Carbon3D announced earlier this month that former Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) CEO Alan Mulally has joined its board of directors effective May 29. Notably, he's the start-up 3D printing company's first independent director.

I don't usually place much stock in people joining boards -- it's considered an honor and often easy money. However, this is a different story: Mulally surely doesn't need the money, has no doubt been deluged with offers to join boards since retiring from Ford last year, and wouldn't want to tarnish his golden reputation. So, it's probably safe to say he did a good amount of due diligence before associating his name with the upstart company. 

Here's what 3D printing investors should know.

Why Alan Mulally? 

Source: Ford Motor Company via at Wikimedia Commons.

I can't think of a better choice for Carbon3D's board -- or the board of any 3D printing company that has big ambitions -- than Alan Mulally. His background and expertise -- and let's not forget the ever-important connections -- are a perfect fit for Carbon3D as it gears up to compete with industry leaders 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) when it releases its first commercial product in 2016. Deep-pocketed tech giant Hewlett-Packard also plans next year to enter the increasingly competitive 3D printing arena with an enterprise-focused 3D printer based on its Multi Jet Fusion technology. 

The automotive and aerospace industries were two of the earliest industrial adopters of 3D printing for prototyping, and remain among the top industrial users of the disruptive technology for prototyping and production of final parts. More important, however, both industries continue to explore additional ways to use 3D printing technology.

Mulally's auto expertise is top-notch, given his tenure as Ford's president and CEO from September 2006 to July 2014. He's widely credited with the automaker's turnaround, returning it to profitability after it had been mired in red ink during the late-2000s recession. Notably, Ford was the only major American automaker that didn't take a government bailout. That earned it -- and Mulally -- a lot of respect.

It often flies under most people's radar, however, that Mulally also has significant aerospace chops. He was executive vice president of Boeing and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes when Ford came a-courtin' in 2006. In fact, Mulally had until then spent his entire career at the now-$99-billion-market-cap aerospace and defense giant. He was hired as an engineer by Boeing after earning a bachelor's and master's degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Kansas. Among other notable accomplishments, Mulally spearheaded the development of the hugely successful Boeing 777.

Carbon3D in a snapshot 

Source: Carbon3D.

Carbon3D is a start-up that made a splash in the tech world in March when co-founder and CEO Joseph DeSimone unveiled and demonstrated the company's seemingly game-changing 3D printing technology Continuous Liquid Interface Production, or CLIP, at the TED 2015 conference.

CLIP harnesses UV light and oxygen to "grow" polymer parts continuously at speeds 25 to 100 times faster than the leading 3D printing technologies, according to independent tests commissioned by Carbon3D. While we can't be certain of the accuracy of these numbers, DeSimone's live demonstration left no doubt that CLIP is super-fast, at least when it comes to printing certain objects. Additionally, CLIP can reportedly produce objects that have smoother surface finishes than conventionally 3D-printed parts and structural integrity on par with injection-molded objects.

CLIP is generating significant buzz for its potential to disrupt the manufacturing sector. That's because speed, surface quality, structural integrity, and materials capabilities are the key hurdles that have been holding 3D printing back from moving beyond prototyping and select, short-run production applications into a greater array of manufacturing uses.

Final thoughts 
Snagging Mulally as the first independent director for its board is a coup for Carbon3D. His expertise, connections, and personal qualities should at a minimum provide Carbon3D with an entrée into the doors of the production and engineering heads of top automotive and aerospace companies to demonstrate what CLIP can do for their particular operations.

In short, if the world of 3D printing board members and potential members were a roadway full of muscle cars and pickup trucks, Mulally would be the Mustang and an F-Series pickup, respectively: top quality. (Sorry, General Motors fans, I'm partial, having grown up in a classic Mustang-owning family.)