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Print the Legend (U) | Home Ents Review

Print the Legend

Dir. Luis Lopez and J.Clay Tweel, US, 2014, 140 mins
The “print” in the title of this Netflix documentary does not refer to normal ink print, but the print from the hot new 3D printing technology which is now available fairly inexpensively to use in your own home.

This technology, more correctly called stereolithography, which is a process for creating 3D objects with an extruded liquid polymer which builds up the structure, layer by layer, controlled by a laser beam. Using this process, models, prototypes, parts, and, apparently, even functioning human organs can be made.

The film didn’t cover the technology, but was actually concerned with two young U.S startup companies. The first is MakerBot Industries, the Brooklyn-based startup whose rise has been attributed by many to its charismatic co-founder and CEO, Bre Pettis, a character likened in this film to Steve Jobs.

The other company is the Boston based Formlabs which was founded in 2011 by three college graduates in their twenties. It was a Kickstarter venture, and the film describes the problems where their Kickstarter investors were finding the promised free 3D printers constantly held up by production and testing delays.

Issues at MakerBot got very complicated. The company made a decision in 2011 to switch over from open-source hardware to a proprietary closed-source model. This of course was an enormous shift in the corporate philosophy which was described by the co-founder, Zachary “Hoeken” Smith,  as “the ultimate betrayal.”

This documentary is a frenetic race among young whizz kids (there are no whizz girls at all I’m afraid!) wanting to expound the features of this fascinating new technology and showing what it’s like, as well as what it takes to live the American Dream. It is all played out with more talking heads than flies on the wall. It is all about when ideals, visions and dreams meet the game of capitalism, and the rules of the market, and tough questions need to be asked, such as what price the American Dream?

It also shows just how tough it is to start a business. I really was disappointed that the technology wasn’t shown and explained in greater detail. There are some great shots to be had with ultra close-ups, the almost erotic and phallic extrusion of the “goo” from which the 3D model is “born”.

The film did include the anarchist, Cody Wilson, who caused outrage in 2012 when he printed 3D guns. This is an interesting area because the 3D weapons raised questions about the ethical limits of the technology and forced companies to confront the moral implications of the technology which they were creating.

Those considering a high technology based startup are well advised to watch this production.

Review by Eric Jukes