Innovator Bob Tarzwell Retires From PCB Industry to Focus on New Career in Art


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Dan: I know you hold patents on new technology boards you've invented. Tell us about them.

Bob: I’ll just list them:

  • High reliability boards that could last forever
  • Heavy copper boards—I started with 10-ounce, double-sided and progressed to 20-ounce, both double-sided as well as multilayers
  • Multilevel copper PCBs with a base layer of one-ounce copper and a second level of six-ounce and a final layer of 10−15 ounce, all on the same side, all interconnected  
  • High-voltage PCB up to 40,000 volts   
  • Special high-voltage polyimide film (HVPF) layered between FR-4 to increase usable PCB voltages  
  • Movable flex contacts within a rigid PCB as a bi-stable switch
  • Impedance vias that match the PCB impedance.
  • Bendable FR-4 product used to replace flex where extreme flexibility was not required  
  • A few new inks (co-invented) such as clear dielectric, high thermal conductance as well as a silver ink
  • Dual circuit bi-stable reed switch for telephone switching 
  • Post pads technologies that I sold to companies, which was very similar to HDI but offered more reliability and higher density 

Dan: Over the years, you have picked up a lot of other interests. Can you tell us about those?

Bob: Sure, as I mentioned before, I started in electronics at 14, manufacturing tube amplifiers for local bands. In 1972, I built my own FM tube transmitter (highly illegal, no license) and started a low-power radio station at Sheridan College. Last I heard it is still running today. Fishing was always a big hobby for me, especially fly fishing for trout and fishing for huge fish in the Bahamas. I got good at it too. I owned a twin-motor 27-foot Panga for deep-sea fishing. 

car.JPGI’ve always had a passion for cars, the smaller and faster the better. I raced a Mini Cooper from 1972 through 2005. I got involved in racing so much that at one point I traveled around the country in a large RV with a trailer, racing in SCCA  and vintage road races. I won quite a few races during those summers. A few years ago, I built my own all-electric car from a VW kit car. It’s still on the road today. Right now, I’m building a Porsche 912 from scratch with all new parts that I might convert to electric. 

Dan: Bob, tell me about the resort you built in the Bahamas a few years ago.

resort.JPGBob: After living in the Bahamas for six years, I started a resort, which you have visited, Dan. I designed the buildings and made them hurricane-proof—which they were—it was proven a number of times. So, for eight years we were innkeepers. We built and lived in a huge house within the resort and enjoyed life. I took care of the resort, did some fishing and started getting involved in art. But I started having some medical issues, more specifically heart issues, and had to leave. The Bahamas is not the greatest place to live when you start having medical issues, so we sold the resort and moved back to Canada where I am now enjoying their world-class free health care. But I must say, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Bahamas, where we became part of the community. I did volunteer work at Red Cross and was a 10-year veteran of the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association as their medic. During my time with them we did more than 100 rescues. I was also the rugby team medic for many years. 

Dan: During your entire career, you have always been writing. Tell us about the technical books that you are in the process of selling on Amazon. 

Bob: Sure. The reason I am doing this interview is to announce that I will be retiring from active duty in the PCB industry. I will no longer be consulting with companies and will now be spending my time writing and selling books and creating, showing, and selling my art. I have always written and sold books to help people in the board industry and other areas of interest. Up to now I have written 42 books on a wide range of subjects, not all of them about PCB technology. I have, for example, written a book on how to build a hurricane-proof house and another on how to survive a hurricane. I have co-written the PCB 101 series of books with you, Dan. And I helped Steve Williams with his quality books and got them published. I’ve also written many books on technical topics such as high voltage, heavy copper, fine lines, flex, and all aspects of printed circuit technology. I have also ghost-written about 30 papers and books for companies.

Currently, I’m working on three novels. We’ll see if they can be edited enough to be readable. I’m not joking, I have always struggled with writing. The truth is that I am very dyslexic. I can’t spell at all. The letters in the words get all mixed up in my head. The fact that I can get any writing done at all is due to my patient wife of 44 years, Mary, who edits all my work and helps me communicate what I want to say. Without her you would not be able to read or understand my ramblings.

Dan: And now you are an artist? How did that come about?

dog_painting.JPGBob: I was never an art person. I could not draw nor did I even want to. But after my first heart attack I was unable to do much. I could not work in the garage on my cars, or do any consulting, and I got bored. That’s when I got the idea to take up painting. After the second heart attack, that and other medical problems limited my strength and my ability to walk. So, having even more time on my hands, I started carving stone. This is easier on me physically, as I can sit at my bench and chisel away.  

When I started in 2011, my first painting was not bad. So, I was encouraged enough to keep it up. And soon I was painting well enough to start selling some of my work. I even had my first art show one year after starting. Then, when I moved back to Canada, I moved to a very artsy place with many local artists.  I went to some of the galleries to sell my paintings. But they were filled with so many great paintings that they were not interested in mine at all. So, I went home, paintings under my arm, and started working on my carvings. When I went back to the galleries with these, they were very well-received. I’ve found a very prestigious gallery and the gallery owner started selling my work right away. He has since started a web page for me and is helping me to sell my work. He is handling all my wood and stone carvings. So for now, painting is on hold while I focus on my carving. I have to do it now because I know the day will come when I will not be able to handle the physical exertion it takes to work with a hammer and chisel. I have a muscle wasting disease, called IBM. My painting is just on hold and I hope to get back to it when I can no longer carve.

Dan: And so now you are back living in Canada, right?

Basra_rescue.JPGBob: That’s right, I am living in Canada, south of Georgian Bay and north of Toronto. We have a nice house with plenty of great fishing spots nearby. I have a good-sized garage to work on my carvings. As I said earlier, I have decided it is time to retire from PCB work. My health does not let me travel anymore and writing for other people does not satisfy my writing urges, so I am calling it quits. I will do my art, my carvings and my paintings. I will continue to fish and build my cars as long as I am able. I have a few unstarted novels floating around in my head to get down on paper. I will take all my PCB books and load them up to Amazon Kindle and Amazon book printing, so they can still be bought and read. But that’s about it for me. I have enjoyed my 53 years in the PCB business and I will miss most of the people I met during that long journey, but for now, if you want to get in touch with me, check the garage or the nearest fishing hole.

Dan: Our industry is going to be a little bit less interesting without you, Bob. Maybe I’ll head up your way and check out that garage of yours one of these days. So long, Bob.

Bob: Thank you, Dan.

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