Microsoft offers more info on 3D printing support in Windows 8.1

Microsoft has been promoting the fact that it has included built in support for 3D printing hardware in Windows 8.1 since late June, but today the company offered up a lot more information on the actual format that will be used to give its latest OS those kinds of features.

In a blog post, Microsoft said that while there are app data formats that support 3D graphics and models, they lack many of the features needed for 3D printing, such as color and material support. In the end, Microsoft decided to support STL as an input format but also created the new 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF) to handle features specific for 3D printers. Microsoft stated:

3MF is an XML-based data format which includes definitions for data related to 3D manufacturing including 3rd party extensibility for custom data. The 3MF format provides a solid foundation for 3D printing support in Windows 8.1, it’s a bit like the DNA for 3D manufacturing in Windows. Apps pass 3MF data to Windows, and Windows spools that data out to the 3D printer device drivers. With this data format defined, it became possible to integrate 3D printing support into the OS, using familiar Windows technology.

Basically, when you print a 3D model via Windows 8.1, the actual process from the user's point of view is the same as printing a Word page from a laser printer. After creating the 3D model, the user then goes to the Device charm from the charms bar. He or she then picks which 3D printer to use from a list which then brings up a list of print options. Those options can then be changed before the user clicks or touches the "Print" button to begin the 3D printing process.

Microsoft has also created its own 3D printing SDK for Windows 8.1 and developers who want to access it can email the company's 3D printer team for more information. The SDK has documentation and sample code for 3D printer drivers and apps.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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This should be an optional install/add-on, not part of the OS base. Microsoft's decision to merge this into Windows just doesn't seem right to me - I presume the amount of PCs that have 3D printers attached is under 1%, or even 0.1%.

The big question: is this compatible (plug-and-play out of the box) with units from MakerBot Industries?

I think you misunderstand what Microsoft is offering; this is just the framework architecture for software and printers to use. Printer manufacturers will need to write their drivers to match. There is no 'plug n play' out of the box. Of course, there's nothing stopping the existing software/drivers that manufacturers have created from still working. It's similar to how video, audio, network and printer driver frameworks have all been changed post XP.

The same could be argued with any technology still in its infancy. At least Microsoft is providing it so that when it does come into its own, Windows isn't getting in the way, it's enabling them.

Nice to see leadership in this area from MS. I do wonder what the OSS community will come up with. I just hope everything is open/interoperable.

CygnusOrion said,
Why purple????

Because that's the color the user chose... one of the first things the OS asks you is the color scheme...

CygnusOrion said,
why do Metro UIs have to be so flat & ugly? Why purple????

Oh noes! Why does this user like purple? Stone the infidel!

Also for the record, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I personally like the flatter, simpler look of "Metro".

CygnusOrion said,
why do Metro UIs have to be so flat & ugly? Why purple????

Super Nintendo had purple buttons. It was pretty awesome.

How about trying Windows 8 before complaining about it? You can customize the start screen however you like. Window 8.1 will come with even more customization options.

Cool, keep up the good work. Anyway, I hope they are going to take care of the desktop apps in the next version of Windows, like Calculator, WMP, WMC, etc. I hope they will get a nice Metro style too.