EPISODE 298

Velo3D CEO Benny Buller: 3D Printing the Impossible, at Scale

51 minutes · April 25, 2022

Benny Buller, Founder and CEO of Velo3D (NYSE: VLD), had a vision to build a digital supply chain allowing companies in the space travel, renewable energy, and other sectors to leverage an end-to-end manufacturing process unlike any other. He shares his journey, from solving seemingly impossible manufacturing problems, to scaling the next generation of 3D printing and materials. Benny explains why his decision to take Velo3D public via a de-SPAC will launch the company into the stratosphere.

Speaker 1:

From the library of the New York Stock Exchange at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets in New York City, you're Inside the ICE House, our podcast from Intercontinental Exchange on markets, leadership and vision and global business, the dream drivers that have made the NYSE an indispensable institution of global growth for over 225 years. Each week, we feature stories of those who hatch plans, create jobs and harness the engine of capitalism, right here, right now at the NYSE and at ICE's exchanges and clearing houses around the world. And now, welcome Inside the ICE House. Here is your host, Josh King of Intercontinental Exchange.

Josh King:

In 1902, the renowned aviator, Wilbur Wright wrote, "Our new machine is a very great improvement over anything that anyone has ever built. Everything is so much more satisfactory that we now believe that the flying problem is really nearing its solution." Now, over a year later, the Kitty Hawk Flyer took to the sky and ushered in the age of flight, the culmination of a five year project by the Wright brothers. Now that may seem like a long time, but in the span, they accomplished something that most people believed to be impossible. Along the way, different parts would combine and become part of that first powered aircraft, which over time were rejiggered, reinvented and refined, and years were spent on every detail from choosing the right wing shape and materials to designing the steering controls.

Josh King:

Taken alone, each part represented an innovation unto itself, but when put together by two intrepid bicycle builders, they allowed man to take to the skies, at least for a minute or two. The inventors weren't content with just taking flight, but rather spent years refining their designs with a goal of creating a new form of passenger travel. Innovation back then much like today required capital. So in 1909, the Wright Company was established with a million dollars of financing coming from the likes of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Howard Gould, Russell Alger, and others. Following his brother's death, Orville Wright sold the company to its investors who renamed it, The Wright Aeronautical Corporation, which became the first aircraft company ever to list here on the New York Stock Exchange.

Josh King:

Our guest today, Benny Buller knows the value of creating the right parts to build a better machine. His company Velo3D uses cutting edge technology and materials to build critical parts that allow space ships to achieve orbit, and also allow those passenger planes, that the Wright brothers only dreamt about, to travel faster than the speed of sound. Our conversation with Benny Buller on creating solutions to seemingly impossible manufacturing problems, scaling the next generation of 3D printing materials and how his decision to take Velo3D public via the de-SPAC process is allowing all of that to happen. It's all coming up right after this.

Speaker 3:

Connecting the opportunity is just part of the hustle.

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Opportunity is using data to create a competitive advantage.

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It's raising capital to help companies change the world.

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It's making complicated financial concepts seems simple.

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Opportunity is making the dream of home ownership a reality.

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Writing new rules and redefining the game.

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And driving the world forward to a greener energy future.

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Opportunity is setting a goal.

Benny Buller:

And charting a course to get there.

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Sometimes the only thing standing between you and opportunity is someone who can make the connection.

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At ICE, we connect people to opportunity.

Josh King:

Our guest today Benny Buller is founder and CEO of Velo3D, that's NYSE ticker symbol VLD. Previously, Benny was an investor at Khosla Ventures, a leading venture capital firm, and earlier in his career, Benny held positions at Applied Materials, Solyndra, and First Solar. Welcome, Benny, Inside the ICE House.

Benny Buller:

Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here.

Josh King:

Pleasure to have you. And since its founding in 2014 and then coming out of stealth mode in 2018, Velo3D grew quickly from just a startup to an NYSE listed company. And that's testament not only to your vision and the company's success, but also how you chose to go public. Why was a de-SPAC with JAWS Spitfire the right path for Velo3D?

