|Mike Block, Principal and Founder of Elite Additive|
Block was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. He attended Bemidji State University (BSU) and graduated in 2006 with a degree in Design Technology with an emphasis in model design. “I always had an interest in designing new or improving current products and how we bring those to market, and the Design Technology program was the first in the nation to have a program that exposed me to 3D printing for the first time,” said Block. The program, which is now called TAD (Technology, Art and Design), brings together disciplines such as engineering, product development, graphic design, studio arts and technology. Students have the opportunity to learn hands on model making and 3D printing. Block remembers his advisor and professor, Lyle Meulebroeck, being a major influence during his college career.
Before he made the decision to move back to Northwest Minnesota, Block worked at Stratasys, a world leading 3D printer manufacturing company based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. During his time there, he had an opportunity to learn more about the industry’s technologies and game changing applications. He was able to apply the necessary skills he learned at BSU to achieve and develop his near term goals in his career. He worked on the development of creating materials and software that would be used in many industries today. He also had the opportunity to educate students from universities across the country who were pursuing careers in the manufacturing industry. “That was one of the most rewarding experiences I had during my time in the Twin Cities- working with students and educating them on the open field of possibilities when using 3D printing,” said Block.“I am looking forward to creating similar partnerships with the TAD department at BSU now that I’m back in town.” Block recalls spending many weekends up north with his family, and never enjoying the drive back to the cities.
After working nearly ten years for Stratasys, Block and his family moved back to Grand Rapids temporarily. He was able to continue working remotely for the company until he was ready to get his new venture up and running.Eventually finding a home in Bemidji, he began doing 3D printing and product development in his garage. Elite Additive officially came to life on November 6th, 2017.
Elite Additive offers a full range of comprehensive solutions for every phase of the production cycle serving all industries. Their niche is providing tailored production automation technologies to help companies increase utilization and quality with Additive Manufacturing. These companies ranging from medical, aerospace, consumer, energy, and automotive. One of their many specialties includes Fused Deposition Modeling (i.e., FDM) which uses a hot glue gun method extrusion process, fusing the material layer upon layer until the physical part is complete. The part is printed and generated by a computer-aided design file (CAD), resulting in extremely durable accurate parts. Their core focus is specialization in the integration of production automation equipment, which can improve a company’s internal process when using Additive Manufacturing for low to high volume runs.
Currently, Block and his colleague of 15 years, John Oney, work out of a space they lease from Lavalley Industries in Bemidji. Block says that Jason Lavalley and Jorge Prinze of Lavalley Industries have been instrumental mentors and friends throughout his journey to get Elite Additive off of the ground. They were also the ones who suggested that Block get in touch with Northwest Minnesota Foundation’s lending team for additional business financing. Lavalley Industries have been longtime clients and partners of the Foundation through the business development programs and the IDEA Competition. Block worked with Diane Morey and Sean Moran from NMF’s lending department to secure a small business loan in the summer of 2018. Elite Additive is projected to pay back that loan in full and will be operating fully “in the black” by the end of the year.
Elite Additive currently has a portfolio of 15 clients from around the state. Block plans on keeping the company headquarted in Bemidji, and is hoping to add more sales staff to the team in the near future.