Neil Gershenfeld expressed the concern that 3D printing does not encompass all of the technology developments that could be described as "digital fabrication." Gershenfeld said that the explosion of press around 3D printers is "like telling chef's in the 1960's that microwave ovens are the future of cooking." Digital fabrication means using computers to control machines that make stuff, and which involves turning information into stuff, is much larger than 3D printing. In meetings with government agencies, Gershenfeld listened to them talk about their projects involving 3D printers, and perhaps he had heard enough.
So Gershenfeld organized this program as a showcase of state-of-the-art (or science) in digital fabrication at MIT, Harvard and elsewhere. The White House Office of Science and Technology supported this program because they'd like to see a common research agenda that can be supported by government agencies and universities. Phil Rubin of OSTP said that their goal is "innovation, inspiration, inclusion and imagination."
Saul Griffith led the program with "A Complete History of Digital Fabrication." He started with knitting, then mentioned the Jacquard loom, Babbage's difference engine, Turing, Shannon influencing the development of computing. I'll share below my tweet stream from the event, intermixed with a few others who tweeted.