A new wave of consumer devices has arrived! 3D printers build physical objects from digital 3D models on your PC, turning your creative impulses into objects you can actually hold. 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. Our 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. These include:
Check out 3D printing for yourself at any one of our participating Microsoft retail store locations (check store availability). Install Microsoft’s free 3D Builder app for Windows 8.1 to experience touchscreen 3D model viewing and editing, with plug-and-play 3D printing on Windows 8.1-ready 3D printers.
Whether you're a developer who wants to include 3D printing in your app, or a maker of a 3D manufacturing device, there are a few good ways that you can get started today:
The SDK contains the following items that a developer needs to get started with 3D printing:
The sample drivers can be modified to create your own driver that will work with most 3D printers that use G-Code. This printer driver includes the Slicer, the tool router and the G-code generator that is required to print on a simple FDM type printer.
Run the MSI file to install the 3D printing SDK.
In addition to downloading the 3D printing SDK, we strongly recommend that you also download the free 3D Builder app from the Microsoft store. The 3D Builder app is a modern application that allows a user to either use models that are included with the app, or to import models from the Internet.
The 3D Builder app also includes many model visualization options and some editing capabilities, and will easily print to a 3D printer that has a Windows compatible printer driver. The app can be used as a reference and a test tool for 3D-editing and validating 3MF files that you create.
Microsoft has teamed up with a lot of partners for the first wave of apps and devices, with more partners constantly joining. Come join us in making end-to-end 3D manufacturing extremely easy for our customers on Windows!