With a strong customer base in the US and growing expansion into Europe, Velo3D continues to make inroads in a region long dominated by local players. Of course, making those inroads requires individuals with a strong knowledge and passion for the technology, and maybe even a bit of luck. Thankfully, Michael Harsch, Velo3D Technical Sales Engineer, has all three.
We recently chatted with Michael to learn more about his professional journey, including how he “fell in love” with AM in graduate school as well as his unconventional meeting (and job offer) with Velo3D Founder and CEO, Benny Buller.
Tell our readers a little bit about your background.
I studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Darmstadt, here in Germany. My focus was on product development based around aerospace engineering during graduate school. It wasn’t until my master’s thesis that I started researching additive manufacturing, which I did at Airbus Helicopters. During my thesis, I was part of a project that was focused on laser powder bed fusion for aerospace kinematic components. I fell in love with additive manufacturing from that point on.
After my thesis, I was sure that I wanted to work in additive. After university, I applied at multiple OEMs and eventually joined a Japanese machine tool maker. While they are mainly known for their CNC machining centers, they also have a very cool hybrid laser powder bed fusion system with a build- chamber integrated CNC-spindle. I worked there for five years as an application engineer.
What brought you to Velo3D?
Fortune brought me to Velo3D. Let me elaborate. During last year’s Formnext, I was there representing my former company. I saw the Velo3D booth and decided to check it out for myself. I come by the booth, and of course I was wearing my company shirt. This person that I didn’t know immediately came over as I was talking to someone else from Velo3D and jokingly said that he doesn’t like competition snooping around the booth and that I should get going.
As I turn around to leave, he says, “Except if you’re looking for a job.” I reply that I’ve read online that Velo3D is starting its European expansion, that’s my background, and that I’m interested. And then he says, “Okay, come back in an hour, and you can chat with some of our team members, here’s my business card.” Then I realized, oh, it’s [Benny Buller], CEO and founder of Velo3D! So, I come back and had a couple of interviews at the booth, followed by a series of phone interviews two days after. A week later I had my contract.
Can you tell us a little bit about your day-to-day at Velo3D?
My primary job is to help people manufacture complex parts by utilizing our end-to-end additive manufacturing solution or our network of contract manufacturers. That involves consulting with customers on a technical level and helping them with feasibility investigations, cost estimations, and questions related to design.
How would you describe the culture at Velo3D?
Honestly, I believe there is an intrinsic motivation and passion for our manufacturing solution. And I would say that is true both in the US and in Europe. This wasn’t always the case with my previous employers. At Velo3D, I feel like I fit in and that I am surrounded by like-minded people. There’s also a high level of passion and motivation to help one another. I’ve never experienced someone being too busy to help me or lend a hand with something. That’s not to say that there are not tough days or weeks, all companies have that, but one of the things that helps is when we do our monthly company-wide meeting, and we get to hear from the executive leadership team. I always come away from that feeling energized and motivated and ready for the next month!
What motivates you to wake up and go to work?
I can only work somewhere where I see the long-term goal, room for personal development, and personal growth. And since additive manufacturing, specifically, powder bed fusion with metals is what really interests me, I don’t think that there’s any company that is better for me right now than Velo3D. There’s such a high level of expertise, so many people here that I can learn from, and that motivates me, because every day I feel there’s something new to explore and learn.
I think the company is still relatively young and there is a long road to go. But this also means that if I prove myself here long term, and if I stick with it, then there’s a big chance to get more responsibility and to pass my knowledge on to new team members. Being part of something where there is the possibility for me to be part of something bigger and grow…that motivates me a lot.
What in your opinion differentiates Velo3D from other additive manufacturing solutions?
I would say aggressiveness. We believe in what we do. And we’re pushing the industry forward, without compromise. I know that’s a marketing term, but it really is a key differentiation factor for me. If seems like all the other LPFB OEMs that I know of are picking up the pieces of broken promises right now. They’re cutting costs, they’re trying to cut staff, and they are compromising on a lot of things. Obviously, they’ve been around longer. But this means they’ve also made a lot of mistakes. I believe with the knowledge and expertise that we now have within our team; we don’t have that mindset. We are not afraid of the technology; we are instead aggressively pushing it forward.
What has been your favorite project so far?
Let’s put this into context first: I really enjoy talking to people who show a genuine interest in our technology and where I feel that we can solve or facilitate a manufacturing problem. One of the best couple of days that I had was at the Turbo Expo in Rotterdam. I went there with Roberto Esposito, our sales director in Italy. I didn’t think much of it in the beginning, but we were pretty much the only AM-OEM at that exhibition. All the other booths were people trying to build turbomachinery, which is one of the applications where Velo3D’s AM-solution excels at. Honestly, we were probably the busiest booth there. Every day I talked to a lot of people who had a manufacturing problem, and I had the opportunity to have a lot of great conversations and generate a lot of interest in our manufacturing solution.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I do a little bit of beekeeping on the side and currently have three colonies of bees. I have been doing it for three years now. It is not really about the honey…I do it to help the environment and create a living space for bees in suburban areas. Just a couple of weeks ago I harvested about 6 kg of honey!
What do you like to do for fun? Any interesting hobbies?
My hobbies are bouldering, running, and cycling. Cycling is my biggest passion right now. That’s also another thing that most people don’t know about me. From the age of 17 to 23, I was fairly competitive and got to do a couple of races in the under-23 National League. I haven’t cycled in a long time. But with COVID, I couldn’t go to the climbing gym for a while, so I got my old bike out of the basement. Now, whenever I have free time, I like to spend it cycling. Last year I did almost 10,000 kilometers on my bike. It’s not just the riding, though. I also like buying new parts, upgrading, and tuning my bike.
That’s all our questions—thanks for chatting with us, Michael!