In this digital age, an encyclopedia seems downright archaic. Especially in the context of modern manufacturing techniques like EBM ("Electron Beam Machining"), where a beam of electrons bores holes denominated in tens of microns through thin materials—in a vacuum no less, because the electrons could be thrown off by air molecules (!). Into this neo-futurist world, Chris Lefteri has provided the second edition of Making It: Manufacturing Technologies for Product Design to catalogue all of the manufacturing tools modern designers have at their disposal. While it may be possible to find more detailed or technical information on the processes he describes, Making It stands as a robust resource for a product designer looking into a new manufacturing technique, an eye-popping compendium for a scientifically minded student, or, perhaps most valuably, as a vehicle for increasing designer awareness of new innovation in manufacturing.
Designers live in a mildly cloistered world where they can concentrate on form factors with a vague awareness of parting lines and minimum thicknesses, but really leave it to the engineers to complete their visions. Making It reads like a layman's engineering primer, not a product design book. Each manufacturing technology gets its own 2–4 page spread with a glossy product shot, accompanying text, our favorite buzzword "process shots," and a highlighted info box of the characteristics of the technology.
The overall book is organized in 8 categories: (1) Cut from Solid, (2) Sheet, (3) Continuous, (4) Thin and Hollow, (5) Into Solid, (6) Complex, (7) Advanced and (8) Finishing. We assure you that well before you reach the sections entitled "Complex" or "Advanced," you'll be thoroughly convinced that the complexity of human ingenuity and tool-making prowess is unassailable, and that's even before we hit the cool stuff like Industrial Origami or Deep 3D Forming in Plywood.
Lefteri chooses some wonderfully evocative products as examples: Jeroen Verhoeven's "Cinderella Table" for the compound curves multi-axis CNC can provide or Jasper Morrison's elegant air chair produced via Gas Assisted Injection Molding. His commentary also provides some amazing/quease-inducing insights (e.g. the "boiled egg slices" in McDonald's salads are extruded. The only errant note to this industrial designer's eye were the hand-drawn process sketches. In all cases, the mechanics of the drawings are clear, but when Making It gets to the highly-technical Stereolithography ("SLA") process at the end, the drawing of the computer involved in the process seems laughably crude in comparison to the elegance of Arik Levy's "Black Honey Bowel" on the opposite side of the spread.
By the end of a front to back read, we imagine that there probably isn't a single designer alive aware of all of the technology contained within, especially since some of them are proprietary or held only by one manufacturer. Of particular note were pcPRO (Precise-Cast Prototyping) where the "mold" is created with a CNC tool in metal and then plastic is poured into the mold, then the same CNC head mills into the plastic to create a custom "negative" interior space according to need. Whether you're seeking to learn the subtle differences between Sintering, HIP and SIP or you'd just like to see rapid prototyping where the input is a standard sheet of printer paper (page 242), Making It should serve as a valuable resource for designers, engineers or anyone who frequents the Discovery Channel's "How Did They Do That?" We did it, as a culture, and it's all amazing.