Benny Buller:

At the heart of what we do, is we provide a path for companies, like the companies that you mentioned in the industries that you mentioned, to embark on new products and new designs that rely on parts, that we offer the only pathway to manufacturing. I bet on our manufacturing solution is the manufacturer solution that they can rely upon. If you think about this, this is a very risky proposition no matter what is the company that you rely on. So for us, the value of being a public company that is well financed, that has transparent finances that our customers can see is extremely important in giving those customers the confidence that they can bet their future product on this manufacturing technology.

Benny Buller:

One of the things that we tried to do when we went public is we tried to be extremely focused on very simple metrics that are non-fungible, very easy to follow, they are very binary, it happened or it didn't happen. The primary of those metrics is the growth of revenue, which is a measure that is well understood by investors, and which is very difficult to manipulate.

Josh King:

I'm looking at the Twitter feed of Velo3D, that's @VELO3DMetal. Back on October 22nd, 2021, it shows a picture of you in our back staircase behind the bell podium, you are about to, what we call, tag the wall of the NYSE after you rang the bell. And the caption from Velo3D says, "As a CEO of a public company, you're asked to sign a lot of things, but some are a little more memorable than others." So I'm curious, how has leading a public company changed how you operate as a leader, Benny?

Benny Buller:

I looked at the whole process of becoming public as kind of a Wimbledon series, right? So when we started this process, we qualified to participate in the series, but then in every game we could be knocked out. And as we progressed, I basically told myself, "Okay, we just won another game and we go onto the next level." And I told myself, "You should never take it too hard. You should never be too attached to that, because any day something external could happen that could upset that." And then the first day that I realized that this actually happened, was the day I stepped into the New York Stock Exchange street, and saw the giant banner on the exchange. And that was extremely emotional, and that basically started maybe 12 very emotional hours where the whole thing suddenly sank in.

Benny Buller:

When I was a private company CEO, I spent a lot of time in fundraising. We always had no more than 12 months of runway. And the average runway that we had was somewhere between four and six months. So I spent a good amount of my time fundraising, and then I had a few months that I could focus on other things, and I had to prepare the next fundraising. And that was basically the routine. I spend quite a lot of time now with investors, public investors, with analysts. I have much more bandwidth to actually manage the company and to actually drive its products to drive the marketing strategy, the sales strategy, the operations than I had before.

Benny Buller:

And we have the resources now to help me do all those other things. One thing that has not changed for us is that we are still focused right now in organic growth, because our organic growth rate is so fast that we put any bandwidth in any capacity that we have to drive this growth, and prefer not to be distracted with integration of other companies.

Josh King:

For those of our listeners who might not be able to place your accent, Benny, you studied physics at Jerusalem University before getting your degree in electrical engineering from Technion-Israel's Institute of Technology, how did they shape your career?

Benny Buller:

I have a unique career in that every Israeli goes to the army and then they go study. In my case, I went study before I went to the army, and I studied physics and math, and then went and spent six years in the army. It's called the Academic Reserve in the Israeli army. And what I realized while I was a student, is that there was a very specialized in the Israeli army, it's the technology unit of the Israeli Intelligence. And they would draft every year one physicist. So I did a pretty deep research on what this unit does and what the physicists in this unit do, and I decided... And I was 19 at the time when I make this decision that I'm going to break the rules. While I was in undergrad, I actually finished my master's degree. And I did my master's degree in applied physics in electro-optics, because I realized that that's what the physicists they'll do.

Benny Buller:

So when I was interviewed by this unit, they learned that I am actually not only an undergrad in physics, but actually I'm finishing my master's in applied optics. They basically realized that I'm way ahead of all the competition. So through research and through preparation, I was able to, if you want, outpace some people that were naturally more brilliant and more capable than me and I got drafted. And this unit really changed my life, because there is a lot of start-ups spawning from this unit. There is a lot of entrepreneurs that's spawning from this unit. And this unit is operating on a very, very entrepreneurial spirit.

Benny Buller:

The average age of people that are serving in this unit is call it, 24, 25, all very enthusiastic, all very passionate, all very talented. They are literally drafted one out of hundred for every role. And we would make mission impossible projects every day there. So this really shaped my career and built me.

Josh King:

While you were Israeli Intelligence, I think you once described your work as, I'm going to quote you here, Benny, "Something between Q from the James Bond movies and the NSA or the National Security Agency. And for those of us whose limit of understanding of what Israeli Intelligence does is limited to watching several seasons worth of Fauda. Can you talk about any of the invisible cars and projects that you worked on, perhaps one that you received a national security award for?

