In many parts of the world, it’s the season for cuddling up in front of a warm fireplace with a good book—and for 3D printing enthusiasts, there are a lot of books to choose from.
The invention and spread of 3D printing promises to bring far-reaching changes—not just to engineering and manufacturing, but to how our entire culture operates. That means there are books on every conceivable subject that are of interest to 3D printers, designers, engineers, and manufacturers.
Below, we list our top 16 picks across several categories, including:
- Engineering books
- Books on technology, culture, and the future
- History books
- Business and marketing books
An Introduction to 3D Printing by Victoria Zukas and Jonas A. Zukas
For those new to the world of 3D printing, Zukas & Zukas’ An Introduction to 3D Printing is the perfect way to dive into the subject. The book is comprehensive, covering everything from basic jargon you need to know and wide-ranging applications of 3D printing to software used and generating your first 3D model.
We are at the beginning of yet another technological revolution. Where it will end is anyone’s guess but given the wide variety of applications thus far, it is clear that this is not a fad or a tinkerer’s toy.
The Zombie Apocalypse Guide to 3D printing: Designing and printing practical objects by Clifford T. Smyth
Designed for practicality, The Zombie Apocalypse Guide to 3D printing offers more than 65 illustrations and photos to help readers design and print practical, everyday items. The book explains how to design for 3D printing, optimizing designs for strength, common printing problems, and more.
Nothing can ruin your zombie ambush as quickly as when a critical tool fails to perform as required. As Murphy’s Law dictates, this seems to occur mostly at the worst possible times, so it’s important that the designs we print are robust and up to the task at hand.
Books on Technology, Culture, and the Future
The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives by Peter H. Diamandis & Steven Kotler
The development of 3D printing technology is one part of an exponential growth over recent decades. Authors Diamandis and Kotler describe how those technologies, together and apart, will alter everything from our everyday lives to society as a whole.
Given the sheer pace of development across these exponentials, it has been a difficult book to write. Every time we think it’s finished, we need to reopen a chapter to update it with what has just occurred. Yet the bottom line remains the same: today’s emerging technologies are already building upon (and accelerating) each other’s growth. Whether in transportation, retail, advertising, education, health, entertainment, food, or finance, their convergence will have a profound—and irreversible—impact on every aspect of our lives.
– Peter H. Diamandis
The Next Big Thing: From 3D Printing to Mining the Moon by Christopher Barnatt
Civilization today isn’t sustainable. In The Next Big Thing, author Christopher Barnatt examines how the ways we live—and the technology we use—will have to fundamentally change in order to become sustainable. Barnatt argues the case that 3D printing, synthetic biology, and space travel technology will pave that path.
The four parts of this book highlight four fundamental future transitions. These will take us on a journey from the reign of the microprocessor to that of the microfabricator; from use of dumb computing devices to a cohabitation with smart synthetic citizens; from consuming less here on Earth to finding more resources out in space; and from healthcare systems focused on medical maintenance to those which champion generational upgrades to the human form.
Not Impossible: The Art and Joy of Doing What Couldn't Be Done by Mick Ebeling
Author Mick Ebeling takes the ideals of the Maker Movement to a new place. In Not Impossible, Ebeling chronicles his numerous inventions and explains how he discovered that hacky, do-it-yourself solutions may just change the world.
Just a few months ago, I had the idea of coming to Africa when I first heard about Daniel, a boy whose arms were blown off in the war. About the same time, I had first heard about the possibility of creating new prosthetic arms, not through normal medical channels, but in a very do-it-yourself hacker way—my way, in short—with an off-the-shelf 3D printer. And that’s when the idea first occurred to me that I could make those arms for Daniel.
– Mick Ebeling
The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware by Andrew “bunnie” Huang
One of the bigger changes of the 21st century to date is the shift toward openness—open source software and, increasingly, open source hardware. Taking the form of a career retrospective of sorts, The Hardware Hacker dives into the emerging world of open hardware, criss-crossing from engineering to society to law.
The common thread throughout these diverse topics is hardware: how it’s made, the legal frameworks around it, and how it’s unmade. I’ve always gravitated toward hardware because while I’m not particularly gifted when it comes to abstract thought, I am pretty good with my hands. I have a much better chance of understanding things that I can see with my own two eyes.
– Andrew “bunnie” Huang
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson
As Anderson’s publisher puts it, “In an age of custom-fabricated, do-it-yourself product design and creation, the collective potential of a million garage tinkerers and enthusiasts is about to be unleashed.” Makers discusses the monumental impact this next wave of creators—powered by new technologies—will have on the economy and society as a whole.
It used to be hard to change the world with an idea alone. You can invent a better mousetrap, but if you can’t make it in the millions, the world won’t beat a path to your door. As Marx observed, power belongs to those who control the means of production. My grandfather could invent the automatic sprinkler system in his workshop, but he couldn’t build a factory there.
Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab
From AI to cryptocurrency to additive manufacturing, the world is undergoing another revolution. But, as author Klaus Schwab explains in Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this big shift is just beginning—and we have the power to shape the new world that lays beyond it.
