Executive Fishing

Carl Bass, Former CEO of Autodesk, Joins Formlabs Board of Directors

Formlabs

Hot on the heels of introducing new technologies and machines to its lineup, Formlabs announces a valuable addition to its board.

For such a relatively young company, you can’t begrudge Formlabs for the multinational venture it has grown into.

Competent and accessible technology has driven their expansion, from beginnings as a successful US-based Kickstarter campaign back in 2011, to expanding into Europe with a Berlin office. Not to mention snagging distribution expertise in the form of iGo3D co-founder Michael Sorkin, who now manages European operations.

As a startup however, it could be argued that Formlabs was lacking a little in industry experience. Especially with competition from the likes of Carbon, pushing out innovations like its CLIP printing eating into Formlabs’ corner of the market.

The appointment of Carl Bass to Formlabs’ board as an Independent Director could be an assured step toward shoring up Formlabs’ defenses.

Formlabs recent focus on specialist dental resins indicates a move toward small, high accuracy industries

What Will Carl Bass Do For Formlabs

Bass is no stranger to 3D printing, 3D modeling and software solutions. During the last 11 years as President and CEO at Autodesk (in addition to numerous other positions), he oversaw the company’s rapid expansion from mainly CAD-based products, to 3D, pioneering BIM and other branches of design.

This came to an abrupt end in February, with financial performance and Autodesk’s shift to an unproven subscription model thought to be the reasons.

However with a background in software development and innovation, it’s inevitable that this is where we will see Bass’ influence at Formlabs. To date he retains roots at Autodesk, serving on the company’s board of Directors and acting as special adviser. So, we expect to see deeper integration between the two companies, almost certainly in the form of software solutions.

And further digging would appear to confirm this. Indeed back in 2016 that Formlabs got $35 million in Series B funding from Autodesk (and Foundry Group). This investment came with the announcement of collaborative efforts between the two companies.

Speaking of his new position with Formlabs, Bass said:

“In just a few years, Formlabs has become the leader in professional 3D printing. Formlabs is poised to continue upending the industry, and I’m excited to join its journey in improving digital design and manufacturing for product designers everywhere.”

autodesk ember
The Ember: Autodesk’s attempt to create and open-source DLP 3D printer and ecosystem

A Two Way Street?

Under Bass’ stewardship, Autodesk tried its hand at the 3D printing biz in a rather altruistic way. The company created Spark, an open-source cloud-based 3D printing platform chock full of open APIs for all stages of the design-to-print process. It was a good idea, that sadly only lasted two years.

As a reference machine to showcase Spark, Autodesk created Ember, an open-source DLP printer. It flopped (though you can still download the files to make your own).

Autodesk’s lone foray in resin-based printers was a non-starter. So it’s interesting that Formlabs should be the focus point of an as-yet unspecified collaboration. Could we be seeing Autodesk software with baked in Form 2 (or even Fuse) operability?

Or perhaps the revival of a Spark-like platform? Formlab’s machines may be closed-source, but the company has shown receptivity to open-source in the past. Take the now-discontinued Form1+ for example, which was unbounded by Formlab’s OpenFL project. This opening of the API to users allowed them to hack the machine to perform new tasks.

Of course this is just speculation. We don’t know for sure what will happen, just that something will happen. And Carl Bass could be the one to kick it all off.

The Formlabs Form 2 Ecosystem