Benny Buller:

No, I cannot do that, but I can say that these were projects that were targeting the most value intelligence that you could imagine. And everyone that is sitting on intelligence assets that are so valuable, is doing everything in their power to protect them. Every time we won and we were able to acquire such intelligence, this was through just immense creativity, imagination, dedication, and really entrepreneurial spirit that until I founded the company has not matched anything that I've done in my career.

Josh King:

So we'll leave it at that and just accept the fact that you are basically the cue of Israeli Intelligence, Benny. But curious from there, what brought you to the United States and how did your career progress?

Benny Buller:

My wife, she had her doctoral degree from the Weizmann Institute in Israel, and she wanted to do a post-doc in Stanford. So my wife wanted to move to the United States. So the Bay Area to the post-doc in Stanford, in chemistry. So I decided I'll help her and I'll go myself as well. So I looked for a job in the Bay Area and was actually offered a position by Applied Materials, working on a completely different area, in a completely different technology, completely different industry. The overlap between what I did in the army and the intelligence and what I did at Applied Materials was close to nil. The only thing that was shared between them is both we're based on science, both based on physics and both required very sophisticated system engineering, which really were the three things that I mastered while in the technology unit.

Josh King:

I read that while you were working as a venture capital investor, that you'd pledge to never, never, never, never invest in 3D printing. So given that, what's the origin story for velo3D, and how did a problem that you witnessed in playing manufacturers, lead you to break your never breakable vow?

Benny Buller:

I should explain my vow, and then you'll be able to understand why I decided to break it. So when I was an investor and after my experience in Solar, one of the things that I observed is that when an industry is getting to a place where everything becomes about cost and everyone is focused on driving down cost, then no one makes money in this industry. And when I said, no one makes money, it's not a hundred percent accurate. It's very difficult for start-ups to make money in this environment, because it's very difficult for the start-ups to scale their technology in time to the point that they're competitive with this race to the bottom. What I've seen when I was an investor is this following story. A printing company would come to me and would pitch to me how beautiful the technology is, 3D printing in general, how capable it is, how you can do that? Anything that you want

Benny Buller:

And the only problem that the technology has is cost. And here is a way to reduce cost by 30%, 50%, 80%. Twice a month, I have companies that come to me with a story, how they are dropping the cost by 30%, 50%, 70% in their respective area of application. And when everyone does that, it's very difficult to track who is the leading and who is going to win, because everyone is dropping cost so quickly that it would be very difficult to make money in this environment.

Benny Buller:

So when I made the vow, it was not to invest in 3D printing because that's the perception I get about where 3D printing it's very capable technology that only needs to be reduced in cost. What changed this outlook is that I started to see people that are using 3D printing for the production of high value, mission critical parts, specifically for rocket engines at the beginning. And the people that decided to use metal 3D printing on metal additive manufacturing to produce rocket engine parts did that because they wanted to take advantage of the geometrical capabilities of 3D printing, so that they can make parts that could not be made before, so they can design engine architecture that were not easy to implement before.

Benny Buller:

And when they started doing this, well, they discovered that all the designs, all the parts that they actually wanted to make, the parts for which they actually came to 3D printing or additive manufacturer to begin with, are actually not manufacturable. And then they started the very painful effort of redesigning those parts and changing them and compromising them until they got to the point that they were compromised enough and changed enough so that they could be manufacturable. And this was a very painful process that took a lot of time. It was very expensive. And that at the end did not get nearly near the performance that was possible, and that people were imagining when they started.

Benny Buller:

So when I started to talk with people and saw the universality of this, I basically realized that the most lucrative part of additive manufacturing, which is the metal additive manufacturing business. It's a solution looking for an application or solution looking for a problem, because it was not about cost, it was about broken promise. The reason why people wanted to go to this technology to begin with was not for cost, was to be able to make parts that were better, to be able to make products that were better, to be able to consolidate many, many parts to fewer parts that are performing better.

