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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Windows 8.1 will have 3D printing support

Alright, fine, I'll comment on Windows 8.1 having 3D printing support since it seems every news outlet and blog in the world is talking about this. Seriously, I have more links than words.

Thing is my recent opinion changing experience with MakerWare has taught me 2 things:
  • With a good slicer it is possible to get great prints without exposing a lot of settings.
  • A good slicer makes all the difference.
That said, let's take a moment to think about what this announcement really entails:
  • Microsoft is going to make the slicer.
  • It will be a one size fits all solution for Makerbot, Cube, Afinia, and whoever else gets on board.
With the differences in each printer, for instance acceleration and whatnot, the only way I see this happening is if each manufacturer submits their own "driver" which now includes their own slicer as well, to be dynamically linked in. I suppose this is no worse than having the option of any other hardware drivers for instruments I don't own. But what's lost is the ability to print multiple objects on a single plate and what about dual color or support structure options? Plus I don't print over USB, I drop my files onto an SD card, will that still be an option for Windows 8? What about full color prints on high end printers? What about when someone makes a low-end printer that can do full color prints? STLs only or will Makerbot's own .Thing or Cube's proprietary formats be supported?

Personally I have said for a long time that one day we'd be able to double-click on a 3D file, preview it, and print it like we do with 2D images. I'd love to be able to print directly from Blender or whatever Cad program you use. Maybe that day is now. I think it might be a bit premature, but if Microsoft is willing to tackle these problems then maybe I'm the one behind.

EDIT: 3D Printing Era did a good breakdown of the known features of what Microsoft is doing including their propitiatory format for storing color data (good) and DRM so you can lock your print off so it can only be printed (bad).

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