Every generation manufactures a new batch of revolutionaries, some are built to last, and most are not.
Print the Legend captures this harsh truth well, demonstrating just how fraught with peril the odyssey of following your dreams is, the threat of failure and obsolescence a constant menace.
The 2014 documentary, recently released on Netflix, explores the much exclaimed “next revolution”: 3D printing.
Instead of focusing on the technology itself, Print the Legend chooses to examine the companies and individuals competing with one another for supremacy within the industry: the big incumbent, 3D Systems; creative upstarts, MakerBot and Formlabs; and fringe operator Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed.
Viewing the topic from this angle shows just how much ambition, media hype and illusion are tangled up together in the emerging world of 3D printing.
Entrepreneurs have entered popular mythology as folk heroes, largely as a creation of a media narrative, which doesn’t just characterise them as capable business people, but as individuals who “change the world” – a grandiose phrase already overripe for satire.
3D printing has not escaped this theme: Bre Pettis co-founder and former CEO of MakerBot has been heroically featured on the cover of technology magazines as the courier of a new era, and anti-hero Cody Wilson, who manufactures 3D printed guns has been named as “one of the most dangerous people in the world”.
Print the Legend calmly peers beyond these manic depictions of infallibility and instead reveals just how fragile the players in this nascent industry really are.
The entrepreneurs profiled in the documentary are hardcore dreamers, their minds in constant negotiation with reality, as they try to realize their visions, obstructed by technological setbacks and often each other.
Success is certainly not assured and they all know it.
Are friendships and ideological principles strong enough to survive the brutal struggle for survival?
Not necessarily, as Print the Legend astutely observes.
The film will, as the filmmakers intended, serve as a valuable time capsule of the early days of 3D printing.
And as a mausoleum for the deceased dreams of the future.
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Featured Image Credit: Flickr