Benny Buller:

And the design that they actually wanted to do, they couldn't. So I said, "This is the problem we are going to sell. We are going to allow people to make the parts they really need, to innovate the way they really want, and the quality that they want. Period. And this was a Frodo Baggins' moment for me, if you recall The Fellowship of the Ring, where Frodo said, "I'm going to take the ring tomorrow, even though I do not know the way." And I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn't have an idea how to do that. That was a nexus of that.

Josh King:

So bring us into wherever it was, the clean room or some other place, and describe for our listeners, who may not be completely familiar with the 3D printing processor, Velo3D. Help us see the first breakthrough or product that made you and the team realize that Velo3D was on its way to becoming a success?

Benny Buller:

The nature of innovation is that there is more than one important moment. But the way we started is after a few months that we were thinking about that. And before we had any funding, we had an hypothesis on how to solve this problem. And we were fortunate enough and smart enough to decide that the way we are going to solve this problem and to test our hypothesis was by acquiring an off-the-shelf system, and modifying that to be able to demonstrate that we were right. While, we were designing the parts and waiting for them, we got off-the-shelf system, and we bought the system from the supplier that could deliver it in three weeks. So we got it really, really quickly. And we started, we kind of had a agnostic mindset to this. So we started to see what are the problems that arise when you try to do the impossible on these existing systems.

Benny Buller:

And very, very quickly we found that our solution and our hypothesis was barking at the wrong tree. We were just off as you could be. We were just completely wrong. So we got the funding in September 2014, by December of 2014, we already knew all the problems that we need to solve in order to be able to print those impossible geometries. But none of these problems was actually our hypothesis that we invented, or that we thought we were going to solve. So this was a very good learning, because in a very short time, we learned that we were completely wrong, but we also learned what it is that we need to fix.

Benny Buller:

As we solved these problems, we started and we opened the way to make parts that were not possible before. Some of these parts, we started to be able to print on this retrofitted off-the-shelf system, where we hacked the software and we were able to do all kinds of things that this system was not able to do on its own, very slowly, very non-productively. But we were able to do that. I showed my wife what it is that we do, and my wife said, "You should absolutely show this to people. You should make a part that would be a demonstration of what it is that you are doing." And I took a part like that she and I kind of came together with it as a demonstration part.

Benny Buller:

And this was a very visual part that was very easy to visualize this to people, how we make something very useful and something that was not possible before. And I went to the first Additive Manufacturing show, and I just met people there and I showed them what we do, and people were really blown away. And that was for me, the first moment that we said, "Okay, we have something unique." I was able to basically then ask these people, "So if you think this is so unique and so valuable, if I bring investors to you, will you tell them the same?" And I say, "Absolutely, I definitely want you to succeed. That's how we got our Series A funding.

Josh King:

From the Series A funding to so much more, Benny. I'm looking right now at this SpaceX website. I know that SpaceX has been a customer of Velo3D for years, continues to be a high volume purchaser of your printers, talking about making those sales, Benny, how did you connect with them originally, and how are they using your systems to support some of these efforts that I'm looking at the site now?

Benny Buller:

SpaceX were one of the early customers, early users of the technologies that I talked with before I started the company. And that convinced me how big the gap in in the capabilities and how valuable it's to solve that. And then after we started the company, SpaceX was gracious enough to give us a few parts. They designed a few parts that were demonstration parts, that represented things that they wanted to make that they were valuable for them, but they couldn't make. And then we made progress on being able to manufacture those parts. And we showed them to SpaceX as we were making progress on them. And we met SpaceX every few months and showed them the progress, and they were really blown away from how a small group that was really poorly funded, that had very retail resources were able to make progress on problems that the industry has been dealing with for 20 years and made exactly zero progress on.

Benny Buller:

And in early 2016, I think February 2016, we hired the person that later on would become our VP of sales, Dr. Zachary Murphree. He first joined as our head of product. At some point, he led our engineering. Zach as our head of product and I, together built the outline for what our product will be, the specification for the system, and then we started together and Zach did most of the heavy lifting on this, going to the key customers that we thought would benefit from such a system and asking them, what do they think about this? And would they buy system like that? And our objective was to tune the product requirements based on those conversations.

