We were lucky enough to get an glimpse inside the Impossible Factory in Enschede a couple of weeks ago! With way too much on my plate right now I didn’t find a chance to post this until now.
Setting off at 4am from London we first flew over to Bremen, from where my friend Oliver was kind enough to drive us 200km over the border to Holland. Thanks, Oliver!
What can I say – it was a blast! All our questions about Impossible material were answered, we were shown how it’s made and how it all came to be. We had an amazing chat with Andre Bosman who took literally hours being the perfect host and tell us everything us fans wanted to know (he’s also CEO and Co-Founder of the company).
Thousand thanks go to the entire Impossible Team who made us coffee and nibbles so we felt right at home. Let me show you some pictures mere mortals (and Polaroid enthusiasts) can only dream of: let me take you Inside the Impossible.
When we arrived at about lunchtime the huge factory grounds seemed deserted apart from two men having a cigarette. They pointed us into the direction of a small door at the bottom of a very large 4 story building with very colorful Impossible flags on top waving in the wind. Several recessed lorry loading bays remind us how busy this place would have once been at the height of Polaroid production.
Past the tiny Factory Outlet store we make our way to the forth floor where refreshments are waiting. Plenty of people are already here, most of us have a Polaroid camera of some kind with us. We’re in good company!
Today it’s the canteen, but back in the heydays this was where engineers made machines to create the machines that make Polaroid film packs. An amazing thought – it reminds me of my apprentice days in a film lab in Berlin where we had a department like that.
Years ago, the Enschede plant was designed to create and package Polaroid Integral film (600 and 1200 film packs). “The Americans thought Dutch people are stupid, so they gave us stupid work” Kees recalls. He’s our tour guide for the day and has been working at the plant for several decades. We love him immediately: honest, speaks three languages without a hin of an accent and knows the products they make inside out.
Back then, Polaroid in the US would ship over huge rolls of light sensitive material which then gets cut up into instant pictures. Enschede then attached the pods with activation paste, package the film packs, and send them out all over Europe. 270 million film packs per year. That’s why the size of the whole area is as big as it seems.
Today however there’s muhc more to this job: since Impossible has started 3 years ago they had to start from scratch. The chemicals Polaroid used for their process are still under patent so they can’t be copied. Even if that was not the case, it would take 18 months for some components to be ready for the first test. From a business point of view this would be too long for product launch so that was not an option.
I’m surprised to see Andre Bosman setting up the TV and an give introductory chat. I’ve read so much about the man that I can’t believe he has the time to talk to a group of people nerdy enough to visit the factory – and I told him that too! In our society we’ve come to experience that people in charge never interact with the people who buy their products. It’s different at Impossible. Nice touch 😉
Andre tells us how Impossible started, literally 3 days before their 3rd birthday: the challenges, the suppliers, what was then and what is now. It’s fascinating to hear. The spirit and determination to make it happen, to keep going and to do all this against all odds is incredibly inspiring.
Without further ado we split into three groups and set foot into The Impossible Factory.