“Print the Legend” is a documentary about early beginnings of additive manufacturing and 3D printing, produced by Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel. The documentary made its debut on SXSW, where it was awarded for documentary features and recognized by a special jury. You can find the documentary on Netflix now as it is available now on the streaming platform and easy to reach.
But “Print the Legend” is so much more than just a mere documentary about 3D printing and its early steps. It actually poses a much larger question and leads us to ask ourselves whether the development of technology is truly meant for the human species or if it is something that will lead us further to our destruction.
The synopsis of the documentary revolves around three main figures and three rivaling companies. Bre Pettis, of MakerBot, is portrayed as the villain of the story with him being portrayed as a Steve Jobs-like figure and mogul of the industry. Max Lobovsky, the co-founder of Formlabs, as the shy hero of the story, and Cody Wilson, of Defense Distributed, as the anarchist of the tale.
“Print the Legend” does well to explain to the viewers early on how the additive manufacturing industry really works. At first, nobody really expected that 3D printing would start to interest ordinary people and all the big manufacturers didn’t see the value of making smaller home sized printers of personal use. But manufacturers like Pettis and Lobovsky had their own ideas behind it.
They saw this as an opportunity to allow people from all walks of life to use this new technology. 3D printing technology is currently available for personal use everywhere. You can print in London, print in Moscow, Asia, Africa, Antarctica, everywhere. The idea was not only to expand this technology but to commercialize it for personal use. This is the part that the filmmakers call the “Macintosh Moment.”
Bree Pettis utilized his idea in order to turn this very young industry into something special. He started off as hackerspace, which turned into a chaotic startup and eventually ended up as a multi-billion company. Pettis soon became the face of the 3D industry and his ferocious, mogul-like and vulturous way of doing business was further criticized when he sold the company.
On the other hand, Max Lobovsky is a shy person who portrays himself of making better contact with machines than with humans. Opposing Pettis, Lobovsky had the same idea but faced different problems in the development of his own idea. Formlabs was started as a Kickstarter project that managed to sell 2,9 million products in just 30 days, but the problem was that the end product was not finished. Essentially speaking, Max made promises that he could not keep.
And then we come to the radical and perhaps the actual villain of the story. Cody Wilson is the first person who successfully 3D printed a gun and fired out of it. He is seen as appearing on talk shows and making various clips with radical quotes and messages that may seem scary. His disturbing denture followed by Nietzschean philosophy may be intriguing, but it is obvious that he uses all the platforms available to him to garner fame.
So What Is “Print the Legend” Actually About?
The documentary explains everything thoroughly and helps people understand what the additive manufacturing industry is all about. Unfortunately, it mostly helps us understand the bad side of it. Pettis is not here to change the world, although his tactics make him seem so. Lobovsky, although portrayed as the hero of the story, lacks the charisma of a true hero and does not seem like a person who will bring this technology to its true purpose.
On the other hand, Cody Wilson, even though he seems like the proper antagonist of the 3D printing era can probably talk the talk but does not seem as if he can walk the walk. Cody only wants to portray himself as a person who made and fired the first 3D printed weapon, and this is where the story ends. There is no drama behind it; he does not preach a revolution which foreshadows people making a ton of guns with 3D printers. He uses the media to his advantage only to make himself famous.
So What Is the Real Message of “Print the Legend”?
The answer is, “potential”! When producers Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel said that they were capturing something similar to a “Macintosh Moment” they were completely right. This is a revolutionary idea and 3D printing is the technology of the future. It has massive potential and promises to save the future in a certain sense. But what they failed to explain are other processes that additive manufacturing works. Unfortunately, they only scratched the surface and focused solely on the drama.
In this sense “Print the Legend” is not so much different than the dramatized version of real events seen in “Social Network” and “Steve Jobs.” The documentary fails where it needs it the most. They failed to explain the future which may include metal printing and bioprinting which could solve much of the world’s problems and even treat certain conditions and ailments for people.
“Print the Legend” is certainly a documentary which captures the audience’s attention and holds it firmly till the end. But the filmmakers have only portrayed one side of the story failed to show us the future. This is a good way to see and experience the origin story and see the bad aspects of the 3D printing industry. But, essentially speaking, it is a bad guy vs. the good guy story.
Hopefully, smarter viewers will use what they have learned from this viewing experience so it helps them realize the potential of what this technology can truly bring.