Benny Buller:

So the product specification, but also after we had these conversations, we asked some of those customers a second question, "So would you want to be a better customer for this system? Would you want to sign and to commit to be a better customer and to pay for that?" The first customer that said absolutely was SpaceX. And in the summer of 2016, and I think it was August, maybe July, I think it was August 2016, SpaceX agreed and signed a contract with us where they would become a better customer. And we committed to deliver to them the better product in September of 2017. So a year after we signed the agreement with them. In reality, we delivered the better product to them in January 2018, so three months later. This was a momentous accomplishment, and this is how we started the engagement with SpaceX.

Josh King:

After the break, we're going to continue our conversation with Benny Buller, president, founder, and CEO of Velo3D. He and I will talk about the additive manufacturing process, the investment landscape and the future for Velo3D. That's all coming up right after this.

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Josh King:

Welcome back. Before the break, Benny Buller, founder and CEO of Velo3D, and I were discussing his career and the recent successes that Velo3D has enjoyed. Benny, we've been talking about the growth of the company, but for our audience, can you explain what additive manufacturing is and how Velo3D with its Sapphire system has solved some seemingly impossible manufacturing issues by using that technique?

Benny Buller:

In general, there are quite a few 3D printing or additive manufacturing technologies that are used for different materials and different applications. What I would like to focus is on the metal additive manufacturing or metal 3D printing, which is dominated by one single technology. And this technology is a laser powder bed fusion. This laser powder bed fusion technology has been invented in the late 80s, early 90s, so it's literally 30 years plus old. And it became mature in its capabilities around the turn of the century. So around 20 years ago, and it's kind of stuck there in its capabilities. To understand what this technology is capable of and what it's valuable for, we should start at another manufacturing technology. And the other manufactured technology that I would use as a reference is machining or CNC machining, which is also referred to very often as subtractive manufacturing.

Benny Buller:

So subtractive manufacturing, or milling or machining is the art of taking a block of metal and milling from it the material that is unnecessary to get to the final part at the end. This is kind of like releasing the sculpture from the marble as Michelangelo like to say. Subtractive manufacturing is the technology of the block of metal and making from that the final part by removing the material that is not needed. This is a hundred percent digital technology that is capable of getting to fantastic precisions, to fantastic material quality. There are tens of thousands of suppliers in the US alone that are using this technology to produce parts for other people. So the supply chain is extremely established, extremely mature, and it's extremely predictable outcome.

Benny Buller:

It's the ultimate digital manufacturing technology. What is the limits of this manufacturing technology? So the limits of machining is you can machine parts. You can machine surfaces that you can see from the outside world, that you can access from the outside world. Things that are deep inside, things that are hidden, you cannot machine. So if you need to make products that are complex in nature, that have a lot of internal structure, you are bound to make them by machining different parts and then assembling them together. And you can, assembling them by welding them, by braising them, by combining them with metal parts and all those interfaces now have to be ultra precise, because these parts have to meet together perfectly.

Benny Buller:

So a lot of the precision in the machining that is required to make those products that basically are based on the assembly of many parts, are because those parts will have to be combined together and they have to be perfectly fit to each other in order to be able to combine. So the value of additive manufacturing is to be able to make those specific products that would require to be assembled from many machine parts into one part that could be made in one shot. Now, when you're making it with one shot, you're eliminating the precision machining of many, many surfaces and the assembly of those surfaces, allowing significant cost reduction. But you also now have a lot of design options that were not possible for you before, because of the manufacturing method and the limitations of those methods.

Benny Buller:

So additive manufacturing now can open the way for the production of very complex products, products that were not possible before. What is the conundrum of additive manufacturing? The conundrum is that the parts that would be the natural candidates, the knock out candidates for additive manufacturing to be useful as a really high value manufacturing solution, are those parts with very complex internal structure. But when you look at those parts, what you find is that by and large, those parts are actually not manufacturable by additive manufacturing.

Benny Buller:

So on one hand, the parts that would be great candidates are those parts and those assemblies that cannot be machined in one shot, but many of these parts, the vast majority of those parts would have complex internal structures that would require to have internal supports in order to be able to make those parts. And those parts are not manufacturable. So I use the word supports, and I want to explain what are those supports. So when you are building 3D printed parts, you are building them layer by layer. Very much like you are building a skyscraper where you are building it floor by floor, and very much like you do when you are building a skyscraper, you have to support the material that is in a specific floor until all this building material is cured is solid. And then you can remove all these scaffolds that you have there, and you can move to the next layer and the next layer, and the next layer.