The world is at a crossroads. The social and political systems that have lifted millions out of poverty and shaped our national and global policies for half a century are failing us. The economic benefits of human ingenuity and effort are becoming more concentrated, inequality is rising, and the negative externalities of our integrated global economy are harming the natural environment and vulnerable populations.
– Klaus Schwab
Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 by Stephen E. Ambrose
With today’s technology, historical feats of engineering and human effort can lose their luster. But understanding where today’s technology can take us requires an understanding of what it took to bring some of history’s most important advancements to bear. In Nothing Like It In the World, Ambrose brings the story of the first transcontinental railroad to life through the eyes of those who built it.
The railroad took brains, muscle, and sweat in quantities and scope never before put into a single project. It could not have been done without a representative, democratic political system; without skilled and ambitious engineers… without men willing to challenge all, at every level, in order to win all.
Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon by Craig Nelson
We know the result of the Apollo mission: man walked on the moon. But, in Rocket Men, author Craig Nelson tells the story of what it took to get there. With the help of interviews, NASA oral histories, and declassified CIA documents, Nelson unfurls the whole story that lead up to Apollo 11 and July 16, 1969.
By the time of Apollo 11, Americans had watched so many rockets lifting off in so many countdowns that NASA’s dutiful television broadcasts had become as humdrum as breakfast. The reality, however, was far more dramatic...”
The Shock Of The Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 by David Edgerton
Books on the history of technological advancement are a dime-a-dozen, but few make you think critically about what those advancements meant in their time or what today’s advancements mean in ours. The Shock of the Old does just that, helping us reframe the way we view politics, economics, and culture—through the lens of technology.
History books are derived largely from propaganda about technology. So in the 40s everyone was excited about supersonic flight and atomic power, and in today's history books we continue to think of that era being dominated by those technologies. It wasn't. One might more correctly think of the 40s as a time of tanks, aeroplanes, cars, coal and wheat and pig farming. We inhabit a world where what I call 'the futurism of the past' falsely conditions our conception of the past.
– David Edgerton in The Guardian
Women and Ideas in Engineering: Twelve Stories from Illinois by Laura D. Hahn & Angela S. Wolters
Women are finally beating down the door of traditionally male professions and spaces in society—but it’s no shock to anyone that women have actually been driving some of the key advancements in those spaces for a long time. Authors Hahn and Wolters examine 12 stories that highlight the impact women have had on engineering in particular.
Imagine if, 3000 years ago, women, in full force, had been welcomed and encouraged to join the club of discovery and innovated. Imagine what the impact of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign could have been if as many women as men had been part of the scientific inquiries and engineering pursuits that established it.
Business and Marketing Books
Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin
For anyone looking to create and sell products today, Seth Godin’s seminal Purple Cow is a must-read. Turning the traditional idea of marketing on its head, Godin advocates for using remarkability to separate products from the noise of today’s market—by building a purple cow into everything you make.
Marketing isn’t guaranteed to work, but the way things used to be, if you got all your Ps right, you were more likely than not to succeed. Something disturbing has happened, though. The Ps just aren’t enough. This is a book about a new P, a P that is suddenly exceptionally important.
Supercharg3d: How 3D Printing Will Drive Your Supply Chain by Len Pannett
3D printing has wide-ranging and far-reaching potential—but only when and where it can be deployed strategically. In Supercharg3d, author Len Pannett explains how to use 3D printing to shrink and simplify your supply chain, driving more value. Pannett offers a realistic approach to implementing 3D printing as a supply chain solution, too, noting the limitations that still exist.
Throughout my careers, I’ve worked with clients and organizations from several engineering and technology sectors, and the pressures that they face have all been similar: to meet the requirements of their customers as quickly as possible, at the best cost and with the right quality… Making a significant change now requires innovation, something truly different. 3D printing can make that difference.
Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore
As technology progresses, a new question has emerged for marketers: How do you market high-tech products to everyday consumers? In that regard, Moore’s Crossing the Chasm offers the same, invaluable insight as when it was first published. In it, Moore explains step-by-step how marketers can bring “cutting-edge” products to larger markets.
With so much at stake, the erratic results of high-tech marketing are particularly frustrating… Elsewhere—in cars or TVs or microwaves—we may see ourselves being outmanufactured, but not outmarketed… Why haven’t we been able to apply these same skills to high-tech? And what is it going to take for us to finally get it right?
Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin
A sequel to Godin’s Purple Cow, Free Prize Inside dives deeper into the how of creating truly remarkable products that excite customers and spur word-of-mouth. The book examines countless examples of products where the smallest tweak enables a product to sell itself. Add the capabilities of 3D printing and additive manufacturing to that mix and the opportunities are boundless.
This book is not just a management book. It’s a book for individuals, managers, and CEOs. That’s because this book is a marketing book. It’s a marketing book for an era where the real marketing happens inside the product, not in the ad pages of a magazine. My goal is to sell you on taking on the challenge of doing the essential task of creating innovation.
3D Printing and Beyond
Now that you have a nice and long to-be-read list, it’s time to hunker down with your top pick. Hopefully this list has inspired you to think of 3D printing as more than an engineering and design thing—and to wonder about the role of additive manufacturing in all of our daily lives.