BluGlass Limited (ASX:BLG) President Jim Haden discusses shipping an alpha product to a customer, and the development roadmap for the company.
Melissa Darmawan: Thanks for tuning in to Finance News. I’m Melissa Darmawan. Here to talk to us today is the President of BluGlass (ASX:BLG), Jim Haden. Jim, nice to see you in the studio.
Jim Haden: Thank you, Mel. It’s nice to see you too.
Melissa Darmawan: Congratulations on your first alpha products being shipped to a customer. Can you talk us through the significance of that and also explain to our viewers what an alpha product is?
Jim Haden: An alpha product is a stage in development where you are changing the design of the product to meet the specifications that you’ve generated by looking at, talking to customers, and so forth, saying, “This is what they need, and this is what we can build.” Now we’re doing design iterations, changing things, and seeing how closely we can get to what we learned from the market. In this case, the significance is that we’ve made advancements in that that we showed in San Francisco at Photonics West and Laser Munich in Germany. The customers were very excited about it, and not just excitement that, “Oh yeah, that’s nice.” They wanted to buy it. So it’s sort of validation of the advances that we’ve made toward the market research that we did.
Melissa Darmawan: Can you talk us through why this is a critical commercial milestone and what this means for the development road map?
Jim Haden: The reason this is important is that, when we look at the lasers and test them ourselves, we get a certain type of information. When we work with contract manufacturers and get into package, we get feedback from them. But this now, these alpha products that are in the hands of customers are going to be in real-world applications, and they’re going to test them the way they will be in their products, and that’s something that’s not available to us without customer sampling.
Melissa Darmawan: Now that the first alpha product has been shipped, can you talk us through if there are any other customers that are also interested in this, and if so, what is driving the customer engagement?
Jim Haden: Yeah, there are other customers that have indicated they want these parts at this early stage. They want to try them in their engineering work as well. And so where we’re seeing the drive is a couple of things. First off, the big players sometimes just ignore these small, innovative startups that are really trying to drive advances in the industry. Secondly, when they don’t ignore them, it’s an inconsistent supply. We’re being told that they’ll produce a laser at a certain wavelength by accident and then ship them that laser, but they’re not intending to do it. But we are intentionally giving the customers what they need.
Melissa Darmawan: Let’s bring this to life. What applications and end technologies are these products being designed for?
Jim Haden: There’s exciting applications. There’s sensing, where you could sense different components in blood and so forth. There’s material processings. The blue lasers are great interaction with materials, such as copper and so forth. And then one we really like is quantum computing, which could help in LiDAR and so forth. You know, automated vehicles, making sure that you get better accuracy.
Melissa Darmawan: Nine months ago, we had our first interview as a result of you being appointed as President. What have you brought to the company that has changed the trajectory of BluGlass?
Jim Haden: I think that there’s a few things. So what we are doing is we have a litmus test for things now. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? And is it all about lasers? So, we’re getting focused. Our goals are aligned to making lasers. If we can’t say it’s going to help us make lasers, we question why are we doing it? So that’s one thing.
Another thing is, with the experience I bring to the team and my network, I was able to find the wafer fab, which is really fundamental to us because it does two things. It brings us performance capability that we didn’t have with CMs, but more importantly, it brings us faster cycle times, so we could learn things faster. When we’re learning faster, we’re going to make better lasers faster. And that’s really key.
James and the board, James has added Jean-Michel to the board, which brings also industrial talent. And I think the team is functioning very well. They’ve made me feel very comfortable at the company.
And then another thing with the Silicon Valley acquisition, we are getting access to fabulous talent that’s available in California. We’ve got people now joining the team from UCSB. I’ve got my friend and colleague, Steve Dunbar, from UCSB calling me up with ideas, and it’s just a collaborative environment there.
Melissa Darmawan: Last question from me. What are the next steps in regards to your commercialisation plans now that these products have been shipped?
Jim Haden: So, I talked about how an alpha is a phase in the product life cycle where you’re doing design iterations. Well, the next step is to finalise the feedback loop, commit to a certain design, and then start repeating that over and over in what you call a beta phase. And the beta phase is where we’ll do even more reliability testing, and then we’ll check the performance, reliability capabilities, find the overlap with which customers that will be most pleasing to. And then we start to sell and go into the pilot production.
When we’re ramping, another phase of that is that we will be transitioning from the contract manufacturers to our internal fab, and we’ll be bringing all the way for processing in house and growing the product deliveries from that facility.
Melissa Darmawan: Jim, it was great to see you, of course, in the office here in Sydney. Wish you a safe trip, and I look forward to the next update.
Jim Haden: Yeah, thank you. It’s great being here. A lot nicer than being on the computer.