Benny Buller:

The same is actually true in additive manufacturing. You have to support this building that you're building, this part that you're building as you are going up, so that it will not collapse, so that it will not distort as you are building it. And if you don't, it will get destroyed in the production process. But the problem is that unlike the construction of buildings, that are done by humans and where you have access for those humans as you continue with the building to get into a floor that was finished and remove the scaffolds from that, in a part you don't have these tiny humans or tiny ants that can go there and remove those supports.

Benny Buller:

So if you have supports that are internal in places where you don't have access, building those parts without the ability to remove those supports is basically creating a very expensive piece of garbage not usable. So what we came to do is basically said, we want to make all those most valuable parts, all those most useful parts that people always dreamt of doing, but were not able to do as additive manufacturing. We want to enable them. We want to allow people to make the parts for which they really came for additive manufacture, but were not able to do that. And we want to make that at the utmost quality that they need for those applications.

Josh King:

Yeah. It's funny, Benny. I'm right now watching a building going up across the street from my apartment. I've installed my own time lapse camera to take a picture every five seconds every day as this construction goes up. And it's happening exactly as you say, a floor gets built, scaffolding around it. The next floor gets built scaffolding around it, and it goes higher and higher. And yet I can't imagine scaling this type of project over many times. They're really one off projects, and we've talked on this podcast before about how engineers at companies like TE Connectivity are using 3D printing for prototyping other small projects. Most of your clients want to take that process and scale it to provide parts in a much larger scale. So how does Velo3D make that possible beyond this scaffolding idea, and what are the limiting factors that typically are at play for using this technology as a core manufacturing process?

Benny Buller:

There are two driving forces in terms of business drivers, for why people choose to use additive manufacturing in their business. The first one is, I already touched the upon, and that's the ability to make better products that are disruptive and differentiated from everything that was before in this industry. The second one is the ability to modernize their supply chain. So in many of these businesses, the lead time that companies are expecting to get parts are measured in quarters, three quarters, four quarters, five quarters, and additive manufacturing changes that, and now you can make those parts in a matter of weeks.

Benny Buller:

So instead of having to rely on one or two suppliers that can deliver to you things in quarters, and that few weeks before delivery can sleep the schedule on you with you having no control of that, that can ship you quite a lot of scrap. And then you find after you receive that, that not all the parts are compliant and you have much less actually workable inventory than you thought. Instead of that, you can now get the parts when you need them and have a digital inventory instead of a physical inventory, which in our world today, we all extremely understand how valuable it is given all the supply chain disruptions. So these are the two driving forces.

Josh King:

But a complex process like additive manufacturing isn't as simple, for example, as a client buying, plugging, and then starting to use Velo3D products like they would, if they get a copier from Xerox. Can you take us through how you evolved Velo3D's role in the manufacturing ecosystem to better meet the needs of your clients?

Benny Buller:

You're absolutely right. And the key point here is that if you go into a company, practically, every company has a Xerox machine of sorts, right? Maybe it's an HP printer, but every company has an office printer. What we find when it comes to mechanical parts, the vast majority of companies actually don't want to make parts, they want to buy parts. And that's true across all industries, and that's true across all geographies. So what we have found is that the most critical part is the ability to establish an agile, scalable and copy exact supply chain. So let me break this words into something meaningful. So as I mentioned, those OEMs that need parts, they want to buy the parts. They don't want to make them.

Benny Buller:

So what we have been doing is we have been grooming a network of contract manufacturers partners that buy our machines and that they operate our machines and that these contract manufacturers reach economy of scale by amortizing their infrastructure for the use of those machines on a larger number of machines. And those contract manufacturers now, can serve many customers, and those customers don't need to build the infrastructure for using additive manufacturing. They don't need to build the infrastructure for material scientists to develop the process, because this is already done by our machines. They don't need to teach their designers to design otherwise than they would actually want to design, because we tell them, "You just design the way you want the product to be. Our responsibility is to enable you to make this product."

