3D printing capability may well be the start of a new industrial revolution, and that they can get just as important as the steam engine and the assembly line. So it’s no surprise that global software mover and shakers, such as Microsoft, might be looking into including the capability to use 3D printing into upcoming operating system software–in this case Windows 8.1.
The possibilities of this technology are huge. Some market analysts predict that the global 3D printing market will reach $3.1 billion by 2016, while others expect that 3D printing can free us from the reigns of traditional factories, and allow us to create products that would previously have been too expensive.
Microsoft thinks 3D printing will go mainstream and it doesn’t want to miss the opportunity. The Redmond company announced full support for 3D printers in the next update (Windows 8.1) to its Windows 8 operating system. The support includes plug-n-play support for printers, enabling apps to seamlessly submit 3D print jobs, understanding 3D file formats, and connecting lots of apps with lots of hardware to deliver an end-to-end solution for customers.
Different flavors of Microsoft Windows runs in over 90 percent of world PCs and the company estimates that over 70 per cent of 3D printing is already performed on machines running Windows. The company is hoping that support for 3D printers will add more developers to create easier-to-use 3-D printing software taking advantage of Windows 8 Metro touch-screen capabilities user interface.
“It’s going to unlock huge potential for people all over the world,” said Shanen Boettcher, a general manager at Microsoft. “It would be great to see virtual potter’s wheels, or block-builder apps. I hope there’s a wide range of easy 3-D creation apps that are really optimized for printing objects.”
Moreover, Microsoft wants to makes it much easier for people to use a 3D printer. With the full support of the operating system you only need to press the “print” to get the process started, rather than go through a separate set of software.
“We want this to be so simple that anyone can set up their own table-top factory,” says Boettcher in a company blog post announcing the move. “Making a 3D object on your PC will be as easy as writing a document in Word and sending it to print.”
Microsoft has partnered with a number of major 3D companies including 3D Systems, Autodesk, Dassault Systèmes, Formlabs, MakerBot, netfabb, Stratasys, Tiertime, Trimble and many others. Drivers of these companies will be in place at launch, and more being added continuously.
3-D printing requires different software packages and separate programs and use plastic to create almost any models a user wants. The technology recently gained some reputation. NASA awarded a $125,000 grant to Anjan Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer or a 3D food printer.