The first chapter of Fabricated is set a few decades in the future: In your kitchen a 3-D printer outfitted with food cartridges cooks up breakfast, while across the street a giant printing nozzle oozes out the concrete foundation of a new home. At work, you’re investigating the bioprinting black market, wherein counterfeiters sell sloppily printed organs for transplants. The scenario seems farfetched, but Lipson and Kurman make a compelling case that some version of it is not far off.
3-D printing, which creates objects by depositing or binding successive layers of material such as metal or plastic, is poised to shake up everything from manufacturing to medicine (see page 20). Lipson, an engineer at Cornell University, and technology analyst Kurman explore how these machines are already wending their way into many facets of society, including food, fashion and education.
From hipsters in Brooklyn to the R&D labs of giant companies, people are harnessing 3-D printing to make clothing, airplane parts and prosthetics. While today the fraction of objects that are 3-D printed is infinitesimally small compared with traditionally manufactured goods, the market is growing. The authors certainly have been bitten by the bug — but they have done their homework. While excitement and wonder over the technology’s potential comes through, the authors also explore potential perils, which include generating enormous amounts of plastic waste and upending intellectual property law. Overall the book is an easy, interesting read that serves as both primer and, perhaps, prognostication.
Wiley, 2013, 302 p.,$27.95