The interview with EADS on BBC's Breakfast programme yesterday, with the full Airbike demo, had me instantly reaching for my phone to tweet. Got the company Chief Exec's name wrong as well — just to clear that one up, it is Robin Southwell not Robert Southwell. Sorry Robin. The TV was on in the background as I was trying to get the offspring off to school, and no amount of 'shushing' and 'be quiets' could mute said offspring long enough for me to get the full interview and unfortunately the news is not available on BBC iplayer.
However, I got the gist and have reread much of the content many times over in the EADS press release that has appeared all over the place today. Many great positives to draw from it but plenty of things to hum and ha about too.
By far the most favourable outcomes of the Airbike coverage on the BBC was the great UK-based publicity for additive manufacturing (AM), from an inspirational brand, with an eye-catching demo piece, that will appeal to the masses — despite the wobble as the BBC presenter cycled across the studio at the end of the slot.
Other elements of the interview got me twitching though, and pulling faces that my six year old would be proud of. EADS is a huge global organisation, of which Airbus in Bristol is one part, and its corporate politics — which I have witnessed first hand — are staggeringly bureaucratic. I can see the logic for putting the Chief Executive in front of the cameras from a corporate point of view, but I don't think it achieved the best results. It was obvious to me that Mr Southwell had been primed, but it was also clear that he did not really understand additive technology or the industry that has sprung up around it. Don't get me wrong — EADS are doing great things with AM, seriously great actually. But it is not the only company doing it, and the way it was promoted as "new technology in the UK" was misleading at best. EADS is pushing the boundaries of AM technologies — particularly laser sintering and direct metal laser sintering — in terms of capabilities and materials development, which gives them ownership rights to some excellent applications, but not this sort of claim to the technology itself.
There was also some naivete demonstrated on the potential of the technologies, with it being vaunted that this technology will be in shops and homes within 10 years. This is nothing new, but you know when you just get that sinking feeling, not to mention a headache, because you have been banging your head against the same wall for so long!
And on to the ripple effect of publicity that has gone live today with many media platforms picking up on the story and publishing it all over the web. The likes of BIKEmagic and Popular Science, that may not have been confronted with AM before, can be forgiven for relaying the PR copy verbatim, but there are some that really should know better!! Eureka and The Engineer regularly report on AM and 3D printing, and therefore have the know-how and the editorial staff to correctly position the information with which they are provided.
However, the old addage that, "there is no such thing as bad publicity" will hopefully be true here, and the results will be all good. I hope so.