Look at your computer. Look at your printer. Now look back at your computer. Don't they both look to be in 3D? Maybe it's just the angle, or the odd reflection coming from the window, but I could swear that I have a 3D printer. Or maybe that's because I don't understand the whole 3D printer thing. Or maybe they're not "printers" as much as they are "fabricators."
I probably could have made that leap more quickly if someone would have pointed me in the right direction. Well, to be completely truthful, they did some time ago. These were the machines that were going to make our houses on the moon. Even way back then, I wasn't ready to call them "printers." A friend of mine suggested "replicators," but I don't think they're quite up to the task of making "Earl Grey, hot." Especially since they're having a relatively difficult time making a gun.
That doesn't keep us from getting all worked up about the possibility of bad guys making guns on their printers. How soon before the NRA jumps into that void? How soon before we have to worry about North Korea getting their 3D printed nuclear warheads? So much to think about, so little time.
The thought that I keep returning to is one planted in my head years ago by a guy with whom I worked installing modular office furniture. He asked me, "How did they make the first lathe?" It was not a huge quandary for a guy who had never taken a wood shop class, but it became a source of intrigue for me. Don't you need a lathe to make a lathe? Which currently has me imagining that once you can get 3D printers to fabricate themselves, it's only a matter of time before Cyberdyne takes over the planet. Stay tuned.