To get ready for the coming 3D craze, and to cater to professionals already working with the technology, Microsoft is aiming to make 3D printing as easy as 2D printing in Windows 8.1. The easiest way to do that, Microsoft says, was to base its new 3D printing pipeline on the tried and true process of Windows document printing.
We've known about the new Windows feature since June when the company announced the Windows 8.1 preview. But in a recent blog post, Microsoft provided a little more detail about how 3D printing will work in the upcoming version of Windows due out October 17.
Right now, 3D printing is a pain that involves wrangling with different file formats throughout the process, while at the same time being sure not to lose any metadata or critical details about the end product. You also have to deal with a multitude of 3D printing apps and devices that may or may not want to play nice together.
In Windows 8.1, however, all you'll have to do is click File>Print just like you would for any spreadsheet or text document, choose your options, hit the print button, and Windows takes care of the rest.
A new XML-based data format called 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF) is at the center of Microsoft's new Windows 3D printing flow. 3MF includes everything a 3D printer needs to know about the print job. The new format also offers extensibility so that 3D printer companies can include their own custom data. All an app has to do is send the 3MF data to Windows and the OS will spool out the information to the 3D printer.
Microsoft's 3D printer support in Windows 8.1 will include all the familiar features of document printing that everyone is used to including print options, spooling, and queue management. The software maker also says plug-and-play support will make it simple to connect a 3D printer to your PC.
3D printing will also be supported on the modern side of Windows allowing you to print 3D models with a simple swipe followed by a few taps of the Charms bar.
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