Microsoft Research Labs embraces 3D printers. Is OS standardization the way to get 3D printers in people's lives? (via Microsoft)


When Microsoft launched Windows 8 back in October of last year (2012) it was received with lack-luster reviews from a majority of PC users (it was initially targeted for mobile device users). Some of the more notable issues that have user’s flummoxed were the removal of the ‘Start’ button, lack of tutorials on how to use the software (specifically navigating through the Metro interface) and the restrictive nature of SkyDrive (cloud storage and syncing service. AKA Windows Live). In an effort to address the problems associated with Microsoft’s latest OS, the company is set to release a much needed update codenamed Windows Blue or 8.1. The update will feature a set of new apps including a calculator, file manager, ‘Food & Drink’ finder and video editing software. The Start button will be brought back as well as the ability to boot directly to the desktop sidestepping the start screen. Navigation using the upper right and left hand hot spots will be able to be disabled when using a touch-screen. While the update will take care of a host of issues associated with Windows 8, it will also provide native support for devices connected to the user’s PC including 3D printers, such as the Makerbot.


In a recent press release from Microsoft, the company states that they want to bring the technology to a wide variety of users from novices to advanced enthusiasts by making 3D printers more of a ‘plug and play’ option through API support. Stratasys, Makerbot, Autodesk, Formlabs, Trimble and netfabb (and a host of others) have all signed on with Microsoft to bring native support to Windows Blue. This should come as a breath of fresh air to novices of 3D printing as creating a 3D object requires the ability to create ‘mesh’ files which are then ‘blue printed’ and sent to the printer for manufacturing. Being able to simply connect the 3D printer to a laptop or desktop and create designs will drastically reduce the amount of knowledge needed to making objects as users can design their objects and simply port it over to the printer. Autodesk helps in this regard, as their upcoming release of their app, 123D Design allows users to design objects with relative ease, which can then be printed on the fly. Not only that, but hobbyists can even email files to one another and print them directly from the file. Autodesk, Makerbot and Microsoft teamed up to show off the ease of which 3D printing objects could be done at Microsoft’s Build Conference by using Autodesk’s software to design a small pot which was then printed out on Makerbot’s Replicator 2 machine. The design was simple, but after it was finished, the Autodesk representative simply hit the software’s ‘Print’ button to make the creation. Microsoft thinks that 3D printing is set to become mainstream and has recently added Makerbot’s Replicator 2 printer to their retail stores in San Francisco for those looking to purchase an affordable printer. Adding native support for 3D printers is great accomplishment for the software giant but it remains to be seen if the Windows 8 update will rectify the shortcomings the OS has been plagued with since its release.


Is this enough to get people onboard with Windows 8?



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