After Johannes Gutenberg printed the Bible in 1455, launching the era of efficient printing, the effects of the invention of the printing press spread quickly. Within a few years, the printing press had spread all across Europe and by 1533 to the Americas. Science, art, literature, education, faith, politics, media, and entertainment were all changed forever. Kings and kingdoms could no longer contain information or keep it out of their domains. Now fast forward to the world wide web and the possibility of designing an object in software in Austin and pushing a button to print it — make it real – it in New York. Or, if there is a 3D printer available there, Damascus or Tehran or Beijing.
3D printing really could change everything about manufacturing and the marketing and distribution of goods and technology. The prices of 3D printers are coming down, as their speed and capabilities leap forward. Jim Kor’s Urbee 2 brings the printed car nearer to production. Another group, RepRap, is working on building printers that replicate themselves. Wilson is aware of RepRap’s potential ramifications for his own project, as Defense Distributed races toward the printing of a working firearm.
In the not too distant future, printed guns may be available for as little as $50 apiece, just a download and a button push away from everyone who wants one.