Meet the Maker: Steve Longpre

Meet Steve Longpre, CEO of Barnstorm Studio, LLC and maker involved in 3dD Printing and Rapid Prototype and Design Services  

GHMF:  Tell me more about your exhibit.

Longpre:  I’ll be bringing three consumer/light industrial 3D printers, along with a number of related technologies, including a prototype Microwave Extrusion Print Head, a Parabolic Solar Oven made from a discarded DISH reflector and a Solar Powered Thermoelectric Cooler. I’ll also bring a variety of prints and materials for people to examine. Finally, I’ll have on display a prototype LED Light-up Dart called a “Light NoOdle,” which I’ve developed for the toy industry, and which has applications in agriculture, environmental sensing, pest management, security and aerospace. Barnstorm photo

 GHMF: It looks like you’re involved in many different projects. Can you describe some of those as it relates to makers?

Longpre: One project I’m particularly proud of was undertaken with Baystate Hospital in Springfield. I worked with Dr. Andrew Doben, chief of Thoracic Trauma Care, to produce a 3D printed model for a patient suffering from multiple broken ribs. He was able to use the print as a surgical guide and educational tool. As a result of the project the hospital is examining ways to implement the technology more widely, improving patient health, while saving themselves and our health care system thousands of dollars per procedure.

Other projects I’ve worked on include custom UAV designs, smoke detection equipment, medical device production components, an assortment of consumer product prototypes, aerospace and marine equipment tooling guides, and most recently tap handles for a local brewery supply company, East Coast Taps. All of these projects originate from Maker skills I acquired during the last few years and are within the reach of anyone interested in consistently applying themselves to master a set of tools and related technologies.

Organizations like MakeHartford, Bolt and TechShop enter heavily into this equation by offering enormous resources for entrepreneurs and hobbyists alike to begin acquiring technical and manufacturing skills.

GHMF: What inspired you to start working on this type of project?

Longpre: I believe inspiration stems from first encountering something of interest, identifying a related need or opportunity, and finally choosing to act upon it. Once you start down a path that truly interests you, it’s unlikely you’ll abandon it when inevitable challenges arise.

Barnstorm photoAfter reading about the Maker movement five years ago, and the incredible people working in the field of 3D printing or additive manufacturing, I caught the bug and couldn’t help but jump in and contribute. Additive manufacturing is a foundational technology, a tool much like a printing press, telephone or the personal computer that have revolutionized our world. Like many Makers, I pivoted my career to meet my new found interests, invested in a wood box FDM machine and began printing, designing and studying the industry.

My first focus was medical applications, which intrigued me because of their life-changing potential, especially bio-printing. Next came aerospace and security applications…rocket science (something sexy and exciting!). Finally, but in no way least, came education, which is the very foundation of our society and perhaps the most inspiring aspect for Makers. We truly like to share what we learn. Five years after first hearing about Making, I now own a shop with an assortment of FDM systems, I teach Maker classes at local schools, consult with a variety of businesses and I’m scaling a number of ventures.

My shop (essentially a personal maker space) and the skills I’ve acquired provide me the ability to research, innovate and rapidly produce things that interest me, and may one day be of significant economic value to others. Maker spaces are kind of like open access college engineering labs, providing an affordable way for everyday people to access technology in their spare time without the financial burdens inherent in post-secondary education or starting a business.

GHMF: Any plans for your project in the future?

Longpre: Funny you ask. From the beginning, I’ve planned to build a very large format multi-use printer within a 40′ Conex or shipping container. The Microwave Extruder I’ll have on display is but one component of that system. Some of my work has focused on demonstrating the capability of such a system to manufacture large printed objects using widely available materials such as replenish-able wood fiber and recycled plastics. Systems like those I imagine may hold the potential to solve some of our world’s greatest challenges, such as lack of affordable housing, waste management issues, global emissions & energy dependence, and food and medical supply needs. Nimble manufacturing platforms will someday provide customized, low cost, high quality products to humanity in a far more efficient manner that current industrial manufacturing methods can’t. My hope is to challenge our notion of what is possible by demonstrating the potential of these machines where they’re needed the most, in poor and rural communities throughout our nation and the world.

GHMF: The maker movement has turned into a global phenomenon. Yet, many people still don’t know what the movement is about. What do you think is the biggest misconception about makers?

Longpre: Perhaps that we’re amateurs, tinkerers and garage hobbyists with only pie in the sky ideas and no formal training. It makes me smile, but a little over a century ago, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb from glass, metal and bamboo carbon fiber, in nothing more than a 19th century Maker shop.  He and countless others like him, including Alexander Graham Bell, Marconi and Galileo possessed little more than high school degrees by today’s standards, yet changed the world and helped us to build the society we know today. All without the tools we have at our disposal today. Makers are simply people who choose to strike a course into the unknown, often with little formal education, funding or experience in their chosen endeavors, hoping to someday share what they discover with the rest of us. Makers are and always will be among our most important technologists, explorers, craftspeople, innovators and educators.

To use my Light-NoOdle darts as an example: While the idea of a LED Nerf dart presents an obvious appeal to anyone who’s ever lost their darts while playing at night, a slight pivot on the technology may present us with something of significantly more value. Present research suggests that chemical or biological attractants may play a more important role in pest management than widely uncontrolled application of dangerous neurotoxic chemicals, especially in crowded agricultural and residential settings. By applying the “build a better mouse trap” mentality to insects control, I’ve begun to demonstrate the potential for using “Electronically track-able, data transmitting, biodegradable foam darts as a useful application method for managing insect borne diseases” like Malaria, West Nile virus and Lyme Disease, as spread by mosquitoes and ticks. Someday soon, we might see semi-autonomous drones distribute the equivalent of GPS traceable scented candles around our neighborhoods, communities and farms to attract and chemically neuter dangerous disease carrying insects, safely reducing their populations. This is but one of the many applications I envision.

GHMF: Is there anything else you would like to share about your project?

Longpre: I was once told by a family member that in order to solve some of our most pressing problems on Earth, it sometimes helps to shoot for the moon or Mars to test a theory. By building a 3D printed shipping container to address humanities needs, we might one day be able to use the technology to become a space faring species. Place a sufficiently sized 3D printer into orbit and attach it to a similar container in which we grow and process fast growing plants like bamboo and we might easily manufacture a wide variety of aerospace materials like carbon fiber, nano-cellulose and combustible gasses. Strange as it sounds, we might one day grow and print orbital construction materials, facilities and vehicles to not only serve the needs of our growing populations, but as a means to explore our solar system, galaxy and surrounding universe.

GHMF: What is the best way for people to get in touch with you?

Longpre: People can find me in the following places:

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