Alan Adler didn't set out to create some iconic products.
To begin with, the engineer and inventor was interested in sailboats, but learning about what made a good sailboat led him to study aerodynamics, which then led him to think about how to make a better flying disc that could fly straight and level.
In a six-minute video by David Friedman making its rounds on the Internet via Vimeo, Adler talks about how he came to create the Aerobie flying disc — a polycarbonate ring with a rubber “spoiler” lip — that he notes has been thrown for a Guinness World Record 1,333 feet.
Then in 2005, frustrated by coffee makers that made entire pots of coffee when he wanted only one cup, he created the AeroPress coffee maker, which has gone on to be used around the world.
While the video doesn't get into the specifics of manufacturing, Adler also has invested in that, noting that he was frustrated when the company making another flying product of his, the Skyro, wasn't manufacturing it to the standards he thought it needed.
“When Alan invented the groundbreaking Aerobie flying ring, his wife Irene suggested that he start his own company in order to manufacture and sell his new invention just the way he wanted. So in 1984, the inventor and Stanford University engineering instructor founded Superflight Inc. to do just that. Then in 2005 he changed the company name to Aerobie Inc. after recognizing that millions of people knew the company by its Aerobie brand,” his Palo Alto, Calif.-based company notes on its website.
Aerobie makes all but two of its products (it also sells boomerangs, dog toys and yo-yos), and breaks down its material choices for its items on the website, with polyurethane, PC, thermoplastic elastomer and foams all used.
Aerobie even provides a history of the materials used in the AeroPress, from PC to copolyester to today's polypropylene.
“This may seem like a lot of changes but our goal has always been to manufacture the AeroPress using the best materials we can find. These changes reflect our ongoing effort to do just that,” the company says.
And if you're not convinced yet that Adler is a guy you'd like to have coffee with (he says he starts every morning with a latte), consider this: Every spring, he teaches a course on inventing to seventh graders at Egan School in his hometown of Los Altos, Calif., spending a month with them to develop ideas, posters and models.
“Some of the most enjoyable periods of my life have been spent learning about the science behind my ideas,” Adler writes in a company blog. “This was especially true when that science was new to me and outside of my present skills. Learning which is motivated by a desire or need is exciting and enjoyable. It is not work.
“The beauty of this is that even if your invention doesn't pan out, you've had the joy of learning new science.”