Forget 3D Printing… Print an Entire paperback book (Photo Tour)

How many times have you gone to a book store, only to find they didn’t have the book you needed? What if they could just print up a new copy for you, instead of shipping one from another store, and you could walk out 20 minutes later with a book? This technology exists, and it’s made it into about a dozen bookstores and colleges already.

It’s called the Espresso book Machine(EBM), and it’s a completely autonomous publishing center. In the middle of the store, a beautiful machine the size of a desk can print full-color, paperback books, from a library of 8 million+. You can even print your own book.

I first came across this technology at Cornell University, and I ended up taking around a dozen photos, because I was in awe of what this little machine can do. Some may argue that print is dying, and that any book can be replaced by a Kindle, or an iPad, but I’m a believer in the feeling of turning pages, and the smell of published paper. This machine brings the book into the modern era. Let’s take a look at the process of building a book.

Step 1: Find a book.

Untitled Start by finding a book out of EBM’s online library. They have 8 million books to choose from, just as 3D printing companies now offer ready-to-print items. They even include several hundred thousand freebies – mostly classics now in the public domain (i.e Shakespeare), thanks to Google’s book archiving program.

If no books interest you from the catalogue, you can always write your own. The EBM allows authors with design skills enough to get their book into PDF format (not too hard) the ability to self-publish their book.

Step 2. Printing


There are two steps to the printing process on the EBM. Firstly, it prints the cover. For this, it uses special cover paper, a professional cover printer, and the PDF cover supplied by the download of each book.

Secondly, another printer inside of the machine prints out print-quality text onto pages. These aren’t your everyday inkjets. These are specially designed publishing printers, built for quick, good looking performance. It’s pretty insane to watch. Apparently, books made on the machine can reach up to 800 pages!

Step 3. Binding and Cutting.

Here’s where the heavy-duty machinery comes into play. Some hydraulic clamps and presses push the printed pages together, making it look like a real book. An electronic arm then applies an adhesive to the spine to hold it all together. A hacksaw like blade chops the book to any size, as specified. After a bit of drying, the cover is rolled on, held on by the same adhesive, and it dries further, into a nice looking book.

Step 4. Reading 🙂

Like a vending machine, the book rolls out a slot in the machine, and voila, you’ve got a book! It looks great! How far do you think this technology can get? Will we one day be printing books in our own homes?


Michael Sitver

Michael Sitver is a technology insider who has been blogging about technology since 2011. Along the way, he's interviewed founders of innovative startups, and executives from fortune 500 companies, and he's tried dozens or hundreds of gadgets. Michael has also contributed to works featured in Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the associated press. Michael also occasionally consults, and writes for Seeking Alpha and Yahoo News.

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