Rapid Prototyping is the automatic construction of physical objects using additive manufacturing technology. The first techniques for rapid prototyping became available in the late 1980s and were used to produce models and prototype parts.

Rapid Manufacturing, also known as direct digital manufacturing, Instant or On-Demand Manufacturing is a manufacturing process which creates physical parts directly from 3D CAD files or data using computer-controlled additive fabrication techniques without human intervention, also called 3D printing or rapid prototyping. When a small low cost device is used it is also called desktop, or personal manufacturing. The primary distinction between the use of other terms to describe 3D printing is that additive freeform fabrication is solely intended to describe a 3D printed part that is to be used as the final product with minimal post-processing. Whereas other terms used to describe rapid prototyping, additive freeform fabrication and the like are simply alternative ways of describing the 3D printing process itself.