Benny Buller:

And most importantly, it's a copy exact solution. So what does it mean that it's a copy exact solution? What it means is that the OEM has the certainty, that when they take the same production file and they send it to any of our contract manufacturers that is using any of our machines, anytime they're going to get exactly the same outcomes. And that's an extremely critical part of the ability to make a scalable solution. Because if every machine has to be fought with, in order to make the parts that you need, if every machine has to be engineered, has to be tweaked in order to get to the right outcome, this is not a scalable solution. This is not a dependable solution. So the ability to be able to divert the production file from company A to company B to company D, get the same outcomes is very critical.

Josh King:

One place that be Velo3D has soared is in the aerospace sector with companies like SpaceX, which we discussed earlier, but also companies including growth, supersonic and launcher. What products have made their way into the stratosphere, and what about your products make them suitable for this kind of use?

Benny Buller:

As I mentioned, there are two drivers for adoption, right? The ability to make better products, as well as the ability to modernize the supply chain. SpaceX as an example is a company, and Elon was very public with that. Is a company that as they run production, they keep iterating on the design and making it better and better. While they are ramping up production, this is very difficult to do, but additive manufacturing allows you actually to do that, because you don't have to build the tooling for the parts that you make, because you can make changes to the parts every day. You can keep iterating on the design of the most valuable part of your product, which is the engine and keep improving it as you are scaling up. And this is a momentous asset. This is huge. Even as they're going to production, they will keep changing this engine and keep optimizing it.

Benny Buller:

And as you know, the first starship that is about to get launched will not be reusable, but those engines and those starships will become reusable over time. So they will have to be optimized and they will have to be changed as they make more and more of them. So to try to do that with a manufacturing solution that relies on a very slow and tooling based supply chain is very, very difficult. Additive manufacturing allows you this agility and this ability to turn on a dime and keep innovating and keep improving, as you are ramping up production, as you are going to production, as you are in production.

Josh King:

You recently wrote an op-ed titled Businesses Waited Too Long to Boycott Russia, which goes deep into why business, especially in the tech sector have a responsibility to lead from the front as trusted institutions of society. What role should businesses play in society, do you think?

Benny Buller:

I have a very clear opinion on this. And my opinion on this is what sets business leaders apart is the ability to act. When business leaders act, there is a result from that is completely disproportional to their voice in the universe as one more voice. I'm not lying to myself that my actions is bigger in impact than they actually are, but each CEO, each leader of a company has an act that they can take. And as a leader, I think that we should take the opportunity that we have and make a principle based actions and then call to other leaders to do the same.

Benny Buller:

And when this becomes a norm, then we could have a more wholesome society to live in when leaders act, and as they act, they are not only thinking about short-term goals, but they're thinking about long-term goals. And they're pulling their companies into a more wholesome and more responsible directions. I think we will be living in a better society and we will be living in a better world. And every leader has to make the decisions on what are the causes that they are passionate about, and that they will take the ship of their company and sail with that in this direction.

Josh King:

A knock on effect of both the pandemic, you mentioned also the war in Europe, which you wrote your op-ed on, is the growth and focus on domestic manufacturing. And we don't import much from Russia beside oil and gas, but we import a ton of stuff from China. What role do you think 3D printing and companies like Velo3D might play in making it possible to ramp up US production quickly?

Benny Buller:

So I think 3D printing is going to change in a very dramatic way the equation of offshoring, because 3D printing is actually a very low labor intensity manufacturing technology, which makes offshoring not attractive. I think we'll see much more domestic manufacturing coming with 3D printing. We see much more distributed manufacturing, so it's not only domestic. When it comes to the energy sector like oil and gas, we'll see energy producers, wherever they are, having a local manufacturing supply chain around them providing them parts for what they need.

Benny Buller:

I think that we are going to see much more diverse, much more democratized manufacturing network, you mentioned China. I also think there is place for companies to consider the long-term implications of China's policies around IP and compliance with IP and enforcement of IP laws and IP rights in light of what it would do for their future growth. And I would say development of competitors that are simply taking advantage of IP without having the ability to enforce IP in this jurisdiction.

Josh King:

As we get ready to bid farewell to you, Benny, I know that Velo3D is taking the message on the road with its Seeing is Believing Tour. And I think we're recording this week that the tour has stopped in Detroit, Michigan. What's the object of the tour, and what are you hoping to grow in the city that has long been the heart of American industrialism?

