Fabricated, by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman (Softcover, 2013)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This book was a pleasure to read. It's informative on several levels, but also
ignites the imagination.
Over the past many years, various professional magazines have featured
articles on what is popularly referred to as 3D printing. Over the past few
years, various consumer publications have featured articles on it. The
Mindconnection eNewsletter has mentioned it in the Good News column as a
counterforce to the economically devastating misconduct of our
misrepresentatives in CONgress. And let's not forget how the movie industry used
the concept in such hits as the Terminator series.
I've read a wide range of facts and opinions on this manufacturing
method, but until this book those have been in article format. Articles are
great, and they constitute the vast majority of my reading. But they are
necessarily much more limited in scope than books are; you can cover quite a
bit more in 60,000 words than in 1,500 (unless you're the typical
politician, in which case you essentially say nothing but spew thousands of
This book has two authors, and I suppose both are knowledgeable. As the
Preface said, there wasn't any delineation as to who wrote what. However, it
seems to read with one voice. It's clear that the authors communicated and
that a good editor was involved in this book project (though some
copyediting errors did crop up).
It's also clear that a whole lotta fact checkin' was goin' on. I didn't
find any errors of fact, and for a review of mine that is really saying
something. The references are extensive, and most of those look like
I was pleased to see two intelligently written reviews posted prior to
mine. My thanks go out to Paul Tognetti for his thoughtful, accurate review
and the Library Picks Staff for theirs.
Not the case here, but I often wonder if some reviewers are actually
talking about the same book. In anticipation of those who inevitably add
dross to the review section, a few comments:
- As you read along, it seems the authors are hyping up the
technology. It's not hype. The technology really is a game-changer. If
you read the whole text (and generally, the whole context of the "hype"
passage), you will see the authors balance out the positive attributes
with cautions, notes on limitations, and "now here's the downside" sorts
- If you have been reading any of the technical journals, for example,
IEEE Spectrum, the subject won't be new to you. That does not make this
a retread (and anyone who claims so probably is borrowing someone else's
journals due to being too brain-challenged to be a subscriber). You may
have heard things discussed or read a puff piece in a consumer mag, and
so reach the same conclusion. What's different here is the richness of
- The book contains many black and white photos, most of which are of
marginal production quality. That does not mean the book is low value.
It means the book is affordable. Big glossy photo prints are not cheap.
That's why there's a smallish section of these in the middle rather than
a whole bunch spread through out. The authors merely chose to focus
their limited resources on substance rather than form. Dr. Lipson and
Ms. Kurman could have published a similar book as a college text at a
price of $75 to $100 (check out the publications and prices). But this
lists for $27.95.
- Oh, gee, it's nearly 300 pages. This does not indicate verbosity.
The writing quality indicates judicious use of words, most likely
through serious editing. The amount of filler isn't enough to even try
The goal of this book, IMO, is to help the reader understand four things:
- What 3D printing is. It isn't really printing, but that label helps
us relate to the idea of using software to instruct hardware how apply
one material to another. Rather than applying ink to paper, these
systems can apply particles of plastic (or other materials) to each
other and they can do that in three dimensions.
- How the technology is presently used. As with personal computers in
the mid-1980s, there's a small userbase and much of the usage falls
- Costs and benefits. Like any technology, it has its tradeoffs. The
authors present a full and accurate picture of what these are. It is
clear they were trying to describe 3D printing, rather than "sell" it to
- How the technology is likely to be used in the future, and how it
may be used further on. We tend to describe the future as an extension
of what is now (as the authors caution us). Thus, these predictions
understate the potential.
The authors are certainly capable of delving into arcane explanations of
this technology and running us through the mathematical equations. But that
is not the path they chose. They chose the more difficult path of relating
the concepts to a lay audience. They did this in a way that makes the
concepts not just accessible and understandable, but exciting. So it was a
good read and an informative one. I think anyone who wants to understand a
paradigm-shifting, game-changing, economy-saving technology would benefit
from reading this book.
Understanding what this technology is and where it's headed can help you
be prepared for the massive changes it will make in the very, uh, fabric of
society. It's not often a technology like this comes along, and we are
barely scratching the surface of the benefits 3D printing can provide can
provide. Nor is it often a book like this comes along, but we have the
benefit of being able to read it now.
Fabricated consists of fourteen chapters in 281 expertly written pages. Not
included in the page count is the center section of color photos (most of these
also appear in the text).