3D printing .... oh how I hate that term. This is what has been known as rapid prototyping for years now.
Though there is an actual printer that can 3 dimensionally print now.
Right up there with "font" instead of the correct word "typeface."
Stereolithography or SLA since 1986
” This is what has been known as rapid prototyping for years now.”
Yes. And no.
These 3D printers go well beyond producing prototypes, to facilitate the design process. They have become machines for custom, or small-production-run manufacturing. In a real sense, they are becoming replicators.
The article describes the key differences. Once the design of this printable gun was finalized (i.e. once the prototyping had been completed); the next step would be to distribute the design electronically. People would be able to download the data necessary to cause a new gun to be printed. People could share their designs far and wide.
Rapid prototyping shortened design cycles. 3D printing will completely change what we mean by “manufacturing”, and “distribution”.