Benny Buller:

What we learned is that very important part of our business is the identification of those business opportunities and product opportunities, where we can help customers. And this is a very significant part of our business, right? So we are only focusing on business opportunities where there is a very high impact for the customer, where we are solving some really important manufacturing problems for the customer, and product problem. And we are only interested in these opportunities that we are the only people that can solve this problem. We are not in the commodity business, and we are not interested in participating in the same bubble of the commodity additive manufacturing, where everyone is playing.

Benny Buller:

And we are really focusing on expanding the universe of applications of additive manufacturing with the vision that I told you before, that the vast majority of this additive manufacturing opportunity is actually untapped and is a blue ocean. And that's the ocean that we are trying to expand. So as we go and we move from city to city with this roadshow, we focus on specific customers in these cities that have the potential business opportunities. And we are creating quality time with those customers, where we can tell them about the capabilities that our product enables as well as how these capabilities can improve their products, can improve their business, can affect their business.

Benny Buller:

Detroit is the world capital of automotive. It's definitely the center of gravity of automotive industry in the United States. And automotive is the power that drives the city. As we go to places like Detroit that are very heavy and automotive, we are not interested in making automotive parts that go into vehicles. What is much more valuable for the car, for the automotive manufacturing, is look at how additive manufacturing can improve the tooling that they're using and reduce the cycle time of those tooling, improve the parts that they can make using those tooling, reduce the weight of the cars, reduce the manufacturing time, reduce the material content in the parts that go into the car.

Josh King:

And as we wrap up, I go back to that photo of you on the podium, the New York Stock Exchange, October 22nd, 2021. Certainly with lights turning on and eyes starting to shine, the incredible moment that you saw that day. I'm curious as we finish, Benny, how is being a part of the NYSE community of companies helped to expand Velo3D's roster of customers and potential customers?

Benny Buller:

I go back to the original driver for why we wanted to become a public company. And I am going to repeat that and say that the New York Stock Exchange was all that we hoped for, and it delivered on everything that we hoped for doing this. So for us throughout this conversation, I hope I made it clear how we offer to our customers a unique path for products and for manufacturing that is different than any other that they can have. And once they commit to this in a very important way, there is no going back.

Benny Buller:

This is going to be the manufacturing technology on which they're going to rely upon. And they need to know that they have a partner that is a stable partner that has a clear roadmap, that there is a clear future, and that we'll be there with them in two years and in four years and in 10 years, so that they can keep their production relying on this technology, because many of those customers making decisions for production, that will keep going for 20 years, and they need to know that this manufacturing solution will be there for them.

Benny Buller:

Becoming a public company that is traded in this very respectable institution has been very, very valuable for us to appease and to make these customers know that there is someone trustable and dependable with a bright financial future that they can rely upon. The New York Stock Exchange has been a great partner for us and has been a great institution to be associated with.

Josh King:

Trustable, reliable, with the future that you can depend on, those are the kind of companies that are listed in the New York Stock Exchange. Certainly, the kind of company that Velo3D is. Thank you so much for joining us Inside the ICE House.

Benny Buller:

Thank you so much.

Josh King:

And that's our conversation for this week. Our guest was Benny Buller, founder and CEO of Velo3D NYSE ticker symbol VLD. If you have a comment or a question you'd like one of our experts to tackle on a future show, email us at [email protected], or tweet at us, @ICEHousePodcast. Our show was produced by Pete Asch, with production assistance from Stephan Capriles, Ken Abel, and Ian Wolf. I'm Josh King, your host signing off from the library of the New York Stock Exchange. Thanks for listening. Talk to you next week.

Speaker 1:

Information contained in this podcast was obtained in part from publicly available sources and not independently verified. Neither ICE nor its affiliates make any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and do not sponsor approve or endorse any of the content herein, all of which is presented solely for informational and educational purposes. Nothing herein constitutes an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy any security or a recommendation of any security or trading practice. Some portions of the preceding conversation may have been edited for the purpose of length or clarity.

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Information contained in this podcast was obtained in part from publicly available sources, and not independently verified. Neither ICE nor its affiliates make any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and do not sponsor, approve, or endorse any of the content herein, all of which is presented solely for informational and educational purposes. Nothing herein constitutes an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, or a recommendation of any security or trading practice.