by Anton Shilov
06/26/2013 | 11:40 PM
Microsoft Corp. this week announced that the Windows 8.1 update will have built-in support for 3D printing, making a 3D object on a PC will be as easy as writing a document in Word and sending it to print. With the new 3D printing support in Windows 8.1, thousands of app builders and device manufacturers can create easy-to-use 3D print experiences.
3D printing has been used for many years by car manufacturers, aerospace companies, toymakers, and a wide variety of large companies, including Microsoft, to rapidly make prototypes. It enables manufacturers to model an object on a computer and print it using a variety of materials, from plastic to metal. And recently, the popularity of 3D printing has exploded among the Maker community, do-it-yourself hobbyists, inventors, and design enthusiasts, who are making everything from jewelry and purses to robotics components and games.
There are a variety of techniques for 3D printing. One of the most common techniques for consumer 3D printing devices uses a spool of plastic filament as the raw material. The filament is fed into a melting chamber, where it’s heated and extruded as a thin strand of molten plastic filament. With this filament strand, the 3D printer draws shapes on a flat surface and fills them in, just like using crayons in a coloring book. The filament sticks to itself to create the first thin layer of an object, cooling down as it goes. Then the 3D printer raises the print head and repeats the process, drawing on top of the previous layer to create a new, taller layer. This process is repeated until an entire object is created, which can then be removed from the 3D printer.
3D printers are just one type of 3D manufacturing device. Computer numerically controlled machines and laser cutters have been around even longer. Microsoft customers in the Maker community will be happy to know that the new features in Windows 8.1 support these types of devices, too!
There are a number of new features designed to support 3D manufacturing in Windows 8.1:
Microsoft has teamed up with a lot of partners for the first wave of apps and devices, with more partners constantly joining.