3D printing isn’t new, especially to the engineering community, but it can’t be denied that additive manufacturing has been under the marketing spotlight in the last 18 months. That’s why Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel found themselves working on an indie-documentary featuring some of the biggest “little” companies in 3D printing.
About two years ago, the Print the Legend crew was approached with the concept of covering Steve Jobs. Obviously, this has been done, and redone. So, the team set out to find “the next Steve Jobs.” They found the greatest potential in the emerging desktop 3D printing market.
Again, 3D printing isn’t new, but the route to success for startups has changed drastically in recent years, and these consumer/prosumer 3D printing companies are leading the charge.
The film’s narrative raises questions about upcoming companies and the challenges they face. Something that engineers are all too familiar with – case-in-point, the popularity of PD&D’s Kickstarter of the Week.
One of the companies that the documentary follows is FormLabs, who launched one of the most successful Kickstarters to date with the Form1 desktop stereolithography printer. FormLabs has encountered sourcing issues, piracy challenges, and even a lawsuit from one of 3D printing’s biggest companies, 3D Systems – talk about a startup’s worst nightmare(s).
In parallel, the documentary follows Bre Pettis, MakerBot CEO, as his company transformed from an open-source darling to another pillar in a grand corporate system. Which, let’s be honest, is a dream come true for a startup company. A dream to the tune of $400M.
Pettis also took the brunt of the storm, as his founding partners (Wozniaks) either left or were removed from the company as it grew, all while weathering the changing landscape of the small startup.
Michael Curry, a MakeBot Designer, said in the documentary, “We used to be very effective at getting things done on a very short timeline. Come up with an idea on Monday, we could have it out the door on Wednesday. Now we have situations where we’re patting ourselves on the back that something only took five months.”
This speaks to a larger picture that Print the Legend precipitates – startups succeed and fail, but there really doesn’t seem to be any encompassing formula for success. MakerBot found success by merging with Stratasys. FormLabs found itself at odds with 3D Systems – though, the lawsuit is on hold, and (in this editor’s opinion) the acquisition of FormLabs by 3D Systems could be in the pipeline. Both companies could be considered successful, while both could be considered failures.
The 3D printing industry is growing, fast, but more importantly, the utopian concept of a successful startup is easier than ever – though, still incredibly challenging. Print the Legend really is about finding the next Steve Jobs, though it may not be just one person, but rather, the biggest little company you’ve ever seen.
What’s your take? Are startups easier to get off the ground today or is the world of corporatism too much for upcoming companies? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.