The fabber is not a new technology in the same way that the compact disc of the last decades of the twentieth century hadn’t been new when they’d become popular. It was invented as a form of field ration to simplify care for soldiers in the Franco-Portugese army in the fifth decade of the third world war. The technology was simplified and refined and an organic recycler was added making them further popular among many of the pre-warp starships, and when warp was developed found a niche there as well due to the extremely limited capacity of those ships.
The basic concept started out as an edible form of the plastic soup used in the rapid prototypers and 3D printers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. These used a mix of edible gels comprised amino acids, vitamins, minerals, or carbohydrates in balanced proportions; it would produce hot rapid meals by combining these according to information provided to ensure each soldier got no more than they needed. The next revision could recycle certain amounts and types of organic waste, but was not popular on the battlefield, nor is it currently common in the home due to the space that component takes up. This was not, however, a limitation on starships where it still takes up less space than foodstuffs and makes the food supply very nearly limited only to the availability of power.
Modern units can be given additional gels that can allow recreation of flavours and have assemblers that allow them to build what looks like a normal food, even reproducing textures and densities. Some claim that the fabber food is indistinguishable from the real thing except to be guaranteed healthful, others say that the end product is a crime against cuisine. Most, though, hold a position somewhere in between — it might not be perfect, but it’s edible. The fabber is, on many Confederate colony worlds, the only food available to Terrans. These would be worlds incapable of supporting Human consumable foods, and the cost ineffectiveness of hydroponics on such large scales, or shipping in food on warp freighters. A waste recycling center is established and colonists purchase food gelpacks from it. The fabber is also becoming a fad among the old worlds which can grow food out of the novelty of not having to worry about perishables, or even grocery shopping. Most packs are good for a month of meals for the average family of three.
The fabber has little popularity outside the Terran Confederation for various reasons. One is the lack of popularity of electrical power or the Terran’s habit of using digital computer systems making them difficult to integrate. Another is how few are willing to tolerate the taste (or even to understand how to convince the things of the dietary needs of anything that isn’t Human). Some of the techniques used for the food prep was adapted for the original prototypers that inspired these devices and a line of fabbers exists that can make clothes, simple household goods, and so forth do exist as well. These use oils and produce polyester type fabrics, hairbrushes, a passable toothpaste, etc. This particular form of fabber has gained a small following outside the Confederation,but still not much due to the afore mentioned electricity, and due to a view of its products being of quality inferior to the goods more conventionally produced.