The revolution will not be televised, it will be printed.
When an industry is young and small, you can bet there will be in-fighting, egos, and even companies trying poach employees from their competitors. 3D printing — the programmed 2D layering of a material into a 3D model — is at that point. The technology has been around for decades but it’s only now on the cusp of a full transition from industrial to personal use. The story is ripe with controversies, but its future is bright.
The journey from R&D to desktop is the topic of a new Netflix original documentary called Print the Legend. The trailer is below:
The heart of Print the Legend is the roots, development, and ongoing challenges of 3D printing. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition of two aspects of the phenomenon: while 3D printing still seems sort of futuristic to a lot of people, the competition between companies, specifically startups MakerBot and Form Labs, is how the tech industry has operated since there was tech to sell.
Print the Legend also addresses the controversy embedded in the technology. The idea of open-source digital blueprints that could let anyone print anything with their own 3D printer is a compelling one. You could, theoretically, print yourself a new kidney or skull if you needed one (though you might need some help with the installation). You could, like MakerBot did, print yourself a working prosthetic hand. But the flip side, for many, is that you could also use your 3D printer to print a gun or other weapons, circumventing laws that regulate firearms.
These story arcs are tied into the lives of the major players in the 3D printing world, showcasing the personalities that are bringing this technology into the future. Directors Clay Tweel and Luis Lopez (visual effects and editing for 2010’s adaptation of Freakonomics) capture what could be the 3D printed version of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates’ race to create the personal computer.
Print the Legend premiered at SXSW 2014, where it won the special jury recognition award for editing and storytelling in the documentary category. It’s both inspiring and fascinating to see a new technology flourish so quickly and yet bump up against the same trials of industry we’ve always had, no matter how much it can change the game.
The movie is playing in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and it’s also available to stream on Netflix.
Feature image from Print the Legend/Netflix