture 3D printed goods in Dharavi. Instead of exporting recycled plastics as a commodity, we should empower them with the tech to produce valued added products to be consumed locally here in Mumbai. What could that do for their micro-economy?
What is distributed manufacturing and why do you believe it is important?
There is a strong analogy to be found in telecommunications right here in India. Instead of investing in landlines and massive infrastructure to connect rural areas, you have successfully 'leapfrogged' into mobile technology. Similarly, the cost of capital to manufacture products is dropping precipitously. Instead of centralized factories, massive ports and transportation networks, the trend will be towards smaller, distributed digital factories located much closer to the point of demand. This creates a more resilient and agile production capacity that can respond to local needs and increases transportation efficiency up to 2,000% by shipping raw material versus packaged products. In the end, people will get products designed specifically for their